Tag Archives: Media industry

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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A Face Full of Lemons

They say that when “life gives you lemons…” you make lemonade, or some other such crap.

Bad news sucks. Especially when you’ve just had good news and you’re not expecting the bad to follow so quickly.

My career has run pretty smoothly, but I have now officially hit my first rut/brick wall/giant lemon. My internship was lasting a lot longer than planned, but we’d just had exciting news of expansion. I began to hope that this would mean a full time position for me once I graduated. Alas, 3 days later, I was told that the expansion was happening very quickly, and they needed an intern who could work full-time come January. Being in my final year of university, with scarce availability, I was no longer the intern they needed.

After crying in the office stationary cupboard (definitely a low point) and wondering if some retail therapy was a good idea or not, considering the impending unemployment, I tried to suck it up. Everyone goes through this at some point, and at least it was nothing I had done, it was all completely out of my control.

Except I am a massive control freak and my carefully nurtured, early career had taken a beating. Suddenly, my financial and career safety-net had been whipped from beneath my smug ass. But I’m gonna make some lemonade, with added vodka at first, and force myself to think about the good side of things. It was a great experience, I’ve made great contacts, and I get to leave before I actually f**ked anything up.

So to conclude… Bat those pesky lemons right out of the park if you can. But when they do hit you square in the face, don’t be a baby like me. Take a massive bite and tell yourself it’s not that bitter, actually you kinda like it. Then you know Lady Karma owes you some good news.

Love A xxx

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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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The Answer is ‘Yes’ – there is no such word as ‘impossible’

“No, I’m sorry.” are not words you should get associated  to.

It’s a well known fact no production, however smooth running, is flawless. Things will go wrong, details will be overlooked, technical equipment will break at vital moments (despite rigorous testing). The only thing you can do in these instances is be prepared, and know that you did everything necessary and beyond to minimise the risks before.

When you get asked to do something, however ridiculous or far fetched (get the camera down from three hours north in the next half an hour, sushi lunches prepared by Michelin star chefs, the direct mobile number to that famous NFL player) you nod and say you’ll get it sorted. Because you will be asked, and a lot of the times it won’t be possible. That’s where some tweaking of the services comes into play.

Firstly, though, the time-frame. One of the top five pieces of advise I was given when starting out in the industry included how to estimate the time it’ll take you to finish a task. When your boss asks, calculate the realistic time, double that, and there you have it. If you finish it earlier than expected, well done you. If you run into serious trouble on the way and need the full amount of double-time, you’re still within your promised slot and everyone can happily stick to their schedules.

Secondly, when you do run into trouble and realise you won’t be able to get the requested result. Think outside the box. Sushi lunch by the Michelin-starrer can’t be done? Offer the assistant chef (aka the protege – talk him up), a take away version from the best japanese restaurant (send another assistant to get it if necessary, don’t trust their delivery men!), or an alternative course by another equally qualified chef.

The camera from up north? Hire in the kit locally, same quality and a promise to send the bill to whoever left it up north (or if it’s just a whim request from up high, recalculate the budget and make it work, even if you cut your coffee supply for a month).

The phone number? Go back… Find his junior club/high school/whatever. A coach that knew him well perhaps? Work your way forward, blagging whatever needs to be blagged. Can you get in touch with a parent? A friend? Anyone close enough to guarantee a message (not the PA of his boss, that message will not be getting you anywhere cause, well, bigger fish and panic already happening over there).

The bottom line is, nothing’s impossible. You just find YOUR way of solving it. If there isn’t one, you pave it. Just don’t ever turn back to your boss saying it can’t be done. You put your head up high, make sure you let them know this is a difficult task and that they can’t expect miracles, and then hand them the next best thing which, to them, will seem much like magic after all.

They may be demanding, but bosses are rarely stupid. They know full well the pressures and ridiculousness of the to-do lists you’re stuck with. Enjoy it, love the responsibility, show them you’re determined, use some charm (girls and boys, this applies to both of you, a kind word and some chit chat to remind the people on the other side of the line you’re both just as busy and struggling always helps), and voila.

Remember to cover your back. Double check, google, make sure the batteries are charged yada yada. Make long lists and tick them off, tedious as it may seem you will get tired and forget and a tick box can save your ass. Don’t. Miss. On the details! Very important. And smile, and shrug your shoulders at that miracle. What? You can do that in your sleep!!

They won’t forget the favour, or the smile. And they’ll learn to trust you.

Off you go, show them what you’ve got ;).

xoxo

‘P’

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P-“And it’s so scary when you’re supposed to know something but you don’t. Then the coffee kicked in. …Yeah.”

You read about these people. These super-people.

They are up at 6am every(!) day. Get to work for 7.30/8 am. Leave around 6-7 PM (if not later). Somehow manage to run errands and be sociable (necessary networking evil as well as the enjoyable kind). Memorise detailed family histories of every potentially important client/co-worker/executive. Get home and at some point feed themselves (and lets not forget the obsessive gym attendance, usually pre-work). Watch news and read lots of updates from every corner of the universe relating to their speciality (and everyone else’s).

And then the bastards go and get even more productive by writing screenplay drafts, planning budgets, or being generally super effective until way into the night. With three hours sleep on their back they are up and at it again, for another day in the squirrel wheel. Except they are fitting so much in there it’s more like… Well I don’t quite know.

What caffeine pills are they taking? Did I miss a memo somewhere? Three days of five hours in bed and I’m struggling to form coherent sentences!

xoxo

‘P’

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