The unscripted production industry has matured considerably over the course of the 2000s, and a new generation of prodcos is making an impact internationally and across platforms with fresh, innovative approaches to unscripted content. In this four-part series, we offer a closer look at some companies that have yet to mark their first decade in business but that are making waves and scoring greenlights, including Antidote Productions. You can also read our previous profile of Blackfin here.
Location: London, UK
Year established: 2015
Principals: Leila Monks and Laura Jones
Major credits to date: What Makes a Woman, Addicted: Last Chance Mums, Mysteries of the Mekong, Professor Green: Suicide and Me, YouTube Revolution.
Since launching just over three years ago, Antidote Productions has scored a number of high-profile commissions, including work for Channel 4, the BBC, Smithsonian Channel and National Geographic.
Headed up by Leila Monks (pictured, left) and Laura Jones (right), the prodco specializes in talent-based and access-driven programming, with a focus on UK broadcasters and international platforms in the U.S., Canada, Australia and across Asia. In 2017, UK firm Edge Investments took a stake in the company for £1 million.
Their credits range from explorations of gender and trans identities in What Makes a Woman, to the portraits of mothers fighting addiction in Addicted: Last Chance Mums, to a deep dive into the cultural impact of YouTube in the age of social media in YouTube Revolution.
What can you tell me about Antidote’s upcoming projects?
Leila Monks: Antidote is well known for making talent-led, hard hitting and high profile documentaries. We have two more of those in the pipeline for release this year — both with new talent and for major UK channels.
We have a number of new faces we are developing series for across genres ranging from current affairs to arts and science for broadcasters both here and in North America.
Then we have a high-budget, blue chip, wildlife two-parter that keeps our “changing people’s perceptions” ethos alive and that should be released in 2020.
We have also developed longer running series on a straight-to-distribution model — making use of our international experience.
What was the genesis of Antidote?
Laura and I had worked together over 10 years ago at a distributor/production company.
Although we only spent 12 months under the same roof, we remained in touch and both decided to go freelance around the same time. I was then introduced to two young food talents who I wanted to develop for TV. I immediately thought of Laura to bring on board to help me produce the taster and develop the idea. It was a great experience — we worked really well together and had fantastic synergy both creatively and professionally.
We wanted to pitch the idea to BBC3 so we booked in a meeting. They weren’t interested in the food talent, but we ended up having a conversation about Professor Green and suicide, and the rest, as they say, is history.
What has been the biggest learning curve as a production company to date?
People are everything! Hiring the right staff is crucial if you want to a) deliver on the visions you have sold and b) have time to focus on development and growing the business.
What advice would you give to those looking to start their own production company?
Don’t do it! (Joke). I would say strategy is really important. Taking a step back to work out where you are going wrong/right, learning from it and then really thinking carefully about what you are pitching, how you are pitching, and who you are pitching to.
It’s too easy to get sucked into the here and now but the only way to grow a successful business is to take that time out and see the bigger picture.
This story first appeared in the May/June 2019 issue of Realscreen Magazine, which is out now. Not a subscriber? Click here for more information.