Television has “filled the void” of major Hollywood film studios says Wolf Hall and former HBO boss

Colin Callender - executive producer of the BBC2 historical drama and former HBO Films president - believes that the US film studios have all but abandoned great human dramas

As the executive producer of BBC2’s critically-acclaimed Tudor epic Wolf HallColin Callender is well placed to crow about the strength of television drama.


The six-part series starring Mark Rylance and Damian Lewis has attracted rave reviews for its skilful distillation of Hilary Mantel’s two novels, Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies. And with 3.9 million people tuning into its opening episode (making it BBC2’s best drama series debut in almost a decade) it has been a ratings success as well.

But in an interview with, Callender has gone a step further than most cultural commentators, claiming that TV has virtually replaced the major US film studios in the art of telling human stories in a dramatic form.

“There are fewer and fewer great dramas on the big screen so that’s created an enormous opportunity and appetite for drama on television,” he said.

Callender, who was President of HBO Films from 1999 to 2008, added: “Firstly the movie studios are producing fewer and fewer movies. And the movies that they are producing are these big franchise movies. The big drama, the character driven dramas, are not being made by the major studios and that’s really the realm of the independent movie sector anyway.

“One of the exciting things about Wolf Hall is the mix of people from different backgrounds all coming together.

“Television is attracting a high level of talent. It has filed the void that the movies have created.”

Callender (pictured) added that he has faith in the future of linear television despite the rise of on-demand producers such as Netflix and Amazon.

“At HBO we always talked about getting that watercooler moment, people talking about it round the watercooler,” he said.

“That can only happen on linear television. That doesn’t happen in the on-demand landscape. The power of linear television is at its best is when it generates that communal sense of excitement about something that has been a shared experience.”


Wolf Hall airs on BBC1 tonight at 9pm