Spanner Films is moving forward with plans to produce a new police television drama series titled Undercovers, which explores the world of police spies.
Undercovers is a four episode drama series about the true story of undercover police officers who infiltrated various British activist groups over the past half century and the women who had long term relationships, and in some cases even started families, with these officers. The subject matter is quite timely, with Home Secretary Teresa May having announced, only yesterday, that there is to be a judge led inquiry into these kinds of undercover officers, whom are suspected of having spied on the Lawrence family. The producers plan to produce a further four seasons if the series is successful (for a total of five), with each new season featuring a different spy-activist couple in a different decade.
The project marks the first scripted television drama for independent production company Spanner Films, who, before now, have focussed on documentaries. And for their first foray into scripted, the production company has assembled a strong creative team. Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire), Franny Armstrong (McLibel) and Alice Nutter (Accused) are serving as the writers on the project. While legendary producer Tony Garnett has come out of retirement for Undercovers and will serve as an executive producer alongside John Battsek, who runs Passion Pictures film division and has produced such Oscar winning films as Searching For Sugarman and One Day In October. The cast and director(s) for Undercovers will be announced at a later date.
In a rare move, Spanner Films are independently producing this project with no major backing and with no broadcast partners committed to Undercovers. Instead, the production will be crowdfunded and the producers tell me that they hope to place Undercovers with a major VOD platform and secure international sales with foreign broadcasters. Crowdfunding is an area in which writer Franny Armstrong and producer Lizzie Gillett have experience, with the pair having first crowdfunded The Age of Stupid in 2004, raising some £900K. The pair have developed a new crowdfunding model for Undercovers and have already completed the first round of financing, securing £150k for the series. A second round of financing, designed to raise £3 million, launches next month.
“There are very few stories compelling enough to dedicate five years of my life to, but the deeper I get into the world of Undercovers, the more committed I become to making a heart-stopping drama which touches and angers millions of people all round the world”, said Franny Armstrong.
Executive Producer Tony Garnett commented: “The arbitrary power of the police seems free of all constraint. They casually ruin the lives of idealistic protesters – mere collateral damage; they routinely lie under oath in court; they trample on ancient, hard won liberties. Maybe when we see their actions brought to life on screen we will collectively be galvanised to assert our rights over them.”
While fellow Executive Prodicer John Battsek added: “TV shows like Breaking Bad, Borgen and House of Cards are combining impeccable writing, fabulous casting and innovative finance and distribution models to herald a new golden age of TV drama. Undercovers dreams of joining this list and has an ace up its sleeve – our story is true. ”