Michael Keillor - Life Through a Lens

Published on 6 July 2021

As the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown spread throughout the world millions of people turned to television and streaming services. TV and film director, Michael Keillor, talks all things TV.

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The BBC’s Roadkill and Line of Duty are just two shows that have kept audiences gripped over the past year as more and more people have turned to television.  Michael has directed on both shows and credits his Dundee days studying law as a big factor in the direction of his career.  

Michael Keillor portrait
“When I take on a project, I am always looking for something with a good story and a bit of contemporary resonance.  I think that's why Roadkill was such a hit. The audience would rather have Hugh Laurie in the cabinet than the current cabinet, in fact maybe Hugh could be Prime Minister! ”

Michael Keillor

"For me the political side all stems back to Dundee and law – the sense of justice, society and the power of the state. I've always been interested in the power of the state and how it’s wielded on individuals."

“Traditionally it's always been harder to get things made in the political genre, but politics has become quite mainstream in the last five years, especially with Covid-19 and Brexit, people are very aware of the real-life political dramas and the kinds of characters involved in politics right now.” 

Michael worked on the third season of Line of Duty and explains why he has enjoyed watching it go from strength to strength. 

“I was big fan of the show when I got the chance to direct it, but it was still a bit cult, now it’s a cultural juggernaut, front page news and even mentioned in Parliament as a byword for corruption. Great to see it grow and nice to have Kelly Macdonald on it this year, but there is also a large Scottish contingent behind the camera too.”  

“As the industry grows, film and TV work is no longer seen as niche and there are opportunities for crew on set, but also behind the scenes in production, finance, marketing and legal. It’s a massively expanding industry right across the country and Line of Duty is just one of many successes. Also, because it’s shot in Belfast, it was a great opportunity for me to reconnect with some old pals from my Dundee days, we even roped in a few as special advisors and extras!” 

Before the pandemic hit there was a boom in UK filmmaking, especially in high-end television, but the lockdown closed every set overnight. 

“No one could film anything, but we still needed television programmes, especially drama, with more people stuck at home watching TV. Come autumn, filmmaking kicked off again and because film makers are used to working under adverse conditions, they just worked within the Covid-19 restrictions to get the industry back on its feet. Now it seems to be thriving again, especially in Scotland, where new studios have allowed numerous big shows to film right through the year.” 

Just like the rest of the world, Michael has been watching more television over the past year.   

“Because I mainly make thrillers and political shows, watching those dramas can feel like work, but during lockdown everyone needed a guilty pleasure and in our house it was a French show ‘Call My Agent’, which for people in the film industry is quite funny because it reminds us just how ridiculous the world of filmmaking can be, even if we all take it very seriously, you have to laugh.” 

Michael is currently reading a lot of scripts and is working on a drama set in the Scottish criminal legal system and a thriller about the modern Scottish Highlands.  Whatever hits our screens next it is sure to be a ratings winner.  

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