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Steven Knight (Spencer, Peaky Blinders), Lucy Prebble (Succession, I Hate Suzie) and Jack Thorne (His Dark Materials, Enola Holmes), arguably three of the most in-demand and acclaimed British screenwriters working right now, sat down for a panel discussion on the second day of the BFI London Film Festival on Thursday.
While the talk’s focus was ostensibly themed around how U.K. writers have moved between platforms, the conversational inevitably veered towards the most talked about TV show of the last few weeks.
“It’s really exciting with something like Squid Game,” said Prebble, who is showcasing episodes of Succession season three later in the festival. “Because that element of people saying in a meeting, ‘We can’t do that because it will have subtitles,’ suddenly becomes not an argument, and that’s really exciting for a creative. It’s like another thing they can’t say now.”
Another major breakout show, one created on home soil, was also discussed, this time in answer to a question about how to get more Black British stories on screens, especially given that it’s been such a major topic of discussion over the last year since the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I think it’s happening,” said Thorne. “I think it’s happening, partly because of the movement, but also because of Michaela Coel. I think what she did with I May Destroy You changed the landscape for everything. I think a wave was formed, and I do think there is a wave crashing down on the beaches.”
Both Prebble and Thorne also heavily criticized a new U.K. government plan that would insist Public Service Broadcaster such as the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 produce “distinctive British content” (the examples given at the time failed to include the likes of I May Destroy You and focussed instead on less diverse shows such as Only Fools And Horses and Downton Abbey, something that was picked up on by critics).
Prebble said she “couldn’t take seriously” the idea — which was raised last month by then culture minister John Whittingdale, no longer in the role — saying it felt like an “empty gesture to a fictional audience that the government wants to placate while it gives money back to rich people.”
She added that “nothing the government does feels rooted in belief or principle,” adding that the blueprint, which will likely feature in a U.K. government white paper, could well be just a “dogwhistle” to placate elements of the government’s support base who were tired of discussing diversity.
Steven Knight made one late revelation in the panel, especially for fans of Peaky Blinders. While the TV show is set to end with the sixth season, now shot and readying for an early 2022 release, he underlined plans for the feature film which he said would be his next focus and “will probably be the sort of the end of the road for Peaky Blinders as we know it.”
However, it might now be quite the end of the road for the world he created, with the writer claiming that there could be “shows related” to Peaky Blinders, adding that he “hated” the word ‘spin-off.’
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