Date: Mon 16 Sep 2019

How to create a TV show - PART 2

In PART 1 of our How to create a TV show blog we talked about how to develop a tv show from an idea. In this article we're going to talk some more about the next stage; filming a screen test, sizzle reel or pilot episode.

In this article we're going to talk some more about the next stage; filming a screen test, sizzle reel or pilot episode.

Nothing will illustrate your TV idea better than actually showing it to a TV commissioner.

If its feasible the we will always suggest shooting either a screen test or pilot episode. These are not only brilliant at illustrating a TV show (literally) but give us an idea of the logistics required to produce it.

Many broadcasters look for shows that can be made in high volumes with a relatively low production cost. These represent a lower financial risk to the broadcaster.

If your TV show idea is untested, features a subject matter that has never been on tv before or relies heavily on "talent" that has never been on TV you must ensure it does not cost a fortune to make.

How much should a TV show cost?

This is a very difficult question to answer since different broadcasters have very different budgets. These budgets depend on the channel, the genre of the program and what time it goes to air.

  • Number of Crew
  • Number of days required for filming
  • Number of locations for filming

The more crew required the more it costs. The greater the number of days filming the more it costs. The more locations the more it costs and so on and so forth.
By considering these factors when thinking about your idea you can form an idea of how a commissioner (and us for that matter) will evaluate it.

If your TV show idea requires a small crew to shoot, can be filmed in a few days and does not require lengthy travel then its far more likely that its going to peak their interest and increase the chances of a commission.

Filming a TV pilot

In some circumstances we may decided to film an entire pilot episode. This is one of the best methods to illustrate how to create a tv show. It carries the risks of being speculative and costly. In 2013 when Neil Burnie approached us in regards to Ocean Vet. By combining our contacts and resources we were able to attract finance very quickly and shoot the pilot independently. Given we had already received several videos of Neil and Choy on camera we knew that could present and perform.

Ocean Vet Pilot Clip

Ocean Vet Pilot Clip used to pitch the TV series

In August 2013 we headed out to Bermuda to shoot the pilot. The pilot was used in conjunction with a full series treatment and budget to attract finance and broadcasters to the project. This strategy succeeded and Ocean Vet went into production in 2014.

Filming a TV screen test

Sometimes we may choose to develop an idea by filming a screen-test. This normally happens when we receive an idea from someone pitching themselves as a potential presenter. If the idea is good, then we will want to see how you perform on camera

TV Screen Test : The Burger Boys

In the past we were approached by two lifelong friends with an idea for a  TV series called "The Burger Boys".
The premise was simple, the presenters (Lee Bennett & Malcolm Allan) travel the UK in search of Britains best burger. Along the way they visit various food festivals and embark on world record attempts and food eating competitions.

The show ticked all the relevant boxes.

Food programs are very popular.

  • The idea was good, current and had a strong televisual appeal.
  • It would only require a 3 man crew to film each episode (Producer, Camera, Sound)
  • We would be able to film a whole episode in 2-3days.
  • The episodes would feature 3-5 locations all within reasonably close proximity to each other.

The last remaining key question was if Lee and Malcolm could work as TV presenters. The only way for us to find out, was to actually do a screen test with them.
This is the only way to know for sure if someone can present. On Saturday the 23rd of November 2013 we met up with Lee and Malcolm at Blacks Burgers, Purley and shot a screen test.

The Burger Boys screen test used to pitch the TV series

Filming the Burger Boys screen test

The boys did a brilliant job. Having never done anything like this before we were very impressed with what they managed to achieve after just one day.
With a bit of direction and some more time spent in front of camera we were confident Lee and Malcolm would have the necessary appeal and personality to attract a TV audience. Armed with the screen-test, the series treatment and a draft production budget, we were now in a much better position to pitch the idea to a television commissioner.

Commissioners Response

We sent the screen test, along with the series treatment and draft budget through to UKTV. Our research indicated that the Good Food network might be interested. Richard Watchman, Director of commissioning had this to say;

Thanks for this. I enjoyed the taster and in many ways feel a bit jealous of the boys' journey, being a bit partial to a burger myself, but I’m afraid this isn’t quite what we’re after at the moment.  It’s a bit too much of a food show for us. We stopped commissioning for Good Food about 18 months ago in favour of finding entertainment shows, for our main three channels, led by established comics and presenters – they really help with our need to get noticed and market our commissions. Sorry to disappoint but do stay in touch. Best wishes,

One of the biggest lessons to learn when it comes to pitching a TV idea is that you have to grow a thick skin. Even if you have a great idea for a TV show, sometimes its just not what the networks are after.

Although UKTV liked Burger Boys, Richard's response offered an insight into why they wouldn't commission it. In the end we had to accept this and learn lessons from it. In the end we came away feeling like if we had two celebrities or comics attached to the series then we could have developed it further.

The fact that Lee and Malcolm were not established in the TV industry meant they weren't the right fit for UKTV this time.

Just look at bakeoff!

Knowing how to create a TV show is not exact science. When things don't go they way you planned its important to learn your lesson.
Even if a tv commissioner ends up saying "No" now, in a years time it could be a different story. Like many things in life, fashions change. Whats not in fashion now might be "in" next year. It's the same in TV. Just because someone says no to your idea now, doesn't meant that in 6,12,18 months time it might be just what they're after.

Always remember, it took 4 years for the BBC to commission Love Productions to make the Great British Bakeoff. In 2015 the final was the most watched show on british TV.

to finish..

We hope you've found this two part blog on how to create a TV show useful. We hope it has provided insight on some key questions you must consider when you pitch your tv show idea to us.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions via email, or fill out the contact form at the top right of this page

Check back soon for more insight and advice on how to create a TV show.