Saturday, May 10, 2014

Creating Content for Kid's' Shows. Part 2: The broadcasters

"We'll know it when we see it..."
"Show us something we can't refuse..."

Broadcasters and networks don't always make themselves easy for us to 'read'. In the past I remember my agent firing me wish lists after he'd meeting with a network, broadcaster or producer or when a new development exec was scouting for material through the agencies and I would try to find ideas that might fit. They either came from my existing portfolio or I'd fire off something new that I felt would grab attention and possibly lead to a commission.

As far as I recall, none of them did! But at least I now have a few black boxes of ideas, germs of ideas and pitches that just might be right sometime! It's a good exercise in ideas-generation that should stand me in good stead in any writers' room...

Frustrating though!

At the Creating Content for Children's Shows workshop last month, run by Animation SkillnetLeanne Preston of Bright Box had a few very useful pointers to offer. Sometimes all you need is a list to check through, even if it seems that some of the points should be common sense or second nature, and it can clarify the pitching process.

I've already worked with Leanne on my series WULFIE, which is in development with Monster Entertainment, and her credentials are impressive. Animation Skillnet was set up by Gareth Lee, a member of the Creatives in Animation Network (CAN)  and Programme Leader of the BA (Hons) Animation at BCFE.

So what do they want?
  • Each broadcaster has their own remit and the advice was to do your research both on their shows and the personnel you might be talking to. 
If you know your current pitch is unlikely to appeal, take the time to make a good impression and create the contact you can follow up on when you have a pitch that might suit better. Find out what's on their wish list. It might be the very way to come up with a new idea fast!
  • You want to find a show that fits in their current schedule - but offers something extra.
  • Strong, positive characters -- but steer clear of stereotypes. 
Instead offer multi-layered characters - we want to be finding out about them as we watch. Something that sits with their brand - so KNOW their brand. Create characters we want to spend time with. Turn stereotypes on their heads. Have fun!
  • Comedy. Action is served by the big brands; we can't really compete.
  • Upper pre-school/ bridge shows
  • Transmedia shows with an enhanced audience experience.
As for the networks themselves:

  • Cartoon Network is boy-skewed, but they don't want to ignore girls, after all they did the Powderpuff Girls...
  • Disney want strong female leads, positive role models whereas Disney XD are looking for boys' shows, aged 8-14 and it's all about 'levelling up' ie being a better version of yourself on TV, eg having super powers, being able to run really fast etc.

Our own feedback from Kidscreen regarding my new pre-school show (ROXY & ROWENA) was that if a series had magic, they'd be interested. Otherwise not.
  • Nickelodeon are more gender neutral. They want characters that boys and girls can relate to in every show. 
Still to come in this series:
  1. How to make your series international...
  2. Market awareness
  3. Things to avoid...

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