“I have an idea for a show”
“I have an idea for a show, how do I get it made?”
I get asked this question on a pretty regular basis. Before I got into broadcast television, it’s a question I found myself asking. If you are here looking for the answer, the bad news is that this post does not contain the answer you want. But it may contain the answer you need.
Here is the first step – back up and review what you have.
Because I find that almost everyone who comes to me with this question is looking to sell a show. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But what they have is exactly what they say they have ‘ an idea for a show. And one does not equal the other.
To get a show made, to sell a show, you’ve really got to have a show.
An idea is a fantastic starting point and, in spite of what I have read elsewhere, I think an idea alone can have value. After all, it is the core from which a show can grow. But you have to know the difference between the idea and the show. You have to recognise what you have. For example, more often than not I see the idea is just a group of character designs. That’s not a show. It’s a really good place to start (my own Fluffy Gardens began as just a collection of characters) but it’s not yet a show. Other times, people will describe a scene or the beginnings of a story. Great for establishing the tone you’re looking for, but it’s not a show.
And sometimes people just have an aim - so it’s this show, right, that tells children just how amazing bees are.
Often those ideas seem to be vaguest, fluffiest and least-defined in terms of actual creative. They can also be the strongest and most likely to succeed because those ideas come from someone on a mission. Someone out to make a difference in a child’s life rather than just trying to get their own creations on to a screen somewhere.
But it’s still not a show yet.
So how do you get your show made? Make it a show. Go back to the idea, your own driving force, and flesh it out. Figure out what it is and why. Picture how an episode might play out. What’s missing? What does it offer the audience? Do the characters work together? Do they spark more story concepts? You know that phrase “it writes itself”? Well I find really good show concepts ooze episode ideas ‘ stories after stories. If you’re struggling to find a story, something in the setup is probably not working yet. That’s all creative stuff but anyone can work these things out, whether you’re coming at this as a designer or a writer or anything else. It can be daunting and there may be a thousand reasons why you think you aren’t qualified but, truth be told, I don’t know if anyone is really qualified. Those who succeed are just those who went ahead and tried it anyway.
And then kept trying.
Throughout this process, the most important thing to figure out is this ‘ why would someone care? Television is saturated. Broadcasters, distributors and buyers have decades of shows just sitting there. They get pitched new shows all the time. So what one-line pitch has your show got that will make someone think, “I don’t have a show like that, I need that”? By the way, that requires doing your homework and finding out what already exists. Not everyone is going to buy into your pitch ‘ that’s fine, not everyone has to. But you have to know what your pitch is.
At some point in all that, you will find you go from having a show idea to having a show. And you are in a far, far better position when your question becomes, “I have a show, how do I get it made?”
One last addition to this… If you really go for it and get to that last question, you are well on your way to where you want to be. 99% of people stop at the idea. So just push that bit further.