Friday 17 November 2017

My role as an extra on €14m Red Rock

Detective for the day, Nick Webb makes his screen debut on TV3's biggest investment

Red Rock cops, from left, Gardai Paudge Brennan (Patrick Ryan), Adrijan Kosos (Boyko Krastanov), Brian McGonigle (Sean Mahon) and Sean Holden (David Crowely)
Red Rock cops, from left, Gardai Paudge Brennan (Patrick Ryan), Adrijan Kosos (Boyko Krastanov), Brian McGonigle (Sean Mahon) and Sean Holden (David Crowely)
THE KID STAYS IN THE PICTURE: Nick Webb makes his Red Rock cameo
Nick Webb

Nick Webb

TV3 is spending up to €14m on its soap Red Rock over the next two years. It's the first new soap in a generation and a major investment by the Ballymount TV company.

In order to get under the hood of this production, I wangled a role as an extra on an episode being shot in the John Player factory on the South Circular Road on a bitter Tuesday last week.

The first hiccup comes as I can't get a uniform. Gardai aren't allowed mullets - so that kinda rules me out. Instead I get the role of a detective doing paperwork at the station.

"Mime... don't tap the keyboard!" I was ordered. There was a microphone beside me, so any sound of typing would be amplified.

Sean Mahon, who plays the dark alpha male Sergeant Brian McGonigle did his scene with Gardai Paudge Brennan, Sean Holden and Adrijan Kosos. Violence and GSOC may be involved. It's jolly exciting... but I'm sworn to secrecy.

Needless to say, the cop typing in the background, adds to the pathos and in fact makes the scene.

"Red Rock's ratings have been very encouraging," TV3 boss David McRedmond told me last week. It has settled at a level "above expectation" of over 200,000 consolidated viewing per episode, he added.

Talks are under way for a sponsor, according to TV3 commercial director Pat Kiely. "I cannot recollect a programme in TV3 commanding such interest and positive feedback from ad land," he said.

Ed Guiney of Element Pictures, which makes the show for TV3, told me that Red Rock was changing the way soaps will be produced. It's a "unique model", rather like "guerilla" film making.

"The way to do this in a cost-effective way is not necessarily to build sets but to use new technology."

The crew use a single digital camera and smart new ways of editing to keep costs down and increase flexibility. The economics of soap operas are different from those of movie making, according to Guiney, who's produced major Irish movies including The Guard, Frank and Garage. Talent costs are smaller because casts are bigger and it's more of an ensemble feel. "Also you're not getting big movie special effects," he says.

The cost of a big soap like EastEnders is about £180,000 (€240,000) per episode. A smaller soap like BBC 1's Doctors works out at around £65,000 (€86,500) per episode. Red Rock's cost is nearer to £50,000 (€66,500) per show.

"If we crack it and it becomes a permanent feature, then it's very valuable - especially with international sales and spin-offs," says Guiney.

Element Pictures and its co-producers would divvy up any international rights deals. The MIPTV festival in Cannes next April is where top TV executives from global networks look for the next big thing - and Red Rock will be pitched.

While Element makes a fee for producing the show, Guiney sees it as "an investment". It's all about getting "flying time" for new cast and crew members, to help create a better film and TV making community.

And if any big budget production is looking for someone to mime typing in the background, just get in touch with my agent.

Clondalkin's McDermott takes bite of horse technology firm

Former Clondalkin boss Norbert McDermott has emerged as one of the new backers of Barbara Murphy's genius horse breeding start-up Equilume.

Murphy has invented a special mask for horses that dupes them into thinking it's the right time to breed. Breeders have been doing this for years by keeping their charges inside under lights. But this costs an arm and a leg - around €2,000 for three months. Murphy's innovative light mask does away for this need. Smart or what?

McDermott was allotted a bunch of shares before Christmas and joins private equity baron and ex-Candover chairman Marek Gumienny, top corporate lawyer Adam Signy, PwC partner Ronan MacNioclais, stud farmer and former Tote chairman Dermot Cantillon among the group's supporters.

Norbert, who retired as head of the vast €1bn Clondalkin printing group in 2013, is now based in Pennsylvania. Clondalkin is now being broken up and sold by Warburg Pincus, its majority owner. Last week it inked a deal to sell its packaging business to Essentra in a $455m deal.

Investor documents showed that management - when Norbert was still at the helm - owned almost 14pc for the firm. This stake was set to rise to 15.5pc subject to certain targets being met. Big payouts ahead so.

Either way, Equilume will have some seriously deep- pocketed backers. Norbert has joined the board of the firm as an alternate director to Marek Gumienny. With this level of heavyweight backing, Equilume has got to be short odds to succeed.

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