Tag Archives: bbc

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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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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It’s going to be so full on I’m going to die …I can’t wait.

This is the story of how a 1st year uni student got a job on a major new British sitcom, for one of the country’s leading production companies.

It all began many months ago when I went to a ‘Networking Gathering’ (see this post here for more on that) where I bumped into a 3rd year student ‘E’ who I’d previously met and admired at uni. We exchanged our first business cards with an excited squeak, and a couple of months later she asked me to be an unpaid runner on her graduation film. Obviously, I accepted.

A couple of months after that, the Production Manager of ‘E’s’ film gave me a call. Let’s call him ‘H’. He offered me more running work on another graduate film, also unpaid. None of my friends bothered with these running jobs, as they were unpaid and a hassle and I suppose they just hadn’t bothered to get to know the 3rd years as I had. I was hoping that getting to know them would pay off in the long run, and if I did them a favour running on their films, they’d be more likely when return this favour when I needed work experience and they all had industry jobs etc.

A couple of months later, and guess what happens?

‘H’ messages me on Facebook, asking if I’m free for running work. I wasn’t, but I wanted to know what the job was before I turned it down. Thank God I did – ‘H’ was a Production Assistant on a new British sitcom, to be aired on BBC One this coming December. 

I dropped all my plans for the evening and was on it like a tramp on chips. There was NO WAY I was missing out on this opportunity. The producer of the show rang me on receiving my super-pimped CV and asked if I could get to London before 5pm the next day for an interview. I couldn’t, but I said I could. And then proceeded to book a very expensive train ticket and pray that the gamble would pay off.

The interview was an interesting experience. First, I was introduced to the Line Producer and was quizzed on my experience and enthusiasm, and was then quickly introduced to the 1st AD. His parting comment was that I “said all the right things” and then he walked off with a wink. I kind of thought I was in.

THEN DISASTER struck. I was introduced to another member of the team, and she frankly told me I was too timid and nice for the job. Apparently, I wouldn’t be able to cope with the high-pressure and hostility of such a creative environment. I’m not gonna lie, readers, I was pooping myself at the thought of screwing up/making someone angry/breaking down in tears/being a wimp. But I couldn’t let her think that.

Love the caption on this SO much...

So that evening, after a worried phone call to ‘P’, I sent a text to the doubtful AD in question, expressing how much I was prepared to fight for the job, and left it to fate. There was nothing more I could do.

Monday came around. I knew I would find out today. After a stressful day without any phone signal, an email came through. I didn’t dare open my eyes to read it at first – but when I did I saw those beautiful, sweet, incredible words:

“we would like to offer you the position of…”

Never have I run so fast, right across Bournemouth town centre, through the car park and into my car where I proceeded to SCREEEEAAAM as loudly as I could.

Not even the rush hour traffic could take that cheesy grin off my face. I start on Sunday; wish me luck 😉

Love ‘A’

xxxxx

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