An interview with John Lennon’s murderer and the UK’s first kidnapping case are being explored in new films unveiled by Sky for its recently-launched Sky Documentaries channel.
The programs were unveiled as Sky UK and Ireland managing director of content Zai Bennett said the Comcast-owned broadcaster is focusing on building its brands by getting in early with creators to help it in the “arms race” of content, particularly in drama.
Speaking at the Edinburgh TV Festival, Sky’s director of factual Poppy Dixon said Let Me Take You Down is an investigation into the killing of Lennon in 1980 by Mark David Chapman, which she hopes will air at the end of this year to coincide with the 40th anniversary of Lennon’s death.
Made by Zig Zag Productions, the program features an exclusive interview with Chapman about what drove him to commit the crime and is fronted by journalist Jack Jones, who has been the confidant of Chapman for years.
Also bolstering Sky Documentaries line-up is The Wimbledon Kidnapping, a story about the disappearance and murder of Muriel McKay in Wimbledon 50 years ago after she was mistaken for Anna Murdoch, the then wife of media mogul Rupert. Caravan is producing.
Sky Documentaries is also looking at racism in football with a one-off film by former Manchester United and England footballer from Buzz 16 Productions called Micah Richards – Tackling Racism.
Dixon announced two other sports films: one about footballer Denis Law called The Law Man and another about racing driver Sir Stirling Moss, called The Uncrowned King of F1. Buzz 16 and Minnow Films are the respective producers.
More broadly, Bennett said although transatlantic co-productions and partners are still important for the broadcaster “Britishness is incredibly important” on his channels.
And he said in drama and in comedy he is looking for a few shows “that might be a little bit younger than we’ve had before; not overtly young adult as we don’t want to put off the adults but something like Stranger Things where the parents can watch it with the older children that would be fantastic. In comedy a coming of age piece would be great; something a bit younger but must put off people who pay the bill.”
Bennett said that because Sky commissions so far ahead of itself, it has been less affected by coronavirus than others. Filming has restarted this week on Martin Freeman comedy Breeders and on Mark Strong drama Temple.
He added that Sky is committed to being increasingly diverse and inclusive and will report on its diversity targets. In addition to channelling £30m ($39M) into fighting racial injustice and a diversity action group announced in June — which Bennett said will “hold our feet to the fire” — he said targets would be more transparent.
“What I don’t think we’ve always done as well as we possibly can, is be as open and report about the targets and we are going to make sure we do that much more; we’re currently reviewing our commissioning process to…try and make sure we work with indies on delivering our targets. It’s often about us giving them more time and money and we’re very happy to do those things.”
Meanwhile, his colleague, Sky Arts director and head of entertainment Phil Edgar-Jones, said Sky Arts’ free to air launch date will be September 17. He also revealed that he wants to hand over the channel to artists saying: “Have Sky Arts for 24 hours for a couple of days we’ll give you a bit of a budget and…use it as your canvas.”
Edgar-Jones said Sky Arts had a role to play in response to those affected in the arts by the coronavirus pandemic: “Our job is to step in and help that new generation of practitioners who might be forgotten during this period: think of all the kids leaving drama college who can’t go into theatres…those leaving art college who can’t get an exhibition.”