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BLOG: True North's Andrew Sheldon discusses the future of TV

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17 Oct 2017

We speak with Andrew Sheldon, one of the Creative Directors at True North TV productions, the biggest factual indie in the North of England. We chat about the advantages of being a TV Production company based in Leeds, the programmes that have tried to buck the metropolitan trend and what the future holds for TV production companies.

 

  1. Tell us about your company and your role.

True North is the biggest factual production company outside of London, we are based in Leeds and started about 16 years ago. In the beginning, we only produced programmes that aired in Yorkshire, but as we have grown, we now work with major broadcasters such as the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, MTV and the Discovery channel. We pride ourselves on making Yorkshire programmes and broadcasting them nationally and internationally.

I am one of two creative directors at True North, and we are responsible for the creative vision of the programmes to make sure they are kept in good shape. In order to appeal to a wide range of audiences, we develop programmes which are different types of genres as we find this is the best route for us commercially. Some of the programmes we have captured include: Pets Factor (BBC); A1: Britain’s Longest Road (BBC Daytime); Mystery Man on the Moor (Channel 4); and Yorkshire Dales and Lakes (Channel 4).

  1. What are you most proud of working on and why?

Although I love all of the programmes we develop, one programme which I am really proud to have worked on is ‘Yorkshire Dales and the Lakes’. I think this is because it’s so true to our routes and it’s an honour to showcase the beauty in and around Yorkshire. I also thought that The Panorama programme on Shannon Matthews truly represented Yorkshire in its real light and showcased the region’s personality. I feel that programmes like these really buck the metropolitan view that the North of England has little talent.

  1. Why did you base your company in Leeds, what are the advantages?

True North was set up by three people from Yorkshire Television in 2001, because they wanted to make great programmes in this part of the world. To be honest the aim of the company was never to be a commercially successful, it was a mission to show the rest of the world how proud we are to be from this area and how beautiful it really is. I also think True North wanted to challenge the perception that London was the only place in the UK that could produce quality programmes. We wanted to challenge the taboo.

  1. What do you think people may not know about TV/film production in the region?

I think generally, people underestimate television in our region. We film programmes that air internationally and I think there are a lot of people who would disbelieve that they’re all made here in Leeds. We have filmed some fantastic dramas such as Happy Valley and Victoria. There are so many TV production companies here in Leeds, many of whom you would not suspect they would be.

  1. What are the trends in TV production at the moment?

The TV industry is going under an enormous change; it’s finally going global. The way people are watching TV now has completely changed too, as a lot of video content is going mobile (such as catch up TV and Netflix). There are also huge technological changes and it’s important that production companies like ourselves, keep up with them. This can be hard because each channel requires different aspects and demands and we have to understand what they are. Another trend which we’re seeing is that viewers want escapism – especially with the current global climate. People want programmes which intrigue them and allow them to forget their troubles.

  1. What impact do you think Channel 4 could have if they decided to locate in Leeds City Region?

The Channel 4 offices are currently based in London and if they moved to Leeds it would honestly be a fantastic opportunity for the city. It would put Leeds City Region’s television and digital industry on the map, as well as being a  great addition for Leeds 2023. As a region, personally I think that we have everything that Channel 4 would want. We have a bank of new generation content makers, who are all incredibly talented. I think if Channel 4 chose to move to Leeds, it would provide a spark for the individual and creative industry. 

To find out more about the #4Sparks Leeds City Region campaign to attract Channel 4, please click here.