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Overheard in the Development Den

Photo by arhanghel200 CC BY 2.0

Photo by arhanghel200 CC BY 2.0

Development is an oft misunderstood and underrated discipline, especially by those people who have never attempted to do the job. One very experienced series producer, who was accustomed to filming difficult life-and-death medical programmes, said that a couple of months in development was the hardest job she’d ever done. She left to go back to the calmer pastures of production soon after.

Development requires a special kind of person: someone comfortable with juggling several different subjects, formats and styles in a single day; someone able to read a brief and understand what’s really meant, not what’s actually written; someone who sees constant rejection as a challenge. Not all programme-makers can hack it and that’s fine. But what’s not fine is for them to look down on those of us for whom development is a way of life; we’re not failed programme-makers, we are experts in (y)our field. We want the same as all producers/directors: to get important, moving, entertaining and unforgettable stories on TV. It’s just that the tools of our trade are words on paper and stories told in 3-minutes; we’re masters of  the narrative cliff-hanger and the charming conversation that conceals a killer pitch. And we don’t mind giving our long-nurtured ideas, ones that we’ve fought tooth-and-nail for, sometimes for years, over to someone else to make and ultimately get the credit. We’ll even be genuinely delighted for you when you win an award for a show that would never have existed without us (even though you never acknowledge our existence). We love our job: we’re the same, just a little different.

Edit Suite Stories, amuses the edit community with the thoughtless / clueless / downright stupid things that producers, executive producers and commissioning editors say in the edit, so I thought I’d add a few of my own that are related to development, in the hope that those who don’t, or can’t, do development think twice before they open their mouths and show just how much they don’t know:

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Creativity trainer: “But you are far too young to be stuck in development!”

Huh?

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Commissioner: “I like the idea but we commissioned something similar a few weeks ago.”

Executive Producer: “That’s really positive feedback, don’t you think?”

Me: “No.”

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Executive Producer: “Can’t you just develop the ideas that will get commissioned?

Oh, why didn’t I think of that..?

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Feel free to share your own.

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