Eight million is a lot of money to shoot with, but then, there were 20 episodes to shoot. Even the show’s name, Filthy Rich, seems to emphasise the headlines generated when it landed the most money granted by NZ on Air to a single drama series.
Get past the headlines and Steven Zanoski, the series producer, is glad when you acknowledge that the per episode cost of Filthy Rich is a lot less than a typical TV series drama. About 20 percent less. And that in turn is about 60 percent less than flagship drama series that come in at over a million per episode. He adds that this is not a case of sinking-lid drama budgets but rather a consequence of the style of this particular show, which has been labelled as drama because well, soap is a dirty word (his pun not mine) in the industry.
He has no reason to look down on soaps, having built a career on them. After over 440 episodes of Shortland Street, first as a writer then as a producer, plus time showrunning in Europe, he knows a lot about how they work. Filthy Rich is not trying to be Broadchurch, but then, he says calling it a soap is not entirely right either.
“We are used to soaps being half hours five nights a week, like Shortland Street or Neighbours, which are effective at drawing large audiences and not too expensive to produce after the initial set up, whereas I refer to Filthy Rich as being a glitzy return-to-the-eighties style soap,” he says. “We are a one-hour show, so we have to make things a little bigger, a little flasher, and competitive with what you would find in an 8:30 pm drama. I use the word melodrama.”