Darlow Smithson sets up shop in Belfast

By Jessica Goodfellow
26 April 2018

Endemol Shine UK-owned indie set to hire team to work with NI head Anne Stirling

Darlow Smithson Productions has hired Belfast producer Anne Stirling to run a Northern Ireland office that will house its growing factual slate.

DSP’s Belfast office, which will open in the coming weeks, will be run by Anne Stirling, who joins the indie as head of DSP Northern Ireland.

Last year, Stirling closed down her Belfast-based production company, Stirling Film and Television Production, after 20 years. Its productions included Cracking Crime and How Low Can You Go for RTE and 6 Degrees for the BBC.

Endemol Shine UK-owned DSP is currently recruiting for several development roles to work alongside Stirling to develop and produce a broad range of factual output including factual dramas, documentaries, and factual entertainment series.

The first production to be made from the new regional office will be the third and fourth series of Ill Gotten Gains for BBC Daytime, amounting to a total of 30×45’ and 10×30’ reversions.

The series, commissioned by BBC controller of programming and daytime Dan McGolpin and commissioning editor Lindsay Bradbury, follows organised crime units and police forces as they close down British criminals by seizing their assets and selling them at auction.

DSP joint managing director Emily Dalton said the indie has a long-established relationship with Northern Ireland, having previously produced two BBC2 dramas in Belfast: We’re Doomed! The Dad’s Army Story and the recent biopic Dave Allen at Peace.

“We have established great relationships with local talent, as well as Northern Ireland Screen, so the logical next step was to invest regionally with the view to making more of our content outside of London,” Dalton said.

Stirling added: “I’m delighted to be given the opportunity to put together and grow an ambitious and talented team in Belfast to meet the high standards set by DSP and their established and expanding client base.”

Her appointment comes just weeks after Endemol Shine rolled factual label Tigress Productions into DSP as part of an efficiency drive at the production group.

DSP is currently in production with a range of first-run and returning series for BBC1, BBC2, ITV, C5 and Netflix.

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Review by JD posted on the BBC Media Centre website, Tuesday 19th September 2017:

“BBC Two commissions Dave Allen At Peace, a dramatization of the life and career of the legendary comedian. Aidan Gillen to play the provocative godfather of modern stand-up.

Patrick Holland, Controller of BBC Two and Shane Allen, Controller of Comedy and Commissioning have commissioned Dave Allen At Peace, a 1×60 biopic celebrating the professional life of renowned Irish comedian Dave Allen.

Produced by Darlow Smithson Productions, the hour-long factual drama will focus on the controversial comedian’s forty-year career, from performing alongside his brother as a Butlin’s Redcoat to becoming one of the UK and Ireland’s comedy greats.

Written by Stephen Russell (We’re Doomed: The Dad’s Army Story, Hattie, and Peaky Blinders), this film will explore how Dave’s comedy genius was shaped by the tragic loss of his father, his brother… and his finger. How he survived decades of the Roman Catholic Church’s wrath, death threats from the IRA and a ban by Irish and Australian TV, only to have his television career end in controversy when he used the f-word in an innocuous joke.

The cast is fronted by Aidan Gillen from BBC Two’s Peaky Blinders and HBO’s Game of Thrones, who will be playing the role of Dave Allen. Conleth Hill (Game of Thrones, HBO) will take on the role of Allen’s brother, John. His father and mother will be played by Tommy Tiernan (Father Ted) and Joanne Crawford (Line of Duty). The film also boasts a line-up of impressive cameos, including Robert Bathurst (Cold Feet), Pauline McLynn (Father Ted), Ian McElhinney (Star Wars: Rogue One), Simon Day (The Fast Show) and Julian Rhind-Tutt (Green Wing).

Patrick Holland says: “Stephen Russell has written a wonderful script that is surprising, innovative and poignant, exploring the people and forces that went into making Dave Allen the comic genius he was. With Aidan Gillen leading a stellar cast, this promises to be a real treat.”

Shane Allen says: “Dave Allen defined and pushed at the boundaries of where television comedy were set and paved the way for modern stand-up to tackle controversial themes and taboos. This film explores what shaped his trail-blazing career and celebrates this hugely popular comedian who ridiculed authority figures with a twinkle in his eye, a glass of whiskey and the most talked about finger in comedy history.”

The film will be structured in affectionate homage to Dave’s original television format. From his famous bar stool, the comic will reflect on his formative years and showbiz career. Flashbacks, some visualised as comedy sketches, will intercut his bar stool repartee bringing significant moments to life.

Emily Dalton, Joint Managing Director, Darlow Smithson Productions, adds: “I always feel it is a privilege to make factual drama. You have to try and make something honest and engaging on a human level; but you also have to look for how that story speaks to something bigger; a universal experience. Dave Allen’s story is about one man blazing a trail in the world doing something he loves but it’s also about success, failure and the importance of finding peace “off to the side” no matter what life throws at you. We feel incredibly lucky to be able to tell it.”
The film will be directed by Andy De Emmony (Quacks, Fantabulosa! and Father Ted) produced by Brett Wilson (We’re Doomed: The Dad’s Army Story, and The Syndicate) and executive produced by Charlotte Surtees and Emily Dalton. The commissioning editor is Gregor Sharp.

Filming will start this month in Northern Ireland.

Both Northern Ireland Screen and RTE are partners on the project.”

Dave Allen defined and pushed at the boundaries of where television comedy were set and paved the way for modern stand-up to tackle controversial themes and taboos.”                                                                 – by Shane Allen, Controller, BBC Comedy Commissioning

Taken from BBC article:

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