Back to archive

The White Queen, The Missing I & II

The White Queen

  • Directors James Kent, Jamie Payne, Colin Teague
  • Screenwriter Based on Philippa Gregory’s ‘The Cousin’s War’, adapted by Emma Frost
  • Main Producer Produced for the BBC by Company Pictures (UK)
  • Co-producers (BE) Czar TV, BNP Paribas Fortis Film Finance
  • Cast Max Irons, James Frain, Rebecca Ferguson, Janet McTeer, Veerle Baetens
  • Key suppliers Decosfeer, Cine-Qua-Non, Lites, Caruur
  • Genre Historical drama series
  • Sales All3MediaInternational

The Missing I

  • Director Tom Shankland
  • Screenwriters Harry and Jack Williams
  • Main producers Produced for the BBC by Company Pictures & New Pictures (UK)
  • Co-Producers (BE) Czar TV, VRT, RTBF, BNP Paribas Fortis Film Finance
  • Cast James Nesbitt, Frances O’ Connor, Tchéky Karyo, Jason Flemyng, Titus De Voogdt, Emilie Dequenne, Johan Leysen
  • Key suppliers Lites, Eastwood & Brent, Cine-Qua-non, Jules Logistics, Work@Dreams, Caruur
  • Genre Drama series
  • Sales All3MediaInternational

The Missing II (in development)

  • Director Ben Chanan
  • Screenwriters Harry and Jack Williams
  • Main Producer Produced for the BBC by New Pictures (UK)
  • Co-producer (BE) Czar TV
  • Cast Tchéky Karyo – other cast TBC
  • Genre Drama Series
  • Sales All3MediaInternational

The producers of cult TV series The Missing were so impressed with the set-up they found in Flanders that they’re returning for a second helping. Actually, counting The White Queen, make that a third.

It started with the historic houses, squares and canals of Bruges, but what drew the producers of an Emmy nominated British TV series back again (and again) was a very modern combination of production expertise and attractive tax breaks. Major UK TV producer Company Pictures – whose credits range from the groundbreaking series Shameless to epic period dramas like Wolf Hall – first crossed the channel with The White Queen (2013), which is set in 15th century England and which found its perfect location in the picture postcard Flemish city.
“We were able to get locations which we wouldn’t have been able to get anywhere else,” says Willow Grylls, who was at Company Pictures at the time, and has since moved on with partner Charlie Pattinson to found New Pictures. That first experience of working in Flanders “just made more sense - we felt we were able to get much more production value all around by shooting there. In fact, we wouldn’t have been able to shoot the show in the UK; but it made financial sense in Belgium.’
The White Queen used Flemish talent - notably actress Veerle Baetens, star of Belgian Oscar nominee The Broken Circle Breakdown - and drew on the expertise of more than a hundred local crew members and suppliers. It also raised around 17% of its budget through the VAF/Media Fund, Screen Flanders and the Belgian Tax Shelter.

The crews are absolutely fantastic, incredibly professional. They really care about the work they’re doing and it’s a proper set-up
Willow Grylls


But it wasn’t just a question of money, insists Grylls. “The truth is, some of the costs in Belgium are actually higher. And, depending on which way the Euro goes, it’s not necessarily cheaper. But once you factor in the Tax Shelter it definitely made sense to shoot in Flanders. I think overall, in terms of hard production costs, it was maybe 15% cheaper doing it in Belgium.”
The decision proved a wise one in other respects as well, and led to two more series being shot in Belgium, even though the UK now has its own tax incentive. Indeed, the experience with The White Queen was so positive that the producers, after toying with the idea of shooting the series in France where the story was set and deciding that “the figures just didn’t stack up”, returned to the region with The Missing, an entirely contemporary story which had no need for the beauty of Bruges.
The series is about an English couple, Tony and Emily (James Nesbitt and Frances O’Connor), searching with increasing desperation for their son who has disappeared on holiday in France, helped by a determined and obsessive French cop, Julien (Tchéky Karyo). Set over two time periods – the time of the actual disappearance; and years later, when Tony, now separated from Emily but still grimly determined to find the truth, returns to France and pursues various leads, aided by the now-retired Julien.
Based on a documentary about a real-life French detective who devoted years to investigating a similar unsolved disappearance, The Missing was one of the must-see series on British television in the autumn of 2014, and has since been shown in the US, the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Finland and Germany. Grylls, who was one of several producers, found the production process so rewarding that New Pictures is returning to Belgium for a second series.



“The crews are absolutely fantastic,” she says. “Really, really good, incredibly professional. They really care about the work they’re doing and it’s a proper set-up. It’s very efficient and in all respects very close to what we might be used to in the UK. There’s a thriving film and TV industry there, so it’s not like you’ve got a small production pool. They are extremely good at what they do.”
The Missing, like The White Queen, made use of local crew - and cast, too. “The other thing I think we hugely benefited from is that there is also a large pool of brilliant Flemish actors,” says Grylls. “Titus de Voogdt is an amazing actor. I think as far as British audiences are concerned, he’s one of the undiscovered gems of The Missing.”
A second series, she says, was always on the cards but will tell a totally different story. “Jack and Harry [Williams, the writers] always had another story that they wanted to write, but it isn’t connected to the end of the first one: it’s totally standalone, a new story. Jimmy Nesbitt is not coming back. The ending of series one was the ending that we all intended - an ending of that character. It’s something that we’d always talked about and we had a script. Obviously with the success of series one, it made sense to go again.”

Working with Czar gave us an enhanced kind of creative vision. We would not have had the show we had without their involvement
Willow Grylls


The Missing II is due to go into production in February 2016 for a 20- week shoot, and will see New Pictures once again working with Flemish production company Czar TV and producer Eurydice Gysel. “I think Czar are absolutely brilliant,” says Grylls. “Eurydice is fantastic and we really love working with them. For anything that it makes sense to do in that part of the world, we would always consider going back.”
Indeed, what may have originally been a marriage of convenience seems to have developed into a full-blown love affair. “Czar are not just a brilliant service provider whom we trust absolutely,” adds Grylls, “but their creative take on things is very on point. They have got great taste and that translates to their taste in DOPs and creatives and gaffers and all sorts of things. It’s not just a question that coming to Flanders allows us to close the finance to make the show that we wanted. Working with a company like Czar gave us the additionality of an enhanced kind of creative vision for the show. We would not have had the show we had without their involvement.” Also helping is the revamp of the Tax Shelter arrangements. “Last time, under the old regime, it was much harder,” she says. “They required several things that made it more difficult, but since it’s been restructured I think it’s going to be more straightforward.”

Stills The White Queen, The Missing © All3MediaInternational

New Pictures *

  • 2014 THE MISSING I

* selected filmography