Siobhan Murphy

Championing the Mermaids at Merman: Siobhan Murphy

15 March, 2024

Siobhan Murphy has been with Merman’s Branded arm since inception in June 2017, serving the company now as partner and executive producer.

With Merman a leading TV focused production company – founded in 2014 – under the leadership of Sharon Horgan and Clelia Mountford, Siobhan came on board bringing talent with her, for the launch of the Branded Entertainment & Commercials division in 2017. Since then Merman has become one of the fastest growing production companies remaining true to the foundation’s set in comedy but also moving towards a more diverse range of projects in the visual and narrative arena.

This has seen Siobhan develop and work alongside formidable talents MJ Delaney – now a BAFTA winner and Emmy nominee, since joining Merman at the start – as well as Martin Krejci, Declan Lowney, Vaughan Arnell and most recently Margot Bowman. Siobhan’s enthusiasm for this industry has proven irrepressible throughout her career and she shows no signs of slowing down with Merman going from strength to strength and having their busiest year yet despite the obstacles we have all been forced to face.

Q: How important is it to you to have fair representation across the Merman roster?

Siobhan: I cannot express the importance enough. My heart bursts when I think about it!

I joined Merman in 2017 under the helm of multi-award winning writer, director, actor Sharon Horgan and executive producer co-founder Clelia Mountford. Two inspiring, powerhouse women running an incredible TV production company, who gave me the chance to launch their Branded Division. A company led by women creating incredible shows, giving opportunities to other women who were overlooked in the past, purely because of their gender.

So, as a predominantly female workforce, representing an eclectic range of female talent, we will always continue to champion these voices, alongside championing stand-out talent across the board.

Q: How has the industry improved its approach towards female directors?

Siobhan: It’s interesting. From a production company perspective, the industry seems to have massively evolved over the past three years in particular. I have always pioneered female directors but at the start, I encountered women who felt threatened by the idea of supporting other women who were stepping into the director’s shoes. It seemed that they were so used to the tradition of having a man’s direction that they perhaps felt envious that a woman could command the same creative results. They struggled to comprehend that women could be as intuitive, as powerful, particularly on-set. I think that says a lot about our societal conditioning and why representation is so important.

It took a hell of a long time for the industry to recognise female creativity in areas outside the stereotypical world of feminine hygiene, beauty and fashion, but I think we have finally moved beyond that… to a point. There are still areas of advertising that are seen as incredibly male dominated, even now. Formula One for example. For this reason, I love that Charlotte Tilbury has taken the bull by the horns and is now an official sponsor of F1 Academy – a female-only racing championship. Now perhaps we will see less male-driven (pardon the pun) typical F1 advertising – and Merman is so here for it!

Q: Award shows such as The BAFTAs and The OSCARS show that female director representations are still lacking behind their male counterparts. Even The Superbowl has a low output from female talent, do you think there’s still a long way to go before it’s an even playing field?

Siobhan: Grrrr…don’t even get me started. The advertising industry STILL seems to revert to type when it comes to the Superbowl. Why is that? Women everywhere are making ground breaking work. Then for some reason, when these unparalleled opportunities emerge, women get overlooked. There’s a lot of discourse around ‘familiarity’ or reverting to a ‘safe pair of hands’ which seems to override equality in female consideration.

Q: As a female founded production company with predominantly a female workforce, Merman has created some powerhouse female-centric dramas including Bad Sisters and Motherland. Do you feel that this perception is still at the heart of who Merman is, and why brands and talent are attracted to working with the company?

Siobhan: Yes, I do. Merman are celebrated for often tackling difficult subject matters in ways that are both witty and informative from female-led perspectives. I love this about our company and love that people recognise this as our IP. Currently, we are working on two separate female-focused charity projects, one that aligns prominently with Bad Sisters. It is a Branded Entertainment piece that encompasses what we are about on every level.

Q: What do you think are the main challenges Merman faces today in the commercial space?

Siobhan: We face the same challenges as everyone else, but I vehemently believe that what stands us apart is the strength of our TV arm which has proven a hugely beneficial asset when journeying into the branded entertainment space. This is a massive focus for us this year. Every production company says they’re doing it too, but Merman is privileged to be in a unique position where we’ve proven ourselves as award-winning original storytellers, who have the talent at the top to prove it, paired with years of commercial expertise.

Q: What can we expect to see from Merman in 2024?

Siobhan: I am so excited about 2024! It has kicked off with a bang and somehow feels like a whole new universe to 2023.

We have made some key changes to the roster and are making huge efforts to diversify in every way. This is being prioritised within the range of work we create, the talent we represent and when expanding into areas we haven’t previously occupied, such as music videos and branded entertainment.

Across the pond, our US counterparts recently released a 23 episode rom-com series for Walmart, directed by writer/director Erica Dunton (Ted Lasso, Julia, The Summer I Turned Pretty). Alongside continuing to pursue traditional advertising, we are also looking to replicate opportunities just like this within the UK market, working directly with brands and charities to tell original stories that advertise in a different, less conventional way. We intend to be at the forefront of these evolving aspirations and this constantly changing landscape. Bring it on!