Netflix has put a doc series about British pop superstar Robbie Williams into production, as its UK original series chief Anne Mensah doubled down on the streamer’s commitment to the UK despite the incoming cost of living crisis and concerns over drops in share price.
The multi-part music doc will launch in 2023 and contain exclusive access to Williams. It is billed as “an unfiltered, in-depth examination of a global icon and natural-born-entertainer who had to navigate the highs and lows of being in the limelight for more than 30 years.”
Show will look at the media scrutiny that has followed the former Take That singer’s career, his relationship with adulation and addiction and his professional and personal break ups. Footage captured over more than 25 years will be included in the no-holds-barred look at the entertainer and will reveal a more nuanced and multifaceted character.
“He’s really willing to go there,” said Nelesh Dhand, Manager of Documentary Series during a Netflix UK session at the Edinburgh TV Festival today, adding that Williams had been followed by film crews almost constantly since leaving Take That in 1995.
Joe Pearlman, who made the lauded BBC music doc Bros: After the Screaming Stops will direct, with Asif Kapadia (Amy, Diego Maradona, Senna) and Dominic Crossley-Holland (The Love of Money) are executive producers and Ridley Scott Creative Group’s new unscripted arm RSA in producing in conjunction with RPW Productions and ie:music.
The show marks RSA’s first production. Doc maker Crossley-Holland leads the unit, with Louis Mole from Pulse Films joining as Head of Programming and Development.
‘Here for the long run’
News of the commission came as Vice President of Original Series Anne Mensah batted off the notion the country’s coming cost of living crisis and the streamer’s 2022 share price fall will impact how it commissions programs.
Questioned whether Netflix UK had been ordered to focus on certain genres over others due to cost-cutting in the U.S., Mensah said: “Netflix doesn’t do ‘from above.’ We’ve had changes in the company but this is all about making the best content. Netflix has always been transparent and we are what we appear to be: focused on great shows and here for the long run.”
Mensah was speaking during a session at the Edinburgh TV Festival today, accompanied by UK unscripted commissioners Ben Kelly, Nelesh Dhand and Jonny Taylor.
UK Unscripted Series Manager Kelly said there was “no sense we’re changing focus due to the cost of living crisis,” while Taylor, Director of Original Documentaries, said audiences still needed “space to be surprised,” adding: “Squid Game was a huge risk and nobody expected it to take over the world. It’s on us to keep that space for being surprised open. I don’t know what a safe bet is.”
Mensah added: “The best way to make people switch off is to order something boring.
“Netflix has had 10 years of innovation, and that’s an incredible story. It’s now a story rooted in the UK. We are truly a company that believes in authentic country-led [content]. It’s kinda easy to do it in the UK.”
Pointing to likes of The Crown creator Peter Morgan and The End of the F*cking World writer Charlie Covell as examples, she said: “This really is ours to f*ck up.”
Netflix has already this week confirmed it is in production on Tyson Fury documentary At Home with the Furys (working title), Studio Lambert survival reality series Edge of Paradise (working title) and All American Nightmare, a doc from The Tinder Swindler producer Raw TV.
“We’re still looking for things that make people look. It’s quite simple in some ways,” said Taylor. “We are given autonomy to do things we believe in,” added Dhand.
Elsewhere in the session, Mensah was quizzed why Netflix had not signed up to the TV Access Project (TAP), a blueprint to rid the sector of appalling accessibility problems spearheaded by BBC Chief Content Officer Charlotte Moore and writer Jack Thorne. Deadline revealed news of the initiative on Monday and Netflix’s absence was raised by BBC chair Richard Sharp in his speech yesterday.
Mensah said Netflix is effectively part of the project but didn’t declined express whether the streamer would fully back the initiative. She instead pointed to Netflix’s broadly strong track record in supporting disability causes in entertainment, adding: “We’re fully supportive of what Charlotte and Jack are doing.”
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