TV Insights, Observations and Obsessions from the NYTVF
Check out our Q&A series with Fest Founder Terence Gray, designed to provide submitting artists and TV fans with insight to the current development landscape. If you're thinking about submitting to the NYTVF, this is for you.
Check out previous downloads here:
NYTVF STAFF: The final NYTVF sponsored initiative for 2013 is the 2nd Annual Lifetime Unscripted Development Pipeline (deadline: 9/23/13). This year the network has put an emphasis on casting – can you tell us a little more about what they're looking for?
TG: Absolutely! We're thrilled to welcome Lifetime back as a development partner and this initiative creates a really cool opportunity to focus exclusively on casting. In particular, Lifetime is interested in the following:
- Casting tapes that highlight unique, larger-than-life individual or individuals with a specific business or skill or a unique set of circumstances that makes them unforgettable.
- Funny, REAL, and unexpected ideas.
- Characters like Abby Lee (from Dance Moms) who are loud and fun to watch – we are looking for characters that are outrageous but still relatable.
- We are looking for characters who appeal to a broad, middle-class audience. Characters who offer a fun escape. (Characters who seem too out of reach or lack layers don’t make for hit series.)
NYTVF STAFF: Since the network is specifically looking for a casting tape, what elements should submitters look to include in their submissions?
TG: Most importantly, you want to capture the “spark” of your character(s) – what makes them stand out? What/where is their world? Are there secondary characters in their orbit that provide additional context to their experience? Remember: submissions are limited to two (2) – four (4) minutes of tape, so you need to be efficient in your narrative building. Most importantly, look for ways to highlight your character(s) based on the parameters defined by the network.
Your casting reel should showcase your lead character and any supporting cast and include a clear, concise description of what they do and why people will want to come back week after week to watch them. We are looking for worlds and characters that can sustain a series, not simply a “one off.”
NYTVF STAFF: Are there production elements that creators should incorporate? How important are production values?
TG: Well, Technical and production savvy is helpful by not required; the most important element is capturing the "wow" factor in your subject(s), even if it's by Skype chat.
NYTVF STAFF: Anything they're NOT looking for?
There are a number of elements that the network has specified they are not interested in. I've included the list below:
- Law Enforcement
- Touchy-Feely Spiritual Healers
- “Fringe” Side Show Characters
- “Woman in a Man's World”
- Ghost Hunters
- Life Coaches
*Good people are fine… if they also happen to be funny and doing something entertaining.
Lifetime isn’t looking for “causey” shows or daytime content. If a particular pitch centers around the crowded landscape of home improvement, please take great care to show how your character and what he or she does is a MUST SEE, fresher than the HUNDREDS already out there. EG: Avoid this space.
NYTVF STAFF: Got it! That's pretty clear. Anything else you'd like to add?
TG: On a broad scale, I think that one area where our community has been successful (and I know that our Industry Partners are interested in) is comedy and humor. I did a previous development download on unscripted comedy formats (which you can access here), and I think it's worth revisiting for this discussion. While the emphasis on “format” isn't as necessary for this initiative, I think that the more a producer can look at their character(s) through a humorous lens, the better. Whether it's a group of co-workers in an unexplored profession or a larger-than-life subject who brings levity and lightheartedness to their life – this is a sweet spot that a lot of networks are hungry for.
Whether you're a writer, comedy performer, or doc producer, this is a tremendous opportunity to turn your storytelling sights on a great character. Moreover, it's a tangible opportunity to get into business with a great network.
NYTVF STAFF: Thanks Terence for the great insight. We'll look forward to hearing more at the September TV Tuesday next week!
TG: Great guys – see you there.