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Flawless Films producer Sharon Lawless discusses EWA’s Series Accelerator programme
25 Jan 2024 : Luke Shanahan
Sharon Lawless
The European Women’s Audiovisual Network (EWA) has announced Irish producer Sharon Lawless of Flawless Films among the eight producers selected to participate in its new Series Accelerator programme, supported by Netflix.

The Series Accelerator programme is a European Women’s Audiovisual Network initiative supported by Netflix’s Fund for Creative Equity. The initiative brings together emerging or mid-career European women film producers who want to deepen their understanding of the series production landscape. EWA is curating three industry-led workshops tailored to the European series production landscape. The first session of the programme takes place in Amsterdam.

European TV producers, directors and creators including Teresa Fernández-Valdés (Cable Girls), Mirela Năstase (ZDF Studios) and Peter Nadermann (The Bridge) are among the industry professionals sharing their expertise in the first session.

Sharon Lawless of Flawless Films is one of eight producers selected to participate in the Series Accelerator programme

Flawless Films has been around since 1999, creating commercials, corporates and content for advertising clients. In 2010, Lawless directed and produced the first series of Adoption Stories for the then TV3, now VMTV. It was the first TV series about adoption in Ireland, and ran for six seasons, during which time the series explored legal and social barriers faced by the adoption community, the mother and baby homes, illegal adoptions, difficult reunions, and how people were treated as second-class citizens. It was also the first TV series in the world to use DNA testing to find blood relatives of adopted people.

In 2021 Flawless Film produced the two-part series The Killing of Fr. Niall Molloy for RTÉ. Lawless had spent three years researching and developing the project. The two-part series won the Royal Television Society Best Factual Series Award in 2022, and it’s currently in early development as a drama series.

Most recently, Lawless produced Inside the Hospice for VMTV, supported by Coimisiún na Meán. The three-part documentary, shown over three nights, highlighted death and grief through the patients, their families and the staff. 

We sat down with Sharon Lawless of Flawless Films to discuss how she got involved with the programme, what she hopes to learn from the experience, and what to expect from Flawless Films.

IFTN: How did you get involved in this programme? When did you hear about it? What was the process of applying like?

SHARON: “I applied to the EWA back in November. I think I had seen a post about it, probably on WFT.ie, and had a project that fitted with the criteria. What attracted me was the opportunity to work on a project in early development. Normally, even when applying for development funding, you have to have so much already in place, whereas with this programme, they didn’t want that. I’ve seen it on a few other European-based accelerators recently, so it means you can work with a team of experts and like-minded producers or writers, to get it to the point where it has a really good chance of getting proper development or even production funding. To be honest, the Netflix association went over my head a bit, in favour of this open, hands-on approach. Now it has hit me though!”

“The application was straightforward enough. It was a 1-pager about the project, and the usual requirement for a certain degree of experience, vision, approach, and so on. They specified people with no producing credit on a TV drama series, but with some experience in features. I had started out in films years ago, and am developing one on the motorsport legend Rosemary Smith, which I’m pitching at Berlin next month.”

IFTN: Why did you decide to apply for the programme, and what do you hope to learn over the course of the programme’s three workshops?

SHARON: “I applied because I’ve been thinking of dramatising some of the documentaries I’ve made, where a story lends itself to it, and it would appeal to an audience outside Ireland. For example something like ‘Dirty John’, or even the Sophie Toscan DuPlantier case, which was a podcast, a documentary, a book, a drama, and countless press articles, with each iteration attracting an audience.”

“With so many platforms available to us now, a really good story can withstand being told in a variety of ways, and with streamers in particular, being able to show an established audience for the subject matter is a big plus. In fact, for any funder, that’s the case. So adapting my own factual content that performed well is a good step forward. A good story is a good story and it feels like a natural progression to go from the hard graft of factual, where you’re exposing injustice and wrongdoing and fighting for your contributors to be heard, to creating a world where you can make that happen.”
 
“Looking at the three modules in the programme, it is very much prepping the eight projects for market with the final module in Cologne in June, as part of Seriencamp. I hope I come away from it with a solid, viable, returnable series, and the momentum to get it to screen.”

IFTN: Are there any upcoming Flawless Films projects we should keep an eye out for?

SHARON: “I have a feature documentary about Rosemary Smith ready to go into production. She was an incredible person and the archive is fantastic. What a life! That should be ready at the end of the year or early 2025, and it’s one of those stories that can be told in a different way, hence the feature film in development. I’m also working away on a feature documentary about illegal adoption, which we exposed in 2012 in ‘Adoption Stories’, but have a lot more to reveal.”

“It’s a busy time ahead, and drama seems to be evolving nicely for the company, which gives an opportunity to work with international partners and funders. Things tend to happen and fall into place when they are supposed to, so hopefully this amazing opportunity with the EWA and Netflix is a sign of things to come.”





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