Fintan Maguire

Fintan Maguire Talks Commissioning at TV3

When Fintan Maguire began his role as Commissioning Editor nearly three years ago, TV3 had no independent projects funded through the BCI Sound and Vision Fund. Since then, the channel has had 18 projects awarded and funded to the tune of approximately 4.5 million. Made with independent production companies, home produced programmes have included the channel’s first ever made for TV3 drama ‘School Run’ (Grand Pictures), the IFTA winning entertainment and factual series ‘The Apprentice’ (Screentime ShinAwil), ‘Raising cheap jerseys Childen’ (Paradise Pictures), ‘Living With Murder (Sideline Productions) and ‘How the Irish Have Sex’ (Red Pepper Productions) to name but a few.

Here Fintan talks to IFTN about how he came into the role of Commissioning and Creative Services Executive with TV3, his initial plans for the station and how he manages to balance out his commissioning decisions.

Fintan Maguire: I basically interact with the independent production companies and I’m looking for ideas for programmes that will air on the channel. My main role is to identify ideas that I think will work for our audiences and then to work with the production companies in how we fund those projects whether it’s through the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland or sponsorship. In the past we would have commissioned the projects ourselves but it’s something we don’t do as much of because of the economic climate. A lot of the time nowadays, it would be the BCI and we would have a strong relationship with a lot of independents in entering projects into the BCI Sound and Vision Fund.

IFTN: What are the main factors you would look for when commissioning a programme?

FM: We are a broad populist channel, so we are looking for ideas from all the genres really. Like documentaries, drama (our first ever one ‘School Run’), and factual entertainment. We are hopefully going to cover other genres too like quiz shows. Very broad and populist is the kind of thing we would look for. For example, projects I’ve done in the past; the ‘Dirty Money’ crime series; ‘Me and the Big C’, which was fly on the wall series dealing with cancer, and ‘Diary of ‘. My first commission was ‘Diary of a Debutante’ when I took over this role three years ago.

IFTN: Can describe your background in television?

FM: When I was a teenager I lived in New Zealand for a few years and that’s where I got my training. I actually worked with TV3 there so I had a slight head start because we used to produce a programme there called ‘Yahoo’. It was made by teenagers, for teenagers, and was mainly made up of news reports which would be about school or teenager topics. I gained experience in presenting, editing, camera workin pretty much everything. I also studied Media Studies over there as a full time course.

When I came back to Ireland, I did my Leaving Cert and went to college in Colaiste Dhulaigh. I started in TV3 as a runner and worked my way up through the technical areas and ended up as a promo producer. I then went to RT as a promo producer on a freelance basis and then I got the Commissioning Editor role because, at the time, the Commissioning Editor used to work in promos in TV3. For the first while, running promos was actually as big a part of the job as commissioning and that’s where my experience lay.

IFTN: What were your initial plans for TV3?

FM: My initial plan was to make programmes relevant to the audience. I felt TV3 hadn’t up until that point struck a chord with the home commissioned area. We had done some very ambitious projects and we had success but, for me, I wanted to make every penny count. I really wanted to grow as a department and I managed to do that whilst managing the programmes and becoming a fully fledged Commissioning Editor.

When I first took over we got no money out of the BCI and since then we’ve received millions. I’ve managed to develop that relationship with the independents so they were able to get more things through the BCI with TV3 attached.

IFTN: So what home commissioned projects will air this year on the station?

FM: We’ve got a drama with David Collins from Samson Films/Accomplice for the autumn. Its working title is ‘Louis Vuitton Bag’ and it’s based on ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan’ which is the Oscar Wilde play so it’s a modern version of that. It begins shooting over the summer.

We find that documentaries really work for us both crime and factual. We have a programme with Animo Television in production at the moment called ‘Donation Nation’ about people donating their organs. Also with Animo there is a programme about retired Irish people who went over to the UK, worked in London for forty years and then who lost touch with their family. Now they are living in homes over there and are on their own. There is an organisation that brings them back to Ireland.

There is also a programme about to air shortly called ‘Modern Ireland’ which is being made by Mind the Gap Films and that’s a fly on the wall series touching on Irish life such as scenes of cosmetic surgery and body building.

IFTN: What programme have you overseen that would be for most memorable for you?

FM: I think ‘Dirty Money’ was the breakthrough series. For me it was the biggest in terms of ratings that we got for a home commissioned series. It was a first major step and worked perfectly in tone, in style and the pitch was very TV3. We took literally a boring subject in my opinion which was CAB an arm of law enforcement in Ireland and turned it into something exciting and relevant. It was a story that had been told before but not in this way. You had the murder of Veronica Guerin and Detective Gerry McCabe and how that led the Government to get this agency set up and how they went directly after the bad guys. You have stories about John Gilligan, the IRA and the politcial crime like Ray Burke.

IFTN: What has been the most successful aspect to your job so far?

I think we were very successful with the BCI fund. If you look at the criteria for what they want it looks very stable like the programming RT would transmit, such as talking about culture, heritage, language all these very worthy subjects that you have to pick from. Then you look at what TV3 does and you are in a more commercial broad populist entertainment base type model. For me it was trying to find the project that suited both and being able to pitch it in the right way so that the BCI were happy with it, that it was something they wanted to get behind and that we were happy for it to sit in our schedule. That was something we have been very successful with and I think that’s why we’ve managed to get more and more money and more projects green lit by the Sound and Vision fund.

‘Diary of’ for example reflected real life so it was a modern Irish experience and it very much ticked our box in terms of culture. The documentary series like ‘Dirty Money’ was again modern culture. Again it’s about finding the right blend.

We set up an in house production unit called TV3 Productions so out of that we are producing programmes in house that financially make sense by using in house people and equipment. Alot of the time we would use elements from other programmes, for example, with ‘Lawless Ireland’ there would have been news packages and You Tube footage in there and we used a staff reporter Brian O’Donovan. We were able to turn it around quickly and obviously it was cheaper than something that would have had to go out of house for. We’re doing more and more TV3 productions based on that model.

IFTN: Would this be because of financial reasons given the current economic situation?

FM: It’s about using our resources that we have to our advantage and it’s about increasing our Irish output in whichever way we possibly can and it’s about producing it for cheaper. It’s very important for us to have the ‘Louis Vuitton Bag’ drama in the schedule because it’s a jewel in the crown as it says something about the channel, but economically it might not add up as everyone recognises and knows dramas tend to be expensive in comparison to other genres of programming.

At the same time, it shows your channel is mature and on a certain calibre to have those things in there. So we balance out something like the high production values of a drama with, for example, Top Ten programmes like ‘Top Ten Celebrity Diets’. That’s very cheap, quick and easy to do and our audience still wants to see it.

If you have something like that while also delivering a drama, you balance things out and then you have ‘Lawless Ireland’ and ‘Dirty Money’ and they are real chunky crime series which are really important as well. It’s about trying to maximize our ability to put home commissioned Irish projects into the schedule and that’s what myself and my boss Ben Frow are all about. We do that whatever way we can either via sponsorship like ‘The Apprentice’, which was funded by sponsors, or through the BCI or in house.

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