Friday, 2 May 2008

"I've got a great idea for a tv show, how do I..."

When someone starts saying this to me I have to confess to wilting internally. I try my best to look engaged and positive and smiley, but inside I'm thinking of how I can run away without pointing over their shoulder and saying "Oh look, it's Princess Michael of Kent in a gorilla suit!", and dashing off when they turn around.

The truth is that you can't really just think up a show and get it on air. It doesn't happen. Here's an example.

Take Propertunities, my title-without-a-show. Let's try and make it into a show. Three properties for sale, three makeover experts, they turn up and alongside the owners do it up. The one that makes the most money (or in the current market, loses the least) wins. Daytime, every day, it's a winner.

How would I sell that?

Well I can't, as I've no track record making shows like that. A big daytime commission will be a million quid or so, loadsa money. Except that'd be for masses of shows, so tight cost control, volume production, ruthless management and a keen editorial eye are needed. Only daytime tv producers can do that.

OK, so say I hire in a producer who has that experience. We go and pitch it together. The broadcaster says hmmm, OK. Who's going to present it?

Nightmare. If you say the wrong name they'll dismiss it instantly. If you say the right name they'll be chuffed - but if you can't get the right name you'll lose the commission. If you say "err" and waffle, they'll think you haven't done your homework.

So say you manage to mumble someone they like. And hire them. Great! Job done.

Oh no.

Now you need to do a pilot episode. As a one-off, it'll cost far more than making one of fifty episodes. But it's better than the newer alternative. Either make a 'taster tape' (clips of things you shoot at your own expense) or a broadcastable week of shows to see if it works on air. And then they put you against Deal of no Deal and you're sunk.

Say you make a pilot, it works, they love it. That's it then, job's a good 'un.

Hahahah. Fool.

This is when the accountants and lawyers come in. Crawling over your budget - they see what you spend and will try everything to get it down. And will try equally to get as big as percentage of the show as they can. So you end up making it for barely cost price and not owning it.

But, say, you get through all that. Great! Then they say they want it on air in three months. And you have no team, no infrastructure and no way to get it donw by then. That's fine, they say, on air in eighteen months. But you haven't got enough work or funding to keep your existing team going...

And then-

I'll stop there. It's a Bank Holiday weekend and I've a pub to go to. But it's why the big companies get more and more commissions. They can tick all the boxes above. And they deliver a product at the end - it might not be as good as Propertunities but it'll fill the airtime on time, on cost and on target.

And that's what so much of tv, like any other business, is about.

On that cheery note, byebye!

1 comment:

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