Derry man creates new BBC show

The cast of new BBC drama 6 Degrees
The cast of new BBC drama 6 Degrees

A Derry writer and producer is one of the people behind the BBC’s newest home grown drama, 6 Degrees.

Colin O’Donnell, who has previous worked on teen shows Hollyoaks and Seacht, is the co-creator and co-producer of the new show based on the lives of six students in Belfast.

Colin O'Donnell

Colin O'Donnell

The show will premiere on BBC 2 Northern Ireland tonight and 32-year-old Colin is very excited about the reaction it will get from the audience.

“It has taken a long time to get 6 Degrees on the screen. It was in development during Seacht, from around St Patrick’s day two years ago. In many ways it has evolved from Seacht, but this is in the English language and is more of a drama.”

The show centres on the lives of six students from across the UK and Ireland as they begin a new chapter in their lives at university in Belfast.

“I think Seacht showed the BBC that low cost drama for a local audience could be done, they put a tender out looking for a new drama aimed towards a youth audience.”

Colin admits that a young audience is a particularly difficult one to win over and believe Stirling Productions’s experience on Seacht helped them secure the tender.

“Young people have very sophisticated tastes these days and are used to watching American shows. They are definitely a tough audience to crack but this show is something different for Northern Ireland so I hope that we can and I am very, very excited about it.”

The drama also features the writing talents of young people from Northern Ireland, however Colin made a conscious decision not to get involved in the writing element of the show.

“We looked for the best writers and around 50 or 60 applied to become involved, but the best writers emerged from Northern Ireland. Young people who had been to university here and got the scene.

“We have five first time writers for the six episodes and that is kind of unheard of. They are all there on their own merit, they are fresh and they are young.

I have been producing for the last four years and I made a conscious decision not to produce and write on the same show. You need to be a bit more removed from the script when you are producing. I don’t miss writing as such, because the team we have are very very strong.”

While the main characters in 6 Degrees are students, Colin stresses the show isn’t just for students and has “unversal” themes.

“The storylines can reach a much wider audience. The show is all about friendships, relationships and love stories. The focus is on six students starting university, all the relationships, craic, madness and mistakes that come from that. But they all have their past problems and personal insecurities and some big, darker, storylines will devlop from these.”

Colin is enthusiastic about the BBC’s backing for new homegrown drama.

“I wasn’t here in the last ten years when there wasn’t much investment in local drama, but it is great there now is. I hope 6 degrees will pave the way for more local shows to be made. The BBC are very much behind this project because it has the potential to reach a new audience. It is a first for Northern Ireland and I can promise it just gets better and better throughout the first series.

“We would hope to get a second series of 6 Degrees and give more first timers their big break, because as well as writing talent, new acting talent has been discovered.”

As well as TV shows, Colin has turned his hand to writing for film in the past.

One of the films he was involved in received rave reviews when it was shown at one of the world’s most prestigious film festival, Cannes.

Salvage was a micro-budget horror film which was released over two years ago.

Since then Colin has been so busy on the production side of things, he hasn’t been able to devote himself to any film projects.

“A film I was working on is still in development. I am hoping to free myself up to do more writing for it in the future. I still have ambitions to commit to film projects, it just takes so much commitment and I am really enjoying what I am doing at the moment for TV.”

The first two episodes will be shown on BBC2NI at 9:30pm tonight. For more information about the show log on to www.6degressni.com