Documentary Ideas Surgery

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New Dates TBC!

Documentary Ideas Surgery

Date: (awaiting dates)

Duration: 1 day
Times: 10.30am - 5.30pm
Capacity: Max. 8 participants
Fee: £150

What makes an idea for a documentary 'good'? How do you decide what information you need in your treatment? What's the best way of targeting the industry? Do you need a presenter, and if so, how do you find and hire them? Should you film a taster?

If you have a passion to make factual programmes and ideas you’re burning to get off the ground but need help to take them to the next stage, this 1-day course is for you.  

Eight participants will be asked to come armed with at least one idea for a factual programme or series that they have written up. The treatments can be long or short, fully formed or sketched out, a feature length documentary or a factual entertainment series. And you are encouraged to bring any additional material you have on the idea including: photos, taster tapes, music or clips. Each individual idea will be workshopped thoroughly during the day so that everyone leaves with clear points of action to pursue. 

The day will also provide participants with a simple set of rules to follow when deciding whether to develop an idea, how to develop ideas and what makes an idea commissionable or attractive to funders. For those who wish to pursue documentaries outside the broadcast arena there will be a discussion on festivals and alternative funders.

There will also be a discussion about how to find production companies or talent to partner with to help bring your idea to fruition. 

The course will be very useful to those who already have some experience in broadcast television or documentary production but want to move into programme development, or indeed wish to develop their own ideas. And for those with little or no experience it will provide a first taste of the steps involved in putting together programme treatments. 

Examples of existing treatments and taster tapes will be viewed and discussed. And guidance will be provided on getting presenters or talent on board and how to go about signing them up to the project. 

By the end of the day participants will have a clear understanding about how to better think about their ideas, shape their ideas, develop and structure a treatment to successfully pitch their ideas. 

Award winning executive producer Tracey Gardiner (Grierson, Scottish BAFTA, Wincott) has many years experience of developing and pitching factual programmes, series and long form documentaries in a range of genres.  

Course Aims

  • To workshop participants’ individual ideas
  • To provide a framework for deciding which ideas to develop, how to develop them and what makes them attractive to funders.
  • What makes a treatment good. 

Course Outline 

The following issues will be discussed with specific reference to participant’s individual ideas: 

  • What makes an idea ‘good’? How to turn your interesting thought into a treatment by applying  a set of simple rules.
  • Research - How to decide what information you need to provide in a treatment to give it maximum impact.
  • How to target the production company, broadcaster and distributor your project needs.
  • How to improve your treatment - Make it stand out from the crowd.
  • Do you need a presenter? How to find them, how to get them on board, and how to deal with agents.
  • Filming a taster – Do I need one and what should it look like?
  • What would make my idea attractive? Should I team up with a director, producer, actor, production company?

Tutor profile: Tracey Gardiner, Producer

Tracey Gardiner entered television after a career as a stockbroker in the City, when she joined FulcrumTV. After more than fifteen years at Fulcrum she then set up her own production company, Iridescent Films, which made the three part BBC 2 series PILGRIMAGE with Simon Reeve (a co-production with Lion Television). She is currently the executive producer of a feature length documentary, 100 MEN, funded by the New Zealand Film Commission and MPI Distribution.

Tracey started out making programmes about business and current affairs over twenty years ago but then branched out into science, arts, history and observational documentaries, putting together international co-production deals and private finance to fund projects. Key award winners include: KEYS TO THE CASTLE (BBC) which won A Scottish BAFTA and RTS in 2015; THE WINNER LOSER (BBC), shortlisted at IDFA and winner of the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival Award in; HOW M&S LOST ITS BILLIONS (C5) Wincott, Best Documentary; SIGHTHILL STORIES (BBC) Scottish BAFTA; SEND ME SOMEWHERE SPECIAL (BBC) Grierson Newcomer Winner.

The Daily Mail said about PILGRIMAGE: “a truly miraculous journey”, TV Times: “a truly engaging first leg...4 stars”, Daily Mail: “The excellent Simon Reeve returns with a three-part series...illuminating, engaging and enjoyable viewing” and the Mail on Sunday said “a life - affirming new series...4 stars”

On BBC1 documentary TOO OLD TO BE A MUM? (2010) The Telegraph said: The film tiptoed through the ethical eggshells with an equanimity that did its makers proud. The bare facts spoke loudly enough...this was a perfect subject for a television documentary, because the pictures made their own argument."