A group of TV gurus explained to audiences how to develop an idea.
Ideas for great TV are everywhere. The concept for Channel 4’s Gogglebox is believed to have come from a runner.
A researcher is said to have thought of the idea that became ITV’s Saturday Night Takeaway.
At an RTS Futures event, Introduction to TV Development, a panel of top development executives gave tips on how to develop and pitch ideas.
“It’s all about great ideas, but maybe we don’t totally understand how the idea gets from your head when you’re on the bus to actually being on the box or the internet,” suggested Georgia LA, who chaired the night’s panel discussion.
“Where ideas come from is really interesting,” said Jonas Crabtree, Executive Producer, Development, at Twenty Twenty. “They can come from the channel or the company you work for…Working in development you are taking ideas and getting them to the stage where they can be pitched.”
For those employed in factual TV, privileged access to places, people and professions can make or break a good idea.
Claire Morrison, Head of Development at Potato, owned by ITV Studios, was new to documentary before working up the idea for what became BBC1 series, The Met, focused on London’s Metropolitan police.
“I had never met a police officer before or worked on a police show. I’d never even made a factual programme before,” she recalled.
“They met me and the relationship built…We pitched it to the BBC. Danny Cohen, then Controller of BBC1, liked the idea and started working on it with me."
She added: "If you are passionate about an idea and you have no experience in that genre, don’t let that put you off.
“Anyone can have an idea. People on the street can have ideas that translate into massive prime time shows…I think it helps that I am pretty and blonde (laughter from the audience).”
Added Crabtree: “A lot of the ideas are informed by the company you work for, by the producers that are in the company.”
In other words, if the indie specialises in current affairs, the ideas are more than likely to be in that programme category.
Nicky Huggett, Head of Development at Popkorn Television, said that her three-person team starts the day by trawling the newspapers. Tracking Twitter was also essential.
“I constantly berate my researchers and tell them ‘You’re not skiving if you’re social networking or on Daily Mail online.’"
Good ideas can come from your mum, she suggested.
Being persistent and having reservoirs of patience are essential qualities for development teams, according to Rob Walker, Managing Director, Seven8 Media.
He said. “Development is a slow burn. We all have a romantic notion that we can pitch an idea and it will be made instantly and immediately become a big hit.
"It can happen but generally it doesn’t. It’s knocking on doors and it’s putting the idea out there. If someone doesn’t like it take it somewhere else because you’re only making money when that idea gets made.
“It’s really about being patient, which I think is the biggest skill anyone who works in development can have.”
Introduction to TV Development was an RTS Futures event held at the Hallam Conference Centre, central London, Tuesday 23 February. The producer was Jude Winstanley. A full report will appear in the March edition of Television.