What’s everyone looking for?

Today’s issue of Broadcast focuses on what the various commissioners at ITV are looking for. Most of them say they don’t want to be too prescriptive. The drama controller thinks there’s room for more crime, as long as it doesn’t include grizzled detectives, dead prostitutes and abused women.

Producers, publishers, and agents are often asked what they’re looking for right now, and the only genuine answer is rather formless: something fresh and character-led. ‘Character-led’ means that the characters are well drawn, and we like them enough to care what happens to them. It’s also important that what happens to them is interesting.

You have to take a conservative view of ‘fresh’: this often means a fresh angle on a well-known genre. It must not so far away from what an audience has seen recently that no one knows how to market it, but not something we feel we’ve now seen a hundred times. It’s a tricky balance. ‘Fresh’ doesn’t mean gimmicky, for instance, a grizzled detective who also happens to be in a wheelchair. One example might be Emma Adams’ play, Ugly, about climate change. You’d think that commission was career suicide, but Emma looked at the issue from the point of view of how people treat each other when resources get scarce. Still bleak, but a dimension we haven’t looked at much.

In this competitive world, a thoughtful creative choice means a writer is much more likely to get a commission.

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