‘It’s a Sin’ Producer Nicola Shindler on Working for Writers, Battling Costs, Women’s TV Surge
21st March 2023

U.K. producer Nicola Shindler received on Tuesday the third Women in Series Award at Series Mania, Europe biggest TV festival. 

Few awards seem such just reward. From serving as a script editor on “Cracker” (1993), Jimmy McGovern’s breakout, to producing his “Hillsborough” (1995) and executive producing “Queer as Folk” (1999) which heralded Russell T. Davies as a major writing talent, very few producers have been so consistently successful down the decades. 

Shows produced by Shindler in just the last 10 years take in Sally Wainwright’s “Happy Valley” (2014), Harlan Coben’s “The Five” (2016) and “Safe” (2018), Davies’ “Years and Years and It’s a Sin, his consecration, and now “Nolly,” made by Shindler out of Quay Street Productions, her new label launched in 2021 as part of ITV Studios.

“Her lineup is amazing,” said Francesco Capurro, head of the Series Mania Forum,  introducing the Award on Tuesday. 

All of which raises the huge question of the key to Shindler’s success. The most obvious answer is that what she loves most – her life passion – is for a TV producer the most important job of all: Working with and for writers. 

It’s this which connects her work, she argued, talking to Variety on the eve of receiving her Award.  “It’s about finding writers voices that feel really strong, and that I can put at the centre of something so that they all feel like they’ve been written by someone with a really strong point of view,” Shindler said. “I have to make sure that what they write on the page ends up on screen. And that’s what producing is for me.”

That focus has won screenwriters’ allegiance. It’s rare for a great writer to make just one show with Shindler. ITV Studios’ Series Mania lineup, for example, includes “Nolly,” from Quay Street Productions, toplining Helena Bonham Carter as “Crossroads” star Noele Gordon, which premiered on Feb. 2 on new streaming platform ITVX. It’s Davies’ at least ninth show with Shindler.  

“There is a new studio Star System…but instead of focusing on acting talent (as it did in the 1930s), it prioritizes those with the skills to create new stories, produce new shows and manage the evolution of new character IP…,” Ampere Analysis’ Guy Bisson has observed. 

By those standards, Davies and Shindler are new stars and “Nolly” one of the hottest shows moved at Series Mania. But, as big broadcast groups revamp their VOD offers – think ITVX or RTL+ – in one of the latest twists to the streamer wars, the battle for markets had never been more intense. 

Yet Shindler’s take on thinking about markets is nuanced: “I don’t think in a way I should be thinking about where it sells when I’m making something, I should be thinking about the integrity of the show, and making sure it works for the people who are paying for it right there,” she told Variety.

That attitude has market knock-ons, however. 

“Some of the shows I’ve made that have sold best are most local,” Shindler said, citing “Happy Valley,” after accepting the Award at Series Mania.  

“The more specific and truthful something is, the more likely it is to sell, which doesn’t means that therefore, I’m not looking at making it about supposedly international themes or international storylines. But once you make something that’s universally, emotionally truthful, then it will sell abroad,” she told Variety.

The streamer content feeding frenzy has proved, in her view, a mixed blessing. “It’s both a brilliant time to be producing because there’s so much desire for content. But also budget wise, it is really difficult just because costs off-screen have gone up so much. I need to make sure that things look as good as they can be and that we have enough money to tell the story well enough,” she added, saying that forces her to “just be inventive and creative.”

Whatever she does, “I try to keep the creative decision at the centre of everything I try to make,” she said at Series Mania. 

One thing has changed most certainly for the better, Shindler argues.

“The decisions that I make and the shows that I work on are influenced by the fact that I am a woman,” Shindler said on Tuesday on stage.

“My generation of women moved up to become producers and are now executive producers,” she added.

“There’s a lot more female producers, which wasn’t necessarily true when I started out – there was some but not many. I’m working with way more female writers now, and way more female directors,” she said. 

The evolution, which has “happened over a number of years,”has been from “always having a woman on your list to always be interviewing women at the same time as interviewing men,” she summed up. “So it’s about being conscious of the fact that it wasn’t very equal, and then making a concerted effort to make sure it is equal,” she asserted.

At Series Mania, Shindler introduced upcoming Quay Street Productions title “Significant Other,” a drama comedy which is “great, based on an Israeli format, and the most unromantic romantic format you’ll see,” she said.

The Women in Series award is supported by EWA (the European Women’s Audiovisual Network) and France’s Pour Les Femmes Dans Les Médias (PFDM). 

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