Developing a Creative Connection

Developing a Creative Connection

This week Producer and PB member, Simon Henderson talks about how the Development Producers Meeting has brought together a community of development enthusiasts and hales the benefits of sharing the highs, lows and creative hurdles.

Every so often a friend will collar me and tell me about their great idea for a TV show. As I listen to them talk I usually think ‘Really? Just ONE great idea?’.

Working as a researcher, AP or Producer in development isn’t about one great idea, its about being able to churn out hundreds of ideas all the time, knowing full well that 99% of them will be unceremoniously ditched before they turn into the next big series.

With such a small opportunity for success, I want to celebrate people in development, and that’s why I’ve set up the Development Producers Group.

It’s a social networking group for anyone who is connected to developing TV ideas, and from the very moment it started I’ve been amazed at how quickly the membership has grown and how positive the feedback has been.

At each meeting I invite speakers from across the industry to talk. At the last meeting it was development producer and writer Nicola Lees, and executive producer Dan Barraclough.

Nicolas’s website ‘TV Mole’ has become an essential resource for all development people. It is filled with practical advice, links, contacts and relevant info which have informed and shaped her excellent book ‘Greenlit: Developing Factual / Reality TV ideas from Concept to Pitch’.

Nicola kicked off with a presentation of her ‘Top Tips on why your ideas aren’t getting commissioned’.

Nicola gave examples of pitches that had been cut and pasted straight from Wikipedia, pitches when contact details weren’t included on the document and talked about avoiding pitching to the wrong channel. If your idea is about 18th century illustrated German bibles, it may not sit that well on ITV2.

Executive Producer Dan Barraclough is a supremely talented professional and has a string of successful shows on his CV. He gave us a snapshot of the state of play at the big networks, exploring if having Jay Hunt at Channel 4 will mean putting more journalistic punch into pitches and how the influence of Danny Cohen at BBC1 could open the doors to more working class stories.

Dan also described what he looked for in a good development team. He talked about how in some way development people are divided into two camps – the enthusiastic amateur and the boffin, and how a good development person needs to continue to be willing to get on the phones, get out in the field and expand their network beyond the same industry sources that everyone relies on.

Development is often a tough world of putting your heart and soul into an idea only to have it smashed to pieces in a single pitch session.

But it is also a serious occupation that has a strong role to play in ensuring big ideas get workshopped and fleshed out. Pitching in the right way to the right channel at the right time is the Holy Grail, and good development teams are the people who work hard to achieve this.

A strong show brings massive benefits to production companies. A huge amount of future employment begins with a few people in development turning an idle thought into a ratings hit.

The development producers group runs every month – for more information click here.

Simon Henderson is a television professional with over 20 years experience – for more information visit his website.