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Factual Entertainment Commissioners: Difficult to Deliver

Ever so often a show comes along that changes the landscape and influences everything that comes in its wake: Big Brother (contributors/contestants/celebrities confined to one location for the duration of a series), Strictly Come Dancing/Dancing With the Stars (celebrities pairing with professionals to learn a skill and compete), One Born Every Minute (fixed-rig shows). The latest show to be spreading its DNA far and wide seems to be Gogglebox. At Sheffield Doc/Fest in 2015 a panel of Factual Entertainment Commissioners discussed their current needs.

Science Commissioners: Go Big or Go Home

If you are tasked with developing science programmes you face a number of challenges: the number of channels that actively embrace science is small, and sometimes those channels – in an attempt to attract as broad an audience as possible – can disguise their science content so thoroughly that it ceases to be science in the eyes of actual scientists. This makes for some uncomfortable conversations when trying to research and develop a science series or talent scout potential onscreen experts. Nonetheless there are commissioning opportunities out there for those dedicated and determined enough. A panel of science commissioners at Sheffield Doc/Fest discussed what science programming means to them and what they are looking to to commission in the coming months. Interestingly although many programmes and approaches were mentioned, few of them were recognisable as science.

Greenlit: No County for Old Men, History UK

No County For Old Men (8×60’) – Comedians and best mates Simon Day and John Thomson attempt to uncover and discover how our counties help define who we are….What’s the difference between an essex girl and a cornish maid?. Do you call a ‘bread roll’ a cob, batch, a barn cake or scuffler?. What’s the […]

Meet the UK Factual Commissioners: Harry Lansdown, Commissioning Editor, Formats, Features and Specialist Factual, BBC3

Harry Lansdown, commissioning editor, formats, features and specialist factual, BBC3 recently outlined his commissioning needs to attendees of the Broadcast Factual Forum. Click through to see what’s working on the channel and what he wants to commission. (Photo by Torres CC BY-SA 2.0)

Meet the UK Factual Commissioners: Jane Rogerson, Director of Commissioning, UKTV

Jane Rogerson, Director of Commissioning at UKTV recently outlined her commissioning needs to attendees of the Broadcast Factual Forum. Click through to find out what she’s looking to commission next. (Photo by Torres CC BY-SA 2.0)

Wanted: What UK Factual Entertainment Commissioners Want.

In the final of a series of reports from the Intelligent Factual Festival, the factual entertainment commissioners from Channel 4, Five, BBC and Sky One reveal what kind of programmes they are looking to commission. Photo by takomabibelot (CC BY-2.0)

Wanted: What the Specialist Factual Commissioners Want in the UK

At the Intelligent Factual conference a couple of weeks ago, specialist factual channel execs talked about which programmes have recently worked well for them and what they are looking for in the future. Click through to see what BBC1, BBC2, BBC4, Ch4, BIO, History UK and Crime & Investigation want in their science, history, art, religion and natural history slots. (Photo by plagel under CC BY-SA 2.0)

Wanted: What the UK Digital Channels Want

At the Intelligent Factual Festival last week a number of commissioning execs outlined their channel brands and where they’ve still got gaps. Click through to see what ITV3, ITV4 and Discovery UK want. (Photo by rightee – CC BY 2.0)

Show Don’t Tell: New Forms of Arts Programming

One of the many commissioner panels at Sheffield Doc/Fest 2014 concentrated on arts programming and revealed a new trend among arts commissioners: the desire to see art in action. Most channels seem to be moving away from having a host or experts talking about art towards wanting to see artists actually performing and creating art, removing the barrier between artist and viewer.

Three Ways to Increase Your Chances of Getting a TV Commission

It is generally accepted that the industry-wide pitch to commission rate is ten to one, and for some people even that’s optimistic. Here are some of the tried-and-tested tricks that will help you get your idea gets commissioned. (Photo by Hub☺ CC BY SA 2.0)

Give Me the Money and I’ll Shoot! Finance Your Factual TV/Documentary Project by Nicola Lees

Building on the success of Greenlit, this book is the most accessible guide to the traditional, emerging and creative funding models being exploited by factual TV producers and documentary filmmakers in an ever-changing international market. It introduces you to ten different kinds of funder – from international broadcasters to ordinary individuals – and reveals their very different motivations for funding non-fiction films and TV series.
Advice from industry insiders – producers, buyers, media agencies and film funding bodies – is combined with a range of case studies that illustrate the benefits and drawbacks of each source of funding. Packed with practical, actionable tips and examples of successful written proposals and grant applications (along with tales of caution), this book explains exactly what TV commissioners, grantors, brands and investors are looking for in a pitch.

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)

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 […]

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.

New from TVMole:

How to Get Your Ideas Commissioned – The Things No One Ever Teaches You The first idea I ever pitched, The Guinea Pig Club, was commissioned within about a week. Little did I know that it was the easiest commission I would ever get! I’ve since written more than 400 proposals and have been directly […]

International Factual TV Conferences and Festivals 2011

There are many documentary and factual TV festivals every year. This list only contains festivals and conferences where you can pitch/sell/network with channel execs. All prices are in USD unless otherwise stated. January History Makers Date: 26th – 28th January, 2011 Location: New York, USA Focus: “The  World’s best program makers… looking forward to the […]

Greenlit: Developing Factual/Reality TV Ideas From Concept to Pitch – Recommended Resources

Greenlit: Developing Factual/Reality TV Ideas from Concept to Pitch reveals how to get an idea for a documentary or non-fiction/reality television series such as Touching the Void, The Apprentice or Supernanny from concept to commission and explains why having a great idea is not enough. Candid interviews with fifty top industry insiders – including international […]

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)

Meet the Controller: Richard Klein, BBC4

Richard Klein is Channel Controller for BBC4; he recently outlined his current channel strategy and needs (as of August 2009). Richard’s View on BBC4 BBC4 is challenging and intellectual but with a twinkle in its eye. Programmes should be thought provoking – it’s a place for diversity of opinion and controversy. Polemical pieces that make […]

Developing Factual TV Shows – How to Get the Best Out of TV Mole

TV Mole is now six months old and has grown hugely, so I thought it would be good to look back at some of the best articles and signpost how you can get the best out of TV Mole – whether you’ve been here since the beginning are are just dropping by for the first time. You’ll find 350+ potential ideas ideas for new programmes, information on 97 TV channels in the UK and USA and a range of resources to help you successfully develop and pitch your nonfiction TV ideas.

Read on to find out how TV Mole can help you generate new ideas, write a punchy proposal, research potential buyers, pitch, and engage with your audience.

(Photo by blmurch

http://www.flickr.com/photos/blmurch/ / CC BY-SA 2.0


Help – I’ve Been Asked to Develop Some TV Ideas But I Don’t Know What to Do!

Have you been put into a TV development team for a few weeks but don’t know where to start? Don’t panic. Here is an easy (some might say cheat’s) guide to developing TV programme ideas, fast. All you need to get started is the TV Mole website, which will give you everything you need to […]

The Surefire Way to Stop Your Brilliant TV Idea Being Stolen. And Five Better Suggestions.

Here is a guaranteed way to make sure no-one steals your idea: Don’t tell anyone about your idea. Ever. That’s is. That’s all you need to do. Unfortunately this strategy has a major drawback – if you don’t pitch your idea you will never sell it?  And what’s the point of that? There is always […]


Are you new to TV and bursting with ideas but don’t know what to do with them? Or have you tried pitching your ideas with no success? Find out how to work the system and get your ideas commissioned, no matter what level of experience  you have. Need to come up with ideas for a […]

Field Guide to: Observational Documentary Series

Also known as fly-on-the-wall (in the UK), and reality (in the US), an ob doc gives us unique access into the day-to-day lives of organizations or individuals.

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.


TV Mole is a one-stop resource to help you originate, research, write and successfully pitch your ideas to broadcast, digital or cable TV channels. If you are a TV development producer, director, researcher or executive with factual/reality TV ideas you want to see on screen, TVMole is here to help you. Ideas generation Short articles […]