LINDA’S TOP 5 TIPS FOR WINNING FORMATS
LINDA’S TOP 5 TIPS FOR WINNING FORMATS taken from Creating TV Formats from inception to pitch… lessons learnt from Linda and two fabulous TV ladies, with the help of TV talent that has given us…
1) Get into the zone – curiosity, playfulness, using new techniques to drive new thinking. My favourite definition of creativity is ‘the ability to modify self-imposed constraints’, in other words the patterns you keep falling into at work, at home and in life. The simplest way to break patterns is to look for the opposite or other options: at the start of looking for new ideas, do the opposite of what you normally do… if you sit at the computer, then go for a walk… if you look focus on the written word, look at pictures… if you tend to focus on a similar topic or area, or type of protagonist… then actively look for a different starting point
2) Get emotional – the best formats tell us something about our lives now, so consider what matters to people now? In the book I describe my 5 doors into new ideas using hooks. The trick is that whatever you notice that is interesting, ask yourself ‘Why is this important?’ – from topics to trends, to extreme behaviours, worlds we hide and even those we show-off. Ask ‘why?’ When working with a bunch of TV producers at the BBC, we discovered that men were closing their eyes for as long as possible when driving on motorways as a dare! It was 2000 and life was good, with health and safety gone mad. The hook was ‘how to give men a rollercoaster ride?’ which led to reboots of Top Gear, SAS are you tough enough, etc.
3) Get visual – whether your format is on TV or on any platform, even in audio, there needs to be something for the viewer to see, to imagine and to want to anticipate. When you have a ‘hook’, such as ‘How to give men a rollercoaster ride?’ It will lead you to the question that your audience will be waiting for, whether your idea is short or long form, i.e. in this case, it might be ‘will they survive? Once you have this question, sometimes called a ‘driving question’, then you can start to fill in the ‘format beats’ to get the audience to the end result or outcome.
4) Get a world – formats are enjoyable because they are in a recognisable world with rules and roles. The world is like a promise to the viewer and it can be the heightened reality of Bake off or Strictly, to the rules of engagement of The Hunted. Think about your hook, driving question and format beats and play around with what would suit it best? Do you need an antagonist or more allies, do you need judges or arbitrators?
5) Get going! – if you believe in your idea then you need to muster up the courage to start share, develop and pitch it. Unless you are Elon Musk and have the money to just go out and make your idea, then you will need to get investment or work with a Production company. As Jonathan Meenagh put it, ‘a lot of these things are huge collaborations with lots of different people, with different idea and there’s no one person who had the monopoly on the vision’. You will need to drive the idea forward and to keep adapting it. For my top pitching tips, see my post, ‘Pitch Perfectly.’