John Smithson (pictured), head of Endemol-owned Darlow Smithson Productions (DSP), will next week leave the company he co-founded after 23 years, to launch a new indie prodco.
DSP creative director Tom Brisley and MD Iain Pelling are also departing the company to join Smithson at the new indie, details of which are yet to be unveiled.
Endemol, which acquired DSP in a package deal with Tiger Aspect and Tigress in 2009, said that the production company would continue to operate, with a host of internal promotions replacing the trio.
Senior exec producer Ben Bowie and head of special projects Julian Ware will become creative directors, while Ulla Streib is promoted to director of operations and Julia Pearce to director of legal and business affairs. Senior development producer Emily Roe becomes head of development.
In a statement, Endemol UK CEO Tim Hincks said: “John and Tom are exceptional creative minds with a track record that speaks for itself. We wish them and Iain all the very best with their new venture.
“It is testament to the trio that they leave behind such an extraordinarily strong team headed up by Julian and Ben – two first class creative leaders.”
Smithson added: “Tim Hincks and the Endemol team have been great supporters of DSP and we leave the company in good hands.
“But Tom, Iain and I have a burning desire to return to our indie roots after five years under super-indie ownership and we are excited by the creative challenges ahead. We are incredibly proud of DSP, its reputation and its large and talented team. ”
The departure of Smithson is a notable one for the UK factual production sector. In his two decades at DSP, his productions have won vast acclaim and an array of awards, with notable titles including The Falling Man (Channel 4), Thriller in Manila (More4), long-running series I Shouldn’t Be Alive (Animal Planet) and Seconds From Disaster (National Geographic Channels International).
In addition, Smithson produced the Oscar-nominated feature film 127 Hours and Kevin Macdonald’s BAFTA-winning doc Touching the Void.
In April this year, DSP was named one of the top 100 factual producers in the world in Realscreen’s Global 100 survey, an honor the prodco has received annually since the list’s inception.