Category Archives: Industry Insights

The BBC lays it down on Development & Commissioning y’all

Yo dawgs, what’s happenin’?

I went to the BBC Academy’s Digital Bristol Week yesterday, for a seminar on Production Development. So now I’m going to share with you all the golden information I have gained on ideas, commissioning and multi-platform media.

3pbaj9Number One: The Idea

For inspiration, scour production company websites and see if there’s anything specific they’re asking for. Drama is getting darker, docs more extreme. Apparently, UK commissioners hate drama with a voice over. Watch as many tv channels’ top shows as you can – even for just 10 minutes – to get a feel for what’s popular at the moment. The key to a good idea is understanding what’s out there already: examine the box’s contents and then think outside it. Daytime television is doing great right now because half the country is unemployed and they’re desperate for more ’60 Minute Makeovers’ and ‘Cash in the Attic’ – these aspirational shows are about making your life better for less. Try to come up with an idea that can travel across ages/genders/social class/geography (Top Gear is a good example of this). The golden rule: LIKE SELL MAKE. Will people like it? Can you sell it? And then can you make it? Bear costs in mind before you get carried away.

Number Two: Multi-platform & Social Media

It’s not as scary as it sounds – put simply it is just another way for an audience to consume your product. funny-dog-memeEvery BBC tv show has its own website, some even have their own Twitter and Facebook pages. Pepper Pig is a great example – apps, books, websites, games… all covered and all matching. Multi-media enhances our viewing of a show so we can carry on enjoying it even whilst it’s not on air. A new mode of media called “2nd Screen” or even “3rd Screen” refers to new audience habits – whilst watching TV they are tweeting about, reading abou it, or chatting to their friend on the other side of the world about it. The risk is losing your audience to that 2nd screen when it becomes more interesting than the TV – having multiple platforms for your media is a way of holding onto them. If not, your TV show must simply be so gripping and wonderful that audiences can’t bear to look away.

Number Three: What to do with this fabaroo idea and multi-platform shizzle?

Look at the TV schedule. Where are there gaps that your idea could fill? Does one channel need a new drama to compete with another? Remember some gaps (news, soaps etc) will never be free so don’t get caught out. cat-meme-scary-black-cat-dog-meme-funny-animals-funny-pictures_thumbWhat production companies produce the kind of content you’ve got? Next, ask those companies how they accept ideas, ask to see a past successful treatment then copy its format. When it comes to sending it in, think about the holidays – no one’s gonna care around Xmas! The best times are early Autumn (after the Edinburgh TV conference commissioners are feeling inspired) and early Spring. If you’re invited in to pitch, try to get familiar with the lingo the company want to hear, by looking at their website. And be confident (but not arrogant) – if you give them a reason to doubt you, they’ll take it. Show them you’ve done your research – tell them why people will like it, why you want them to buy it, and how it will be made.  And definitely talk about multi-media platforms!

So this is the gist of the seminar, straight from my notes! Some really inspirational stuff and useful tips. Now go forth and come up with the next Come Dine With Me!

A xx

who-is-awesome

 

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Wether you’ve set out on your own, or you’re managing PO’s and invoicing, or you are in charge of the whole process from quote to order to finished product, there are almost always a few things you wish you’d thought to push for in the contract when you got to ‘go ahead’.

I was skimming through the delicious DesignLoveFest blog when one of the creators, Katie, took the time to answer with some of her biggest ‘oops, important things to get into a contract’ notes (below).

KATIE’S ANSWER:
technically my first graphic design job was designing the drink promotion tent cards at the restaurant i worked at in high school. but the one i count was designing a line of stationery cards for a new brand. i think i found it on craigslist. the ad asked for an illustrator with a print background. i sent my portfolio PDF showing the range of my illustration skills and my resume. the owner responded she liked my style and asked to meet me. we met at a bar, had some wine and she told me what she wanted her stationery line to be. it was right up my alley and we clicked really well. i knew what was required of me as a designer, but on the business side i had no clue what I was doing. i charged her $500 for 5 designs, each getting two rounds for revisions. i cringe when i think about how much work went into the designs. you live and you learn right?

what i would do differently today:
• charge $600 per card with two revisions for each design. if you’re new start out charging hourly. you will still be learning to manage your self and working with clients.

• add another $1,000 for all the email correspondence, managing the print vendors, deadlines, and all of our in person meetings.

• save my taxi and supply receipts to write those off as a business expense when i do my taxes.

• our contract would include what would happen if the idea is killed once the work has begun. is there a kill fee? do i get paid for a percentage of my fee? or paid for the hours? my client had changed her mind after two rounds on one of the cards to a new idea and i hadn’t brought that up in our contract. all that work down the drain and i had to start all over again.

• contract would say that if the client wanted more revisions after the two rounds i would charge my hourly rate to finish the project.

• contract would included rights and usage of the artwork. those designs i did now live on a ton of other products. my designs were also manipulated into other patterns and layouts and look really bad(in my opinion). it’s unfortunate because it could’ve been a great piece for my portfolio but now i don’t even want to show anyone. i could always redo it for myself but i guess i’m a little bitter about how the final product came to life.

• contract would say how long the client owns the rights to them. is it a year? 3 years (i’ve learned that 3 is an industry standard for product. it hits a season, goes on sale, maybe moves to outlet), or forever? depending on how long they want to have the rights another fee would be included. more years = more money.

• contract would say how many products each design can live on.

• require approval on ALL products my designs go on before they are put into production.

Obviously these are just a few notions, but they’re all transferrable to whatever your job might be and all worth thinking about.

One of the key things I found myself doing in the early days (and still on occasion get tempted by) was undervaluing the product. I would put a lower starting number, or maintain more flexible negotiation, in order to secure the job rather than push for the paycheque it deserved. Yes, there was always a decent profit margin built in, but it looks small when you start looking at what your work could actually be worth. Lesson one, don’t be afraid to sell yourself. If it’s quality work, people will pay rather than budget through and get lesser results (but they’ll never say no if you give them a low price but maintain quality). Don’t be a cocky asshole, you’ll never be too big for your boots cause there is always more to learn and do, but don’t underestimate your value. Don’t be scared to negotiate! They can only say no, and you should come prepared and with your stance and quote backed up by facts (and figures) and prospects and realistic points.

Secondly, keep it in writing. Always. Everything. Every little note ever. And keep disclaimers that sound vaguely legal and cover you on your emails. For the small time of creating a decent wording on your signature to protect your work and email agreements it’s more than worthwhile to save you from blind panic.

Don’t be scared to include silly things, if they’re not in writing they’re not agreed upon. Expenses, time spent, ownership of product (if applicable), reselling rights, support rights, etc etc. Make sure you cover all corners, and you can feel safe and protected moving forward. And protect your creativity.

Don’t play games. Clients expect a good service and a good result/quality of work when they put their trust and order with you. Don’t treat them as anything less, every client is important and much like people are a business most important asset clients are your livelihood. Their referrals, happiness and success translate into good things for you too, so always have a respectful and fair approach to them and listen as well as remember you’re hired for your expertise in whatever aspect they need your help (don’t forget to put your foot down and claim that expertise while remembering you can only inform them and if they chose to go against your suggestions you’ll have to let them, once you’ve explained you can’t be held liable).

Liability. Google it. Make sure it’s covered. And remember while business shouldn’t have to be, it is a dirty game and at some point you’ll deal with people who wouldn’t hesitate to throw you under if it came down to it. Protect yourself, your company and your work.

Kick ass, and don’t be afraid to do so. Business can be creative, innovative, fun, respectful, passionate and bloody enjoyable too. Just keep your head up, and remember it’s still business and those who don’t ask don’t get.

xoxo

‘P’

Don’t forget the fine print (or ‘things I wish I’d remembered for the first client order’)

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An Exhilarating Date with the HOTTEST Names in TV? Yes Please.

How to spend an evening drinking with the producers and commissioners of your favourite TV shows. 

Long awaited event ‘Speed Date the Drama Gurus’ set up by the Royal Television Society took place in London yesterday. Two free drinks and an adrenaline-pumped discourse with the top names in British drama. As thrills go, not bad for a tenner.

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The best thing about this was that the ‘Gurus’ were not idolized deities we weren’t allowed to approach, high above on a panel and fiercely guarded. But patiently waiting at small tables for two, ready to answer our questions and give their best advice. The only catch – you have just 3 minutes with each Guru to get the know-how you need and make that all important good impression.

So here’s a room filled with commissioners, producers, writers and directors with a collective CV long and impressive enough to make any aspiring young professional damp between the legs. The creative drama heads of Sky, Channel Four, the BBC and multiple Indies were all in attendance. Unfortunately, so were about 30 other gagging drama enthusiasts. In 3 minutes, I was going to have to really pull out all the stops to get these Gurus to remember me.

As a certain Miss P had swanned off to California, I was alone at the event, giving me the kick up the ass needed to make me mingle and do what I’d come to do: network. The N word is still scary, but I find that a smile and simple introduction are all that’s needed to get a conversation going. After all, everyone else was there to network too.

I quickly noticed that people had come armed with CVs, DVDs, portfolios and files of Wikipedia info on each Guru. Immediately I felt unprepared and wanted to slit my wrists. All these people had come ready to fight for a job, and were well armed for the battle ahead. Me, on the other hand, had merrily skipped along with just some business cards and some questions I wanted to ask; still with a year of uni to complete, and two awesome summer jobs in the industry secured, I was one of the few lucky bastards who wasn’t desperate for work.

I realised I would be one of the few people not trying to pitch their pilots, shove CVs in hands and beg for a break. All I wanted was to boost these Gurus’ egos and listen to their sweet advice. So yay, a USP for me! I was going to keep it simple, introduce myself with my name, where I study and where I work, then launch straight into my carefully chosen questions.

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It went something like this….

Date Number 1: Huw Kennair-Jones – Commissioning Editor of Drama at Sky.

A: “Hi Huw, I’m A. Student at B and intern at C. Lovely to meet you!”

H: “Nice to meet you!”

A: “So, what kind of drama is Sky hoping to produce in the next three years?”

H: “Sky are looking for open, unique stories, capable of longer runs, with heroes that are flawed. Something that will really get people talking.”

A (thinking it sounds like a little TV show called Dexter…): “Fair to say Sky are trying to move away from Drama traditionally seen on terrestrial shows and mirror the success of US cable channels such as HBO?”

H: “Yeah, sure. We don’t want to make any period dramas.”

A: “Hallelujah!”

H: “The terrestrials do it so well, there’d be no point us trying to compete. Sky want to focus on entertainment, big stories and characters. ”

A: “So glad you’re saying all this! What do you think of –”

BELL RINGS TIME UP – onto the next one I go…

Date Number Two: Sophie Gardiner – Commissioning Editor for Drama at C4

A: “Hi Sophie, nice to meet you. I read that you set up your own company to produce your first drama. Any advice on how to go about that?”

S: “Oooh goodness, very VERY tricky in today’s climate. For me, I bought the rights to a novel and it turned out the BBC wanted to make it into a drama, so I became the producer. I realised after that I was extremely lucky! I wouldn’t advise it now, there are already so many indies out there. What is it you want to do, specifically?”

A: “I want to produce drama, I like coming up with ideas, making them happen…”

S: “Right, well that’s great, if I were you I’d get a job at a big Indie, maybe in the script department, or development. Work your way up and produce at least one good show with them before you branch out and do it on your own.”

A: “Awesome, thanks! Do you mind me asking how you’ve managed to juggle having a family and your career? I know so many women scared but wanting to attempt both!”

S: “Oh (laughs) I think, again, I’ve been very lucky. My husband is very nice to me. It helps that his work is a lot more flexible than mine. I tried looking for jobs that were 4 days/week but there just are none! Sorry I can’t give you a better answer!”

A: “No it’s great to know that it is possible –”

TIME UP

Date Number Three: Peter Bowker – Writer of Eric and Ernie (BBC2) and Monroe (ITV)

A: “Hi Peter, how are you?”

P: “Wonderful, thank you. How may I help?”

A: “I would like to know how much you think about a moral message, and being didactic whilst writing, or do you concentrate solely on character and a good, entertaining story?”

P: “Story first, always. You want to figure out the emotional and thematic arc you want to take your audience on, but I never think, I want to tell people this. If a good message comes through in the end product, great! One good way of getting people to think though, is to create a character you disagree with. You want a pious, goodie character, and you want to counterweight it with an insulting, but – and here’s the key – likable character to make fun of morality. If you’re already taking the piss of your message/morality, it’s a much easier pill for audiences to swallow.”

A: “Any tips on pitching?”

P: “Always try and catch them off guard straight away. I once wrote a story for a series of programs on disability. I went into the pitch and said, ‘This ain’t about disability, it’s about family.’ And we got it made. By going in and telling a producer or commissioner the opposite of what they’re expecting to hear immediately gets their attention.”

BELL RINGS. TIME UP.

And that’s your lot! Some pretty good advice from the Gurus, and a big thanks to the Royal Television Society for such a good event! My only complaint would be that we didn’t get to speak to every guru present, and microphones for the talks at the end would have been good for those at the back (i.e me) who could not hear a thing. Definitely worth checking out on their website, sign up to become a member for free and get invited to more fantastic networking opportunities like this one!

Love ‘A’ xx

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