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Programming Profile

All-new 3DD looks to make its mark in history programming


Dominic Saville, founder and CEO of 3DD Group, discusses the company’s evolution through the past 30 years and reveals the slate of programmes he is showcasing on C21’s Digital Screenings and taking out on the physical events circuit this spring.


There are two eras of 3DD. The London-based group made its name in music programming, representing third-party companies, artists and managers as a distributor.


It then moved into co-financing the BBC’s long-running music series Later… With Jools Holland and, after the turn of the millennium, bringing it into the HD age and releasing specials on Warner’s DVD. The company’s first major foray into production was producing its own series, The Album Chart Show, with Channel 4 and a global group of buyers as the HD revolution was upon us.


Dominic Saville, 3DD Group

The show, distributed internationally as London Live, got so big that at one point Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Kanye West all featured in a single season.


“They were exciting times,” recalls Dominic Saville, founder and CEO of 3DD Group, which owns 3DD Productions and 3DD Entertainment. “It was an expensive and ambitious production and without our worldwide buyers’ support it would not have continued for so long. We had some cracking years doing that.”


As the show came to an end in 2010, so a transition began at 3DD. “Repping other people was becoming more difficult financially; there were bigger companies out there that could put together better deals,” Saville says. “I knew the only hope for us to survive was to suffer through 10 years and build a library of our own.”


Princess Diana: Who Do You Think She Was? A Tale of The Spencer Ancestors
Princess Diana: Who Do You Think She Was? A Tale of
The Spencer Ancestors

The company now functions as 3DD Productions, selling only the originals that it makes. “Everything we sell is ours, we no longer represent other companies,” says Saville. “We self-finance most projects until delivery. We are not commissioned by a single UK buyer but a group of global partners. Everything is based on pre-sales with a dozen international partners. We’re not a traditional production company that takes an idea to the BBC or Channel 4 and asks what they think.”


It is a family affair at 3DD, with Dominic’s wife Lyndy Saville as CEO of 3DD Productions and his son Cal Saville as creative director on the production side. The distribution arm is headed by Patricia Hickey as head of sales and coproduction and Charlie Morton-Boyce as sales and operations manager. Sebastian Saville, Dominic’s brother, is part-time operations director alongside his charity projects he oversees.


The company focuses on 20th century history across all genres – culture, war, art, music, cinema, philosophy and related topics – and is very focused on the characters within the stories, whether it’s an artist, a royal or a dictator. “We’re anniversary-focused, current interest-focused,” Saville explains. “We’re always looking 19 months ahead and imagining what will be getting attention in the press around certain dates.”


Hitler: Uncovering His Fatal Obsession
Hitler: Uncovering His Fatal Obsession

The playlist on C21’s Digital Screenings this week, and also heading to MipTV next month, features two new titles Saville believes will be particularly opportune when it comes to the anniversaries coming up in August that channels may want to cover.


The end of August marks 25 years since the death of Princess Diana and 3DD is shopping Princess Diana: Who Do You Think She Was?, which examines the story of the famous royal’s Spencer ancestors. True Royalty in the UK and US, Foxtel in Australia, TF1 in France, Canal+ in Poland and AMC in Central and Eastern Europe are among the pre-buyers.


“We chose to tell a story about her life and ancestry; we didn’t really want to look at her personal life after marriage and the children,” Saville says. “What we wanted to investigate was who the Spencers were. Her lineage was extraordinary; people often thought she was just the babysitter with a mini, but she had this lineage with the Duke of Marlborough and Churchill. She had a rich ancestry of her own and we wanted to look at people in that line.”


Murder Maps Series 6 & 7
Murder Maps Series 6 & 7

August also marks the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Stalingrad, and with the current situation in Ukraine projects examining how Russia reached this point could be in especially high demand. Hitler – Uncovering His Fatal Obsession is a 2×60’ doc that is completed and ready to sell, with Sky History in the UK, Ireland, CEE (ex-Poland), Benelux, Scandinavia, Middle East and Greece; TF1 in France and Canal+ in Poland picking it up at the pre-sale stage. It has also sold to Canal Historia in Spain and Portugal as well as Foxtel in Australia.


“The programme investigates Hitler’s personal desperation to annihilate whole groups of people, and Communism was something he was deeply horrified by, which was ironic because everybody else in the war was too,” Saville says. “We examine how, if he hadn’t gone east in 1941 and just left Russia alone, everything could have been different.”


British historians Sir Max Hastings, Sir Anthony Beevor and Sir Richard Evans are among the doc’s contributors.


The Directors Series 7 - Pioneers of Cinema
The Directors Series 7 – Pioneers of Cinema

Another timely production, The Soviet Union, can be found among the 3DD projects in pre-production and available for pre-sale. Due for delivery at the end of the year, the 3×60’ series marks the centenary of the foundation of the Soviet Union in 1922.


“It’s looking at the 20th century through Lenin, Stalin, Brezhnev, Khrushchev and Gorbachev up to the Berlin Wall coming down,” Saville says. “I’ve always wanted to do a series on empires and what motivates people to build them. There’s something about them that appeals to certain needs in large history countries.”


Elsewhere on the slate, Murder Maps is returning for a sixth season and pre-sales have been sealed with Viasat World and TF1 in France, among others. In pre-production, the series will be delivered in December and expands out from its previous focus on British killings to look at a more international range of homicides.


Stars Of The Silver Screen Series 14 - From The Golden Age to the Modern Movie Star
Stars Of The Silver Screen Series 14 – From The
Golden Age to the Modern Movie Star

The series had previously been with UKTV-owned Yesterday in the UK, but BBC Studios’ takeover of that business has seen the commission subside, but 3DD is keen to bring the show back with an international twist.


And heading in a completely different direction is Dracula – Unearthed, marking the centenary of 1922 silent German expressionist horror film Nosferatu – A Symphony of Horror. The 1×90′ special has already been picked up by Sky Arts in the UK for its Halloween schedules and “tells the story of Dracula through all its historical references, such as 13th century Vlad the Impaler, and their influence on Bram Stokers book,” Saville says.


“We also look at the most recognisable faces of Dracula, from the 1920s silent German expressionist Nosferatu to the early Universal horror era of the 1930s when sound arrived with Bela Lugosi and the Hammer era of Christopher Lee. We want to look at how that whole vampire theme has influenced more recent youth-skewing entertainment such as True Blood, Buffy and Twilight as well as the deeper question of why this story continues to resonate.”

More programming profiles

  • 13-03-2023

    Dominic Saville of 3DD Productions outlines how the UK-based factual boutique prodco has managed to build its 1,000-title library on limited resources and explores his upcoming slate of documentaries.


    3DD Group celebrates its 30th anniversary next year. A tightly knit team, the UK-based indie producer has carved out a reputation as a leading factual content creator with particular expertise in history, culture, royalty and true crime.


    “We’ve evolved the business several times over the years,” says group CEO Dominic Saville, who runs the company with his wife, Lyndy Saville, who heads production. “There have definitely been painful and challenging times, but we’ve managed to build a company of like-minded individuals, retain our independence and created a catalogue of 1,000 evergreen factual programmes.”

  • 23-04-2021

    UK based 3DD Entertainment focuses on arts, history and true crime programming. Head of sales and co-production Patricia Hickey discusses the company’s C21 Digital Screenings playlist and ongoing industry trends.


    Not every company can make the leap from being a full-time distributor, to producing and funding a music series featuring iconic artists such as Kanye West and Amy Winehouse, to then move away from music to shooting period re-enactment shows. But it is one that London-based producer and distributor 3DD Entertainment took with a great deal of determination and commitment.


    Launching in 1994 as a music programme sales company working with musicians including U2 and The Spice Girls, 3DD went on to coproduce performance series Later… With Jools Holland for UK pubcaster BBC2. It subsequently launched live-music performance series The Album Chart Show (aka London Live) with UK commercial public broadcaster Channel 4.