TV Insights, Observations and Obsessions from the NYTVF
Check out our Q&A series with Fest Founder Terence Gray (and others), 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.
The NYTVF welcomed HISTORY programming and development execs to the January Edition of NYTVF's TV Tuesdays. Sitting down with Festival Director Erin Day, Brandy Crawford and Zack Sweeney spoke about their network's approach to unscripted programming, what they look for in a pitch, the NYTVF-HISTORY Unscripted Development Pipeline, and more.
Much of the conversation was about pitching ideas to the network and what creators and producers should prepare for. One element of pitching that was brought up repeatedly was flexibility.
So many people "are so glued to their idea that they're not willing to hear what the network is looking for." When you're in the room with executives, they're as much interested in you as a producer as they are in your idea for a show: "It's not about the pitch – it's about continuing the relationship."
In that regard, as well, both panelists believe that tape is incredibly important. A "sizzle tape is the best way to understand what world [these characters] live in." Production value in these tapes, while not paramount, is still a big factor in their decision-making process. Development execs know that good video equipment is out there and can be accessed fairly inexpensively. "The more you're willing to prove that you can [effectively produce a series], the better."
But what should be on the tape?
- Authenticity is important.
- If you can show more characters, do it! Any additional people that help build out your protagonist's world are helpful.
- When looking at a character tape, executives need to know why THIS person is the focus, and whether or not people want to watch week-to-week. Is your lead character someone that people would want to grab a beer with?
- Find characters who are experts at what they do, can explain what they do, and who love what they do.
- Find characters who have day-to-day, episodic adventures. It's great to have an interesting character, but you need to show that they have a life that works in episodic television.
- You've got a great idea, but what happens in an episode? What are viewers tuning in for? Remember that story matters!
HISTORY is where "guys come for TV." However, even with the NYTVF's initiative looking specifically for male-driven content, that doesn't mean that HISTORY isn't looking for female characters in their doc and unscripted programming. Female characters can absolutely work to flesh out the world, but make sure that they aren't clichés and that they don't fit into specific 'types.' Across the board, HISTORY is looking for fresh takes on characters.
In terms of building a world around a character, originality is key:
"Show us a world that's familiar, that we would make assumptions about, and then show us how it's different." HISTORY (and many networks creating unscripted content) is looking for a new spin on familiar situations, giving viewers enough familiarity but also challenging their pre-conceived notions. And, when looking at what to adapt, the network still looks at what has worked for them in the past. The network execs are "looking for the next best thing, but also looking at our roots, at what has worked for us in the past, to find that next big thing."
To find out more about HISTORY's programming and how you can be involved in the next big thing, check out NYTVF's HISTORY Unscripted Development Pipeline HERE.
To find out more about attending next month's TV Tuesdays event, click HERE.
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