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Get Out More to Spot Potential Factual TV Ideas

Tate Modern visit by Robert Brookby Robert Brook

Book readings, comedy nights and open days give you access to potential new onscreen talent, and spark new ideas.

It’s good to have random nights out with your development team or friends – several brains are better than one and, if you’ve all been to the same event, you can build on each other’s ideas (which might emerge week or months later).

Sign up to museum, gallery and cinema mailing lists and make a point of going out to events outside your comfort zone at least once a month.

For example, if you are a history development producer in London, over the course of a couple of months one summer, you could have:

  • Seen a child’s-eye view of World War Two at the Imperial War Museum
  • Heard Joe Kerr, editor of Autopia: Cars and Culture, talk about the history of Detroit, from ‘Motor to Motown’, at the Victoria and Albert Museum
  • Dressed up for a 1950s Tea Dance at Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, in London’s East End.

If you develop science programmes in NYC, you could have:

Any of these nights out could have inspired new ideas. The taxidermy tour might suggest a documentary presented by Damian Hirst, a fly-on-the-wall series set in a Chinatown restaurant or a series that follows a taxidermist who specialises in stuffing the dead pets of celebrities.

Try it: get your team or friends together over a beer and give them each a piece of paper with one of those talks and events written at the top. Give them ten minutes to come up with three programme ideas each, then swap and repeat with another event. The trick is not to be too prescriptive, encourage them think laterally. After a couple of rounds compare notes to see what you’ve all come up with.

Other ways to generate new factual TV ideas:

Get more development and pitching tips in Greenlit: Developing Factual/Reality TV Ideas From Concept to Pitch


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