Alom Shaha has spent a long time working in factual development, both for companies like Lion TV, Pioneer and the BBC, and his own projects such as Why is Science Important?
Here he shares his thoughts and top tips for successfully developing and pitching your TV programme ideas:
1. It’s really hard to make commissioners pay attention – they are risk averse and make commissioning decisions based on relationships rather than the quality of ideas – you need to build relationships and prove that your idea is a good bet.
Submit your ideas through the channel’s online commissioning website. Some channels are more responsive to unsolicited ideas than others. Channel 4 will get back to you in 30 days (usually they’ll say no – but you might at least get invited to a meeting).
Email commissioners directly – go to talks, festivals and conferences to see them talk, ask for their card and ask if you can set up a meeting.
Make a taster tape of your programme idea,put it on a website and send a link to commissioning executives to whet their appetite.
Pitch ideas that only make sense if you are attached to them, you keep some control – Sylvester Stallone wrote the Rocky script and sold it only on condition that he could play Rocky.
TV is not a meritocracy – it’s about who knows you. Learn how the system works, and work it.
Get a mentor – get in with the people with power by associating with their friends. Find out who is well respected and connected and make sure you get taken under their wing. Do your homework – getting in with the wrong people will get you nowhere fast.
Work out which of your colleagues are likely to become commissioners in the future and make friends with them.
If you really want to make films, you can. Pick up a camera, open your laptop and make a film. If you have an internet connection you can find an audience – there’s no excuse not to
There needs to be a revolution – television commissioning works in a certain way, but we need to break the conventions because the conventions are crap.
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