‘Sun, sex and suspicious formats’ – event report

‘Sun, sex and suspicious formats’ – event report

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Thursday, 27th March 2014

A format called Mind the Gap, developed at the latest RTS Futures event, SSun, Sex and Suspicious FormatsT, won its creators the prize of a day’s creative workshop with the BBC Academy.

At the sold-out event, RTS Futures members, assisted by development executives from broadcasters and production companies, came up with their own series format for a BBC Three audience and pitched it to RDF Television co-head of factual development Jack Bootle and BBC Academy creative coach Linda Green.

The winning idea for a format brought together three contestants for a week to compete for a trip of a lifetime for their gap year between school and university. The twist to Mind the Gap was that the three teens are tagged so they have to spend the week within one metre of each other. If they move apart, an alarm sounds and days are knocked off their potential gap year holiday.

Before the RTS Futures members began work on their formats, Bootle revealed how he and his team developed and successfully pitched Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents to BBC Three. The show follows teenagers cavorting and boozing on holiday in the Med – and their parents who are spying on them.

As a teenager Bootle had adored the Sky One/Channel 4 docu-soap, Ibiza Uncovered. SI wanted to revisit the show and find a way of bringing that kind of material back to TV. It followed a group of young people and their sexcapades and sexploits on Ibiza over the course of the summer. It was eye-popping, salacious and very warm,T he recalled.

SI was obsessed with what the parents of the cast would have said when they saw the show go out on air and saw their darling son being fellated on a booze cruise. I wanted to find a way of bringing their reaction into the show.T

Bootle advised the RTS Futures members that formats had to fall Sjust on the right side of acceptabilityT, adding: SAll of my favourite formats have something quite ‘icky’ at the heart of them. Wife Swap, The Secret Millionaire, evenDon’t Tell the Bride – there’s something quite nasty about their premises. But it’s from that that a lot of the fun, excitement and energy comes. Don’t be too squeamish.T

Bootle is an experienced format developer, having worked on The Secret Millionaire, Ladette to Lady andShipwrecked: Battle of the Islands. SThey’re very hard to get right and to pitch because a lot of commissioners are quite nervous and suspicious of the word format,T he said. SBut if you can crack a format and convince a channel to take a gamble on it, it’s a fantastic prize because, by its nature, a format is a show that can come back and back, and potentially sell around the world.T

The development executives helping to develop and pitch formats at the RTS Futures event were: Emma Lorenz (BBC); Emma Smith (BBC North); Tom O’Brien (Electric Ray); Charlotte White and Morwenna James (Keo); Phil Harris and Jack Kennedy (Lime); James Longman (Princess); Neale Simpson (RDF); Simon Shalgosky (Shiver); Joe Evans (Thames); and Joe Varley (Tiger)

The RTS Futures event, ‘Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents’, was held on 26 March at the Hallam Conference Centre in central London. The producers were Ross McCarthy and Neale Simpson. A longer report will appear in the May issue of Television.

Report by Matthew Bell

Pictures by Paul Hampartsoumian

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