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Generating Ideas

This category contains 33 posts

Three Ways to Develop Programme Ideas Using Twitter

When labouring at the coalface of a development slate, you need as many tools as you can get your hands on to excavate those elusive gems that are eye-catching enough to catch the eye of a commissioning editor. During a Sheffield Doc/Fest 2014 session Dan Biddle (@DanBiddle), Twitter UK’s Head of Broadcast Partnerships, explained how producers can mine Twitter for breaking news stories, research, audience collaboration and marketing.

As you might expect of a digital platform, Twitter is all about the metrics, and has a host of audience user data that reveals information about Twitter users’ lives. For example, mentions of shopping indicate that Sunday is the biggest day for heading to the shops in the UK and more people go for (or talk about going for) a run on a Monday and Tuesday than they do at the end of the week, when the pub beckons.

But how does this help us in development? (Photo (C) TVMole)

Ken Burns on Telling Stories About History

Ken Burns, director of the engrossing and unsettling The Central Park Five explains in this video what draws him to telling stories about the past and what storytelling really means. Three of his key points are:

When you have truly great characters, the good guys have flaws and the villains are compelling – you then subject them to storytelling
Storytelling is telling lies at 24 times per second – which is a positive thing
In “in genuine stories 1+1 = 3”- the whole is greater than the sum of its parts

Ten Habits to Generate New Ideas

To be successful at generating commissionable new TV programme ideas you need to do two things: ·Understand what channels are looking for ·Actively look for new ideas. The best ideas for factual TV programmes come from a flash of insight about human behaviour, or from talking to an expert about new developments in their field, […]

Jane Root on Where Good Ideas Come From

The Browser has a really interesting interview with Jane Root (CEO Nutopia, ex-Controller, BBC2 and ex-General Manager, Discovery Channel), in which she uses a series of books to talk about creativity, and why some ideas – like The Office and The Simpsons – make it onto TV and why others don’t. Read the interview here. […]

How Many Narcissists Do You Need to Sell an Idea?

Ever wonder why the person with the biggest ego on the team manages to win the most pitches – even though you know (and they would never admit) that their ideas are no better than yours? Scientists at Cornell University have run a series of studies and found that narcissists were generally more enthusiastic and […]

Development Hell or Ideas Heaven?

Freelance development consultant Sean Kirkegaard is running an unusual creative experiment on his website Development Hell. Approximately every other day he uploads a new TV programme idea to his website. Once he’s got a slate of about 50 ideas he’s going to ask the public to vote on their favourite. He will then attempt to […]

Why You Need a Vacation… or Not

It’s been suggested that getting away from it all is good for boosting creativity; it allows the mind to wander and make new and unexpected connections. However, experiments seem to prove that just pretending to be somewhere else can help spark new ideas. Read more in Wired

Ideas Develop Asexually and Creativity Happens Sexually?

Are you developing ideas sexually or asexually? And which is better? That’s the question  Mike Cardus discusses in this video:

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 a documentary filmmaker pitching a passion project. The extraordinary thing is that no one will tell you what they are! 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.

Get insider tips from: * 10 TV development producers – who have a combined 50+ years experience of developing and pitching ideas at all levels; * 20 senior executives who have sold some of the world’s most successful shows, to: * 16 channel executives, who between them have worked at: * 18 TV channels in: * 7 countries across 4 continents.

Greenlit is available now from Amazon and all good bookstores.

Development and Pitching 101: Originating Ideas

If you work in television, or any kind of creative industry you’ll need to generate ideas. One of the most common questions I’m asked is, “where do you get your ideas from?” (I was asked that by a senior producer who claimed to have originated several hit formats…hmm). The answer is, I don’t know where ideas come from: they are all around. All you need to do is to be observant and open-minded.

But what if you have never spotted a good idea in your life? Here’s a list of habits and resources that will get you started. (Photo by lisbo CC BY SA 2.0)

Redub Reader

Redub Reader bills itself as “an experiment in improving the way long texts are read on screen.” Just one edition old, it takes articles that Redub’s founders found difficult to read online and put them in a ‘reader’ that allows you to scroll sideways instead of down, to read text arranged in newspaper-like columns. Features […]

Help a Reporter Out

Help a Reporter Out (HARO) is a free service for journalists who need to get information or sources. Since it launched in March 2008,  more than 30,000 journalists have used the resource and are now sending 3000+ requests for info to more than 100,000 sources.


If you want a fast way to research a subject without having to trawl through lots of websites or, god forbid, actual real newspapers and magazines (all that dirty newsprint), visit Addictomatic, which is searchable and indexed into a number of themes, including business, TV, politics, parenting, fashion and gadget among others. Click on a […]

New York Times Article Skimmer

Here’s a handy way to cut down your newspaper reading time without missing something vital: The New York Times Skimmer, which rather handily sorts the news into sections and displays the headlines in an easy to scan grid. You can skim your news according to newspaper section, topic or browse the blogs.

JournalistExpress – Research Resource

JournalistExpress is a useful site aimed at helping journos find and stay on top of breaking news. It doesn’t look fancy, but you’ll find links the broadcast media, online press and newwires as well as a range of research sources from databases, stats, maps and encyclopedias.

Foreign Newspapers

If you need to research stories in another country, Indekx is a quick way to find foreign newspapers that you can access online. Click on the flag of the country (helpfully placed on a world map, in case your knowledge of world flags is a little rusty), and you’ll be given a number of newspaper […]

Experts and Interviewees – USA

Radio-TV Interview Report is a free magazine that is published every two weeks and lists  100-150 US-based experts and interviewees on a variety of subjects from business to parenting, pets, relationships and war. The experts credentials are listed such as published works or previous TV appearances, along with their email and phone numbers.  You can […]

David Lynch on the Value of Keeping Random Ideas

David Lynch has just launched David Lynch TV which has short video tips on film-making and also explores transcendental meditation as a tool to help young people deal with stress and aggression. There is a really short clip in which he talks about developing ideas. Watch it here (and substitute ‘idea’ for ‘film’). The lesson […]

Online mind mapping

Bubbl.us is an interactive online mind-mapping tool that you can use to create mind maps, collaborate with other people in your team, save as an image and email and print.
It’s really easy to get started, but you need to create an account if you want to save or share your work.

How to Use Google Reader

Having trouble keeping track of all the websites you’re supposed to read in order to stay abreast of what’s happening in the world and generate new ideas? What you need is a feedreader that collects and aggregates all the new material that is published on your favourite sites, so you can find it all in […]

I Feel….in Toronto, NYC and London

Planning a trip to NYC, London or Toronto? Been a few times and bored of the same old haunts? Live there but too hungover/broke to venture out? Or are you planning a romantic/naughty Valentine’s trip and need some pointers? Visit I Feel to get suggestions based on your mood – you can also choose from […]

World Super Hero Registry – Coming Out of the Phone Booth

The World Superhero Registry is a register of ordinary people who do good deeds or fight crime whilst wearing costume. Active superheroes include: Foxfire, patrols the streets of Michigan; Entomo, a crime-fighting environmentalist in Naples; and Ghost who fights crime in Salt Lake City, Utah. Inclusion in the register is generally by invitation only; if […]

How to Become a Millionaire in a Recession.

Back in the early 20th century, during an economic downturn in the US, a penniless and jobless writer managed to get a poorly-paid writing job, when he was asked to interview famous men about their success stories. The writer was Napoleon Hill , and his first interviewee was Andrew Carnegie.

Carnegie told Hill that anyone could be successful, but that, “it’s a shame that each new generation must find the way to success by trial and error, when the principles are really clear-cut.” Carnegie challenged Hill to interview great men and compile the secrets of their success into one book. Hill accepted the challenge and worked tirelessly on it for twenty-five years.

The result was Think and Grow Rich, first published in 1937, and is still in print, 60 million copies later. It is claimed that Hill’s book has made more millionaires and inspired more success than any other book in history. It could also inspire TV programmes in a number of genres – history, biography, business and reality. (Photo by Unhindered by Talent.)

Read Outside of Your Comfort Zone to Stimulate New TV Ideas

Step outside of your normal intellectual haunts to come up with more exciting ideas.

Get Out More to Spot Potential Factual TV Ideas

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

Increase Your Creativity by Expanding Your Social and Professional Networks

If you broaden your contacts outside the your social and professional circle, you will spot new trends before anyone else.

Delve into the Archives and Put a New Twist on an Old TV Format

Is there anything that could be revitalised with a modern twist?

Field Guide to: Reality TV

A group of people, carefully cast for the greatest diversity and conflict, are put together in a situation constructed entirely for television.

Field Guide to: Point of View Documentary

This subjective kind of programme is authored, and is strongly skewed towards a certain viewpoint. They tend to be films that tackle issues. The filmmaker might be the main the protagonist making their presence felt whether they are in front or behind the camera. It is an approach often favoured by independent filmmakers. Age of […]

Field Guide to: Entertainment Programmes

Entertainment shows are usually studio-based competition shows with high production values and broad appeal, designed to be glamorous and exciting.

Field Guide to Factual Formats that Sell

A drama series is easy to recognize and categorize, but factual programming is more difficult to define. Different producers, commissioners, channels and countries use different names to describe the same thing.

DIY Famous Photographs

Flavorwire‘s Adda Birnir and the aptly named Tom Starkweather (although he appears to have bottled out of starring in the crucial McGinley pic) have re-enacted famous photographs – Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Still #21, Steve McCurry’s Afghan Girl, Philip DiCorcia’s Mario, Richard Avedon’s Marilyn Monroe and Ryan McGinley’s Running Fireworks – and helpfully give instructions […]

Trend Spotting Newsletters You Should Subscribe to if You Want to Generate New TV Ideas

Harness the might of the marketing and advertising industries to help you spot ideas for factual TV programmes.