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TV Development Tips

This category contains 46 posts

Want to Know about Crowdfunding? Follow the Leader

Increasing numbers of filmmakers (and other types of entrepreneurs) are turning to crowdfunding platforms such as IndieGoGo or Kickstarter in an attempt to find funding for their films and some are being extremely successful. For example, Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie raised $325,927 on IndieGoGo and Save Blue Like Jazz raised $345,992 on Kickstarter. But for every successful campaign there are many failures (one survey found that 65% of crowdfunding projects fail to raise even one single dollar). So what are the ingredients for a successful crowdfunding campaign?

It’s easy to imagine that putting together a crowdfunding campaign might be easier than pitching a project to a traditional funder such as a TV broadcaster, but that would be to grossly underestimate the amount of sustained effort that a successful campaign requires – it’s not enough just to post your project and hope that people will fund it. They won’t.

Jonathan Goodman Levitt, a NYC-based filmmaker, has been making his documentary, Follow the Leader, for seven years. The film is “a real-life coming-of-age story of three traditional American boys with Presidential dreams. At sixteen-years-old, high school Class Presidents Ben, D.J. & Nick are all conservatives who plan to continue leading their peers as President someday. Over three life-changing years, they split into Republican, Democratic and Independent camps as each reconsiders his lofty ambitions.”

Jonathan has had a hair-raising fundraising journey so far, but has managed to secure most of his funding from foreign broadcasters (read a candid interview with Jonathan in Give Me the Money and I’ll Shoot! about all the trials and tribulations). He’s now on the final straight and he needs to raise $27,000 to complete the project and to raise awareness of the film ahead of the US presidential elections in late 2012.

Here we use his Kickstarter crowdfunding page as a case study to examine the key elements you need to include in your campaign pitch. (Photo courtesy of Changeworx)

Ten Tips For a Tasty a Taster Tape

One of the most popular panels at Sheffield Doc/Fest 2012 was the Taster Tape session run by the BBC Academy. This is probably not surprising given that a few years ago a taster tape was the exception rather than the rule; today it seems that position is reversed and that every pitch is expected to […]

Funding 101: Ping Pong – An Truly International Affair

Ping Pong is a bittersweet feature-length documentary that follows eight pensioners from across the planet as they compete in the over 80s category of the World Table Tennis Championships in Inner Mongolia.
Hugh originally planned to follow the British Table Tennis team, but soon discovered that UK broadcasters didn’t feel that a film on ping pong fitted their remit. He realized he would need to approach international channels for funding and that caused him to rethink the focus of the film to include more foreign players. He’d already shot a short trailer, very cheaply, at the European Table Tennis Championships in Croatia, which gave him something to show to potential funders. He then set of on a punishing schedule of international festivals Docs Barcelona Forum; Sheffield Doc/Fest Meet Market; and IDFA, Amsterdam to meet with commissioning editors and pitch the film. (Photo © Hugh Hartford)

A Pitching Frenzy at Sheffield Doc/Fest

This time last year I came to Sheffield to pitch my own documentary idea. I’d spent the preceding weeks metaphorically biting my nails and pacing up and down, as I prepared for my first proper, and public, pitch. Having worked as a reporter in news and current affairs, for over a decade, I had never had to pitch an idea before. At least not formally in front of a panel of four commissioning editors – oh, and did I mention the church hall of 150 spectators!

Up until that point, pitching meant phoning the editor or head of news, saying I’d like to do a news piece or feature or half hour on…whatever it was… then putting a few lines in an email and waiting for a yes or no. There was no nail-biting as of course you had your day job to worry about – i.e. getting your 2-minute report sorted for 6pm and in fact it was usually a yes – perhaps with a few provisos usually regarding time and money!

But this was something totally different…

Funding 101: Lost and Sound – The Art of Finding the Right Partners

Director/Producer Lindsey Dryden is a documentary filmmaker who has worked on documentaries for broadcasters such as the BBC, Channel 4 and Current TV, but when she started making her first feature documentary she had to learn a whole new set of skills – not only to make the film, but also to find the funding. […]

Funding 101 – Who Will Fund My Creative Documentary?

Are you a creative documentary-maker? Of course, you cry: creativity is my craft. But wait a minute; if you are what is defined by the industry as a maker of ‘Creative’ documentaries you could be in trouble when you try to find funding for your film.

Documentaries with a social conscience have, in recent years, become fashionable with NGOs, foundations and brands all keen to be seen to be supporting (with hard cash or ‘in kind’ assistance) documentaries will change the world. It’s still a little too early to tell whether documentaries really do make a big difference, although organizations such as the Good Pitch are beginning to track results (Read a summary of their research to date in The Good Pitch Review.) While all this is well and good, many traditional and emerging film funds now insist on some kind of social justice agenda for the films they fund, which means that documentaries that don’t have social justice at their heart have been squeezed out.

But what if you regularly ‘do good’ in your daily life – donate to charity, recycle your bath water, volunteer at a homeless shelter over Christmas and cycle to your allotment – and you feel like you’ve earned enough karma not to have to spend the rest of your days doing documentary outreach for yet another cause, however worthy? What if you just want to make a Creative documentary i.e. one with a good story about a great character or (whisper it) an experimental approach? (Photo by Horia Varlan CC BY 2.0)

Funding 101 – How to Speed Date a Funder

Today, if you aren’t going after international money you aren’t doing your job properly as a documentary filmmaker. There are dozens of TV and documentary markets and forums around the world, and many filmmakers find they mu st go to several in order to meet with the right people. For example, Sheffield Doc/Fest has almost 250 commissioners, funders and buyers attending the various sessions dedicated to pitching such as t he MeetMarket, Round Table Session, Power Hour Sessions (formerly the Speed Dates), commissioning panels, and public pitches. Most meetings that you will have in an environment like this are high-octane – you’ll have between 10-15 minutes to pitch and get feedback on your project before their next appointment. So what can you do to make the most of this opportunity? Photo by MikeCrane83 CC BY 2.0

Foreign Letters – A Lesson in How to Get Your Film Made (Even if You Think You Never Will)

Ela Thier is a NYC-based independent filmmaker who has been writing screenplays for 20 years (to the detriment of her school grades when she first started out because she insisted in submitting screenplays instead of essays). But in 2009 Ela was still struggling to get any of her 20+ screenplays sold or made. She decided to take action by sending an open letter to all her friends and acquaintances explaining her frustration. She decided that if she was going to get her film made she had to take control and raise the money herself. At the end of her letter she asked people to donate $100 to help fund the production of A Summer Rain, a story about two adolescent immigrant girls coming to terms with culture-shock, homesickness and growing up. In return, investors got a $150 film-making/scriptwriting workshop / credit on the finished film / a chance to work on the production. Click through to find out what happened next.

Pitching Tips Straight From the Commissioner’s Mouth

Pitching is such a tricky thing because you rarely get the opportunity to see other people do it, so you just have to take a deep breath and hope for the best. And chances are you won’t walk out of the door with a commission (research by The Research Centre suggests you have something like […]

New Channel 4 Strand: The Shooting Gallery

Channel 4 is providing a new television platform for short films called The Shooting Gallery and has been working closely with online video platform Vimeo as partners.

The Shooting Gallery will bring the best short films, branded content and virals from around the world and showcase them alongside original commissions funded by innovation support fund – the Alpha Fund. In its previous incarnation running as a strand in the mid-1990s, The Shooting Gallery introduced the early works of Shane Meadows, Annie Griffin and Clio Barnard, amongst others.

The 2011 version rides the wave of new short form content that has exploded on the internet in recent years, but until now, has yet to find a mainstream TV outlet.

The strand will return periodically to support programmes in Channel 4’s peak schedule. The first show The Shooting Gallery: Caught on Camera, will broadcast on the 22nd March, 2012 and focus on a mixture of original commissions, award-winning shorts and internet hits focusing on still image and photography.

The Shooting Gallery: China will broadcast on March 29th, 2012 and comprises of a selection of shorts, a number of which have been curated by Vimeo, which centre on modern China, supporting Niall Ferguson’s new series China: Triumph and Turmoil as well as Gok Wan: Made in China.

In: David Elisco, Director of Development, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Award-winning writer and producer David Elisco has been named director of development for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s new film production unit. Elisco has more than 20 years of experience creating science and natural history documentaries for National Geographic Television, the Discovery Channel, and the Public Broadcasting System, as well as films focused on science […]

BBC College of Production: How to Get an Idea Commissioned

The BBC College of Production provides a (growing)  range of resources to help anyone interested in making TV and radio programmes. Their website includes articles, videos and podcasts. This one is about how to get an idea commissioned and includes contributions from Camilla Lewis, managing director at Cineflix UK, head of factual at Silver River […]

Peek Behind the Scenes of Channel 4’s Alpha Fund

Channel 4’s Alpha Fund was set up in January 2011 set up to encourage the development of TV ideas from new and emerging independent production companies in the UK. The fund’s managers are tasked with being closer to grassroots creative communities, often in advance of commissioning editors, to talent spot, to shape smart ideas and […]

The Power of the Right Words

If you want to know how to get people to do what you want to do, watch this video:

Stanley Kubrick’s Chicago and Other Archive Images

In 1949 a 21-year-old Stanley Kubrick was sent on a photojournalism assignment to Chicago. The resulting photos are now in the Library of Congress, but you can see some of them on Chris Wild’s excellent website How to Be a Retronaut. As well as the Kubrick photos, the site is a veritable treasure trove of […]

Critical Past Archive

Critical Past is a new history-focused online photo and video archive that has 57,000 royalty-free clips and  7,000,000 still photos collected from U.S. government agency sources.  Footage and images are available for immediate download after payment of a license fee (by credit card or PayPal).  Explore here. Hat tip to: documentarytelevision.com

Need to Make a Pitch Tape on a Shoestring?

Think you need to spend a load of cash making that pitch tape? Think again. This short film was made, edited and scored using an iPhone:

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. […]

Can You Spot a Story?

Television is all about telling stories, as is pitching TV ideas to commissioners. But do you know what a story actually looks like? Test yourself by taking this short test in which you are asked to decide whether a short piece of text constitutes a story or not. After ten examples you get your score. […]

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

TV Development Tips From Business Books

Sign up to The Start Up Daily for bite-sized tips culled from books on business, management and entrepreneurship. Although aimed at an audience of start-up business owners, there are tips that can equally apply to developing TV ideas, eg: “Surround yourself with sunrise people” “If you can’t be the best in your class, you should […]

Seven Wishful Thinking Ways to Improve Creativity

Mark McGuinness’s creativity blog, Wishful Thinking, has a number of tips to help you raise your game as you develop and pitch your non-scripted TV ideas. Here are some of the best for TV developers: Presentation Zen 6 Tips for Dealing With Feedback on Your Creative Work 10 Tips For Overcoming Writer’s Block Can the […]

Why Are You Like a Great Novelist?

How is the development producer like a great novelist? Oh, let me count the ways… “procrastination, writer’s block, the terror of failure that looms over a new project and the attention-sucking power of the Internet”, so says the Wall Street Journal. They asked successful novelists about the way they write their books. Nobel laureate Orhan […]

Making a Pitch Tape? The Stakes Just Got a Little Higher…

As you set about making yet another pitch tape destined to gather dust on some commissioning editor’s shelf, take a look at the lengths the US networks go to in order to pitch their upcoming shows to their advertisers at a ritual known as the “Upfront”.  At these annual events, the networks invite all their […]

How to Kill Innovation

Is the question “what about…” the killer of innovation? Entrepreneur Scott Anthony thinks it is. He says that “resource-rich companies have the “luxury” of researching and researching problems” and that stops progress being made. Is this something you are guilty of when researching an new factual programme idea (especially if it’s a subject you know […]

Ford Foundation: JustFilms $50m Documentary Fund

The Ford Foundation have announced a new film fund – JustFilms – which will grant $10m per year for five years to filmmakers making documentaries that “show courageous people confronting difficult issues and actively pursuing a more just, secure and sustainable world”. There are three different strands to the funding, each of which will receive roughly 1/3 of the money:

* “Partnerships with major organizations such as the Sundance Institute, the Independent Television Service and others
* An ongoing open application process that will help JustFilms stay attuned to fresh ideas and stories wherever they may emerge, and
* Partnership with other Ford Foundation grant-making programs where the introduction of documentary film could help draw attention to an issue or advance a movement”

Filmmaker Orlando Bagwell will be oversee the new fund.

Visit the Ford Foundation for more information. (Photo by Borman818 CC BY 2.0)

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.

Pitching your TV Ideas: What No-One Will Tell You

Do you have a documentary or reality TV idea that you are dying to pitch, but don’t know where to start? Have you tried pitching it and had the door slammed in your face (several times)? Are you frustrated with being fobbed off? Are you losing confidence in your idea, even though deep down you know it’s a great concept? Is is something you did? Or said? Why are the buyers just not that into you? Don’t despair, you’re not alone in your frustration (although it can feel that way)!

Whether you are working for a global ‘super-indie’ production company or are an individual with a passion project there are some simple principles that will increase your chances of attracting channel executives and investors. The thing is, no one will tell you what they are!

Click through for a quick and dirty run through what you need to know before you set out on your pitching journey. (Photo by Mohamad ShoOx CC BY 2.0)

Development and Pitching 101: Getting the Greenlight

So you’ve pitched your idea and a channel has expressed strong interest in commissioning your documentary or series. Congratulations! But you aren’t home and dry just yet. There are still many things that can go wrong before you sign on the dotted line. Click through to find out how to avoid falling at the last fence. (Photo by U-g-g-B-o-y-(-Photograph-World-Sense-) CC BY 2.0)

Development and Pitching 101: Finding Alternative Funding

In the good old days, it used to be that you pitched your idea to a TV network, and they gave you all the money you needed to make the programme. No longer. Today, it’s common for networks to pay a proportion of the cost of the show, which means that producers must find top up money from elsewhere.

There are a number of ways to do this. (Photo by mscaprikell CC BY 2.0)

Development and Pitching 101: Pitching

Two years ago, when I was writing Greenlit: Developing Factual/Reality TV Ideas From Concept to Pitch, I had to write a book proposal before I could submit my book to an agent. Knowing nothing about the world of publishing I bought a couple of books on proposal writing and studied them carefully and followed their advice to the letter.

While a TV proposal is no longer than one page (at least in the first instance), a book proposal runs to about 25 pages, plus sample chapters. At first glance, the two types of proposals seem like very different beasts, but as time went on, it became apparent that there are a lot of things we can learn from a book proposal that will help us with pitching TV ideas. (Photo by Tim Morgan CC BY 2.0)

Development and Pitching 101: Finding Onscreen Talent

For many types of TV concepts, the onscreen talent can make or break the show, and so is a key part of your proposal. Most TV channel executives say that they are looking out new onscreen talent – this is because they like to find a ‘face’ that can become part of the channel brand. attract viewers. However, it can be hard to get them to look at brand new talent – they normally like someone who already has some TV experience but who hasn’t been overexposed, or who is entering an area with which they are not normally associated. Other channels will only deal with big name, established stars in order to attract the viewers. So where do you find your talent? (Photo by supagroova CC BY 2.0)

Development and Pitching 101: How to Write a Nonfiction TV Proposal

Once you’ve developed your idea you need to commit it to paper. Although you might be itching to pitch your idea verbally, the process of writing it down can really help to flush out the flaws in your concept.

Although the pitching process often starts with a conversation, at some point you will need to submit a proposal, or longer treatment, before a contract agreement can be made with a channel so they can see exactly what they are committing to. And having a detailed written proposal creates a paper trail if you ever feel your idea has been ripped off. Click through to find out where to get sample proposals. (Photo by jm3 CC BY SA 2.0)

PUMA.Creative Funding Launched

Channel 4 BRITDOC Foundation and Puma.Creative – part of PUMA’s CSR division PUMAVision – have announced the new PUMA.Creative Catalyst and Creative Mobility Awards. These initiatives will provide financial support, creative counsel and industry recognition to international documentary filmmakers whose creative storytelling highlights social justice, peace or environmental issues. PUMA.Creative Catalyst Awards, a new international […]

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)

Development and Pitching 101: The TV Landscape

One of the biggest complaints TV channel executives have is that producers don’t know what’s already on the air. You should know not only what’s on the air, but also:

* What’s rating well with audiences and critics
* What a channel has just commissioned (but not yet aired)
* Which channel is a good fit for your idea
* Who at the channel is in charge of commissioning ideas like yours.

So where can you find all this out? Click through to find out.

(Photo by Creativity103 CC BY 2.0)

Expert Witness

Expert Witness professes to “provide open and easy access for the Legal and Media professions to Experts in all of the disciplines for which they may need expert advice or guidance”. The have an online database of 3,000 experts in 3,400 disciplines. Access to the database is by subscription, and if you can’t find the […]

Discovery Science News Website

If you need a science fix try Discovery’s online science and technology news site. It’s got Earth, Space, Sport, Dinosaurs, Human, Tech and History sections to explore.

The Demographics of England and Wales

The UK Office for National Statistics has published demographic data for the 54million people in England and Wales, broken down in to age, sex and ethnicity. Read (a little) more in The Guardian.

TV Development and Pitching 101: Welcome to Development Hell

What exactly is TV development? It’s the hard slog between having the spark of an idea and getting contract from a channel, or other funding body, who is going to fund you to make it. That process can take a few hours (rarely) to many years (often). There’s an element of luck and timing in any successful pitch, but many ideas are rejected by buyers in the early stages because they haven’t been fully developed and aren’t suitable, or ready, to be commissioned. Click through to find out more. (Photo by Plutor CC BY 2.0)

Want to Get Your Ideas on TV? Here are Five Proven Ways.

Malcolm Gladwell famously said in his book Outliers that it takes 10,000 hours of practice (equivalent to roughly five years of full time effort) for someone to become skilled and successful in an area of sport, business or the arts. The same is true if you want to get your idea on TV – the ability to understand the market, generate dozens of ideas, spot new talent, write proposals and pitch all takes time and practice. But let’s imagine you have just one idea. This idea is so good that you will do anything to get it on television, but you don’t want to spend your time doing an apprenticeship in a TV development team churning out ideas you don’t really care about. Here are five other ways to invest your 10,000 hours. (Photo by Dricker94 CC BY 2.0)

Tips for Producing Archive Programmes (and Developing New Ones)

UK-based indie Testimony Films specializes in making documentaries about “people’s life stories”. They often do this by using rare archive film. Earlier this year, at the Broadcast Factual TV Forum, Steve Humphries, executive producer at Testimony Films outlined how he uses archive to such good effect in his documentaries. Click through to read his top tips and other ways to help you develop your factual programme ideas. (Photo by Atomicjeep CC BY 2.0)

Top Ten of (Almost) Everything

If you like lists you’ll love listverse where you can find top ten lists of everything from “10 Notable Apologies from the Last Decade” to “10 Stories Behind Beatles Songs”, “Top Ten Very Unfortunate X-Rays” and “10 Notorious Cases of the Bystander Effect”.

MIP Online Screenings

If you didn’t make it to MIP this year (and let’s face it, given the fall out you are probably glad you didn’t) you can still catch up on the progammes that were pitched by signing up for MIP online screenings (for the princely sum of €390, which gives you access to full-length programmes until […]

Do You Want to Kick Start Your Creativity? Here Are Ten Ways.

In TV development land we are on a constant treadmill of trying to come up with new ideas; and all that spontaneous generation, writing and pitching often comes to a slow, grinding halt when we run out of ideas or enthusiasm. So what to do?

Design blog ISO50 asked 25 people in the creative industries to share their methods for shaking off a creative block – there’s bound to be a suggestion in there that will help you get your project back on track. Click through to find out how they do it.

(Photo (C) TV Mole)

Documentary Television.com

Peter Hamilton, ex-CBS exec turned TV consultant has just launched a new blog documentarytelevision.com.  A regular on the conference panel circuit, Peter shares his knowledge of Discovery network budgets in one of his first posts. For example: Discovery’s budgets range from $250 per hour for a low budget programme to $1,500 to a showcase programme. […]

CableFAX Best Websites 2010 – Part I: Twitter

CableFAX’s Best of the Web awards ceremony is being held in NYC on 28th April 2010. All commissioners now want to know what the multiplatform/360 degree content will be for any idea you pitch, but it can be hard to think beyond the standard programme website content of cast photos and biogs.

In this mini-series we’re taking a sneak peak at the Best of the Web nominations to see what’s standing out (and what’s not quite working) in the current market. Explore the links and see if you can find some inspiration to help you develop your own original multiplatform content ideas.

This week, we’re featuring the sites that make the Best Use of Twitter. Click through to read. (Photo by Niffty.. CC BY-2.0)