Hunting that commission? Top tips for winning that commission – Indie Broadcast Summit, 17th March 2016

So what does it take?  What are the magic ingredients to getting that idea across the line?

The Broadcast Indie Summit invited a star studded cast of the Indie Sector’s Heads of Development, a creative consultant (me!) and three of our best creative minds at the pitching front-line.  Here are their top tips for getting that commission.

1) A simple, killer topline – Johnny Meenagh, Shine TV’s Hunted! for Channel 4

For Shine’s Head of Development, Johnny Meenagh, the nicest guy in development (I should know as I trained him 100 years ago!), it was the simple, killer premise ofHunted’s ‘factual thriller‘, that got it over the line.

2) Search for uniqueness – Neil Grant, Films of Record’s Murder Detectives

Neil Grant told the story of how he gained access to a Metropolitan police force keen to tell their story; how his personal integrity and therefore trusting relationship with the police allowed unique access to an addictive, dramatic and often upsetting ‘documentary box set’ approach to real murder investigations.

3) Sizzle clips & talent tasters focus development – Matthew Worthy, Stellify Media’s Can’t Touch This

After a protracted Saturday night call-out for ideas from the BBC, a relative newcomer, Stellify, stole the show.  A stealthy, Dragon’s Den approach and a digital whizz kid’s, one-take wonder sizzle stole the commission with the show getting two offers, not just one!

4) “Out of 365 days, only 1 is good… as soon as you realise this, then you can start enjoying yourself!” – Colette Foster, Creative Director of Full Fat TV

Once you realise the odds of getting that commission then you can start relaxing about the set-backs.  It might not be the right time but if you believe enough in an idea then it will happen. The stars will align. Be resilient.

4) Keep the momentum up and give bonuses – Mark Pritchard, Twofour’s Group Development Director

Twofour’s massive development remit, across all genres, requires tight development runs, usually on a six-week cycle and affords the Group the chance to offer bonuses.  Mark explained how every conversation counts, don’t leave it more than 6 weeks; it’s important to meet up regularly with each commissioner and keep the conversation going.

5) Have a cross-genre development meetings – Kate Beetham, Exec and Head of Development Plimsoll Productions

Plimsoll Productions has become one of the fastest growing Indies in the sector sweeping up RTS, BAFTAs and Emmy’s since it launched in 2013.  Its shows include high octane, wildlife and factual docs; Secret life of the family (CH5), Rescue Dog to Super Dog (Ch4) and Life of Dogs for Discovery.  Kate believes that this was in part due to the Indie’s cross-genre team and an openness to develop any idea. 

6) Keep going, ideas need to go through layers of crap! – Neale Simpson, Head of Development at RDF Ents label, Fizz

And it leaves me to mention the funny, clever and most honest panellist, Neale, who spoke candidly about the role of a commissioner and its impact on the creative. And asked us all, how can we be clearer about what we want or what we don’t want? The earlier a creative knows whether there is interest in an idea, the better. So just ask commissioners to cut the crap and if you’re a commissioner reading this, please do the same!