As the producer on ITV miniseries Jekyll and Hyde and Sky Atlantic’s Riviera—not to mention leading children’s drama shows Wolfblood (CBBC/SDF), The Dumping Ground (BBC), Hetty Feather (CBBC) and Harriet’s Army (BBC)—Foz Allan has the experience to back up the opening of Bryncoed, his own children’s drama shop. But the producer isn’t just looking for a vanity project, he wants to build the best team to create the high-quality content streamers expect.
“The arrival of the SVODs have made the [children's drama] genre much bigger and much bolder and much more specific,” says Allan, founder and creative director at Bryncoed. “I want to try and find some shows that we make a choice to watch together [on those services] because it’s more fun to watch together. And I think that’s good for platforms and for family.”
Since opening Bryncoed’s England-based office in January, Allan has already hired Emma Yap (pictured, left) as a development producer and Jonathan Wolfman (pictured, right) as the company’s first YA development head.
Formerly a global acquisitions executive at NBCUniversal, Yap joined the company in early June as the prodco’s first senior hire since opening its doors. She has also worked in international sales at Bankside Films and is the co-founder of Female Film Leaders, an initiative that works to address gender imbalance within the entertainment industry. According to Allan, Yap has access to emerging and young writers and directors, and connects with them on a level the rest of the team might not.
“She’s very determined, she’s very well-connected, but inside of that she’s got a really good instinct for the emotional heart of the story,” he says. Yap is currently working on several projects for the prodco, but Allan is keeping mum until after MIPCOM—currently underway in France—when some more sales might be finalized.
Wolfman, meanwhile, joined the team just a few weeks ago and his main focus for Bryncoed will be on its new action/adventure series Undercover Kid. The show combines stand-alone stories with ongoing serial cliffhangers in what Allan is calling the kids’ version of the 2001 cult classic Ocean’s 11.
Wolfman joins the studio with a raft of development, production and script-editing credits on YA shows including CBBC’s Worst Witch, Hetty Feather, Pet Squad, Scoop, The Dumping Ground and Tracy Beaker Returns. Most recently, he produced the three-part drama Katy for the pubcaster. Allan and Wolfman actually worked on a few of those projects together, but the creative director says Wolfman wasn’t just hired because they know each other.
“He’s incredibly empathetic; he has the extraordinary ability to think like a child,” says Allan. “He thinks ‘if I were 12 and this happened to me, then this is how I’d feel.’ Then as soon he articulates that you kind of go ‘wow, that’s exactly right,’ so I think that is his real secret.”
It’s not only Wolfman’s ability to think like a kid, though, that made him appealing as a senior hire for Bryncoed. Allan emphasizes that the newly minted head of YA development also has a vast amount of experience and a fantastic contact book. Now, Allan is hoping that both Yap and Wolfman will be able to work together to build up the company and create great productions.
“We’re a relatively small organization and we’re looking to have people cross those lines, like [Yap's] energy and intellect mixing with [Wolfman's] curiosity and enthusiasm and experience,” says Allan.
Finding this perfect mix was a long process, Allan says. It took knowing a lot of people in the business, asking around, and sifting through tons of resumes—essentially the same process he uses to get through pitches and decide which shows deserve to get made and which don’t.
“You have to keep going through all of it until you find people that you can share and grow with,” says Allan. “There is no secret methodology, it’s just grunt work.”
Right now, a lot of that grunt work to focused on moving to a newer (slightly fancier) office and locking in commissions. Allan says the prodco is also on the hunt for one more medium-tier employee to join the roster in the next few months, and building up a team of researchers to ensure that if they make a show about a Swiss finishing school, it is as accurate as possible.
While it may or may not have a show about a Swiss finishing school in the works, Bryncoed’s continued team building comes on the heels of selling the 26 x 30-minute series The Athena to Sky Kids in the UK. The live-action tween drama series is slated to air in spring 2019.