IFTN talked to the British television director, producer and executive about his thoughts on the reliance on old TV formats, the lack of fresh approaches within the TV industry particularly within the entertainment genre and any tips he has for successful creative programming.
The Executive Producer of ITV Comedy Drama ‘Benidorm’ whose credits also include'Red Dwarf' and ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ is one of the tutors for a three-day ‘Creating Showbusiness: The Entertainment Television Format Creation Seminar’ hosted by Screen Training Ireland which begins in Dublin this week.
IFTN: Firstly, how are you involved within the seminar?
Paul: “I am giving a Presentation on Wednesday morning regarding why formats work and some examples of ones that haven't worked.”
IFTN: What elements of knowledge from your own experience do you think you can bring to the discussion?
Paul: “I have been involved at many different levels and in many different markets with producing formatted entertainment shows, both hits and not so much hits. Like everyone else I try to work out why some fly and others don't.”
IFTN: What skills and tools can be used to devise cutting edge creative programming?
Paul: “In the end there is no formula for creating a show like Millionaire or X Factor but there are some techniques which can help executives focus on shows that work and why. It is often even more useful to look at shows that didn't work and try to figure out what went wrong.”
IFTN: Is there a lack of fresh approaches and new ideas within programming formats?
Paul: “We are in a quieter period these last few years and drama has become the international hot thing. But after the run that formatted entertainment ideas had in the previous 10 or so years, things had to slow down. I do think we have to move on from reinventing talent based shows and somewhere someone will do that and start a new trend.”
IFTN: Would you agree that industry/commissioners are taking less risks & instead becoming too reliant on the ‘safe – reliable’ tried and tested programming formats such as; ‘The X-Factor’, ‘I’m A Celeb’ & ‘Big Brother’?
Paul: “Yes they are but we should remember how very risky all of the shows were when they started. At the moment no broadcaster is going to abandon such shows when they can still deliver very strong ratings. But sometime someone is going to have to take a bold leap to run with a new idea.”
IFTN: What can be done to challenge the dependence on old formats within the entertainment TV sector?
Paul: “As always desperation (remember the classic account of the arrival of reality tv in the US called Desperate Networks) will lead someone to take a big risk on a new thing. But for that to happen the old shows will really have to collapse and so far they aren't doing that.”
IFTN: What do you hope to gain or help others gain from attending the Creating Showbusiness: The Entertainment Television Creation Seminar in Dublin?
Paul: “I always learn something new at these events because a group of much younger professionals given time to think about and discuss ideas always come up with interesting new concepts. Then when the market is ready to gamble again, the ideas, or at least the ability to think about ideas, should be available in the system.”
Screen Training Ireland’s ‘Creating Showbusiness: The Entertainment Television Format Creation Seminar begins Tuesday, January 24th with two creative modules followed by a pitching session on Wednesday, February 1st.
As well as Paul Jackson other course tutors across the three day seminar include; Larry Bass (CEO & Founder, ShinAwiL), Philip Kampf, (Vision Independent Productions), Pam Relton (Media Trainer), Grainne McAleer (Head of Lifestyle RTÉ) and Máire Ní Chonláin, Eagarthóir Coimisiúnaithe (Commissioning Editor, TG4).