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Greenlit: Developing Factual/Reality TV Ideas From Concept to Pitch by Nicola Lees

There are some simple principles to successfully developing and pitching your ideas, whether you are working for a global ‘super-indie’ production company or are an individual with an idea for a passion project documentary that you want to make. The extraordinary thing is that no one will tell you what they are! There are hundreds of training courses that will teach you how to research, operate a camera or editing equipment or direct; only a handful will teach you how to develop your idea into a viable TV proposition and successfully pitch it.

Greenlit is the first book to reveal, step-by-step, how to originate, develop and pitch your factual/non-scripted TV ideas in a global market. The main things you need are a great idea and tenacity; couple them with this insider knowledge and will have all the tools you how to make your ambition a reality.

This book delivers a masterclass in developing documentary or reality TV shows at a fraction of the cost of attending a face-to-face course (even if you could find one). It’s best investment you’ll ever make, whether you are still trying to get your foot in the door, or have decades of production experience.

“A few hours reading this book now will save you months – even years – of blood, sweat and tears trying to second guess commissioners. Indispensable.” Lina Prestwood, director of content Current TV

So, what does it take?

You need a great idea, the right contacts, resilience and good timing in order to be in with a chance.

You may have already tried pitching your ideas and been discouraged by rejection, or worse, silence. You’re not alone. It’s not unusual for channel commissioners to reject 99 ideas before they find an idea they’d like to take to the next stage. You’ll notice I didn’t say commission: there are many hurdles still to be overcome once you’ve attracted initial interest from a potential buyer. But if you understand the commissioning process you’ll be able to spot and avoid the potential obstacles and have a much better chance of getting your idea commissioned.

Most professional TV producers don’t fully understand the business of TV commissioning; read Greenlit and you’ll immediately have an enormous advantage over the competition.

The good news is that none of what you will read is rocket science:  The key steps are simple to follow and implement – once you know what they are. But, according to TV channel executives, producers consistently make elementary mistakes when pitching their ideas. Find out what these errors are so you can avoid them. It’s important to make your proposal stand out – make sure it’s for all the right reasons. If you screw up your first pitch you may never get another chance.

“The most comprehensive, insightful and entertaining book on television commissioning you’ll ever read.”
Christian Drobnyk, Director of Entertainment, UKTV.

How do I know what I know?

Nicola Lees

I’m Nicola Lees, experienced development producer, and founder of TV Mole. I’ve spent more than 13 years in the international TV business, and have developed written and pitched hundreds of documentary, docu-drama, multi-platform and reality series for broadcasters such as the BBC, Discovery, History, TLC and the The Travel Channel, and have won approximately eighty commissions in the UK and USA. I am your guide to the frustrating and often confusing world of TV commissioning, wherever you are in the world.

But you don’t need to just take my word for it. I’ve interviewed 50 top industry names – producers and buyers – to find out what works, and what doesn’t. You’ll get advice from:

  • 10 TV development producers – who have a combined 50+ years experience of developing and pitching ideas at all levels, from trainee researcher to creative director, and
  • 20 senior executives from internationally successful independent production companies who have sold some of the world’s most successful shows, to
  • 16 channel executives – the people to whom you will pitch your ideas, who between them have worked at
  • 18 TV channels – their experience and advice spans commercial and public service broadcasting; cable, terrestrial and satellite channels; documentary, reality, entertainment, specialist factual (science, history, arts, religion and natural history) and multi-platform programming, in
  • 7 countries across 4 continents

I also incorporated advice from a Hollywood agent, several video editors, a storytelling consultant, two production managers and four commercial rights experts.

Collectively, the people who will share their insider knowledge with you have originated, pitched, bought or produced some of the most successful, award-winning TV shows and documentaries in the world, including Supernanny, Who Do You Think You Are?, Touching the Void, Meet the Natives and Deadliest Catch. You are getting hundreds of years of experience condensed into a few hundred pages.

More than 200 internationally known programmes are referenced alongside entertaining in-depth case studies of 25 programmes that reveal exactly how they were originated, developed and pitched.

You can’t get this much information anywhere else – this is the definitive guide to TV development and pitching.

“The inside track on TV development from one of the best developers in the business.” Saul Nassé, General Manager and Creative Head, BBC Worldwide Productions, India

How will it help you?

If you follow the advice, use the recommended resources and do the exercises in the book you will greatly increase your chances of winning a TV commission.

Greenlit is packed with my personal experiences, down to earth advice, tips, resources, case studies and sample proposals that you can use to develop, write and pitch your own proposals.

Candid and revealing interviews with top channel executives – the people to whom you could be pitching your idea – give you a priceless insight into the business and psychology of buying and selling TV programmes.

You will learn valuable insider secrets – information that no-one will ever voluntarily tell you – and tips and techniques that really work.

You’ll also receive four examples of successful written proposals that you can use as a template for your own proposal. A seriously flawed example shows you where people usually go wrong.

A few hours of reading will give you useful resources and key pitching strategies that you can use over and over again.

“A lifetime of experience in a day’s read – this book is invaluable.” Mike Loades (TV host, director and compulsive pitcher)

You’ll discover:

  • Whether you really have what it takes to sell your ideas
  • How to understand the international TV landscape – who’s commissioning what and why
  • How to spot great ideas every day
  • How to turn an idea into a killer TV show format
  • Where to find onscreen talent, and how to keep them sweet
  • What to write in a professional proposal – and how to protect your valuable ideas
  • Why you should always try to shoot some tape – and when it’s not a good a idea
  • How audiences are increasingly interacting, influencing and playing with content on a variety of platforms
  • What buyers are thinking as you pitch your idea – what turns them on and what turns them off (and it is jaw-dropping)
  • How to avoid all the potential pitfalls get the greenlight – and when you should walk away.

Take a peek behind the scenes to see how the broadcasting industry REALLY works and use the secrets of professional – and successful – TV developers to make YOUR idea a must-buy proposition.

“Read this to get into the business….and for a reality check if you’re already there!” Gary Lico, President/CEO, The Companies of CABLEready, USA

Buy the book now

There are a number of ways to purchase the book, depending on where you are in the world:

United Kingdom

North America (published by Bloomsbury 15th November, 2010)

Rest of World

Kindle Edition

ISBN: 9781408122679

SEE ALSO:  Give Me the Money and I’ll Shoot! Finance Your Factual TV/Film Project


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