Unscripted TV is where I cut my teeth in telly. I worked on a wide range of programmes from Blues and Twos (the first of the fly-on-the-wall emergency services shows), right through to It’s a Knockout (the Channel 5 version) with a bit of Heroes of Comedy and Des O’Connor tonight in between. I loved being in production, as the Production Manager my role was to make sure everyone and everything got to the right place, at the right time and it didn’t cost too much in the process. However, the area that I was always drawn to was the development department of a production company. Ideas are the beating heart of every TV company – no new ideas, means no commissions, means no shows to make.

There was always an aura of magic and mystery surrounding the department. It’s where all the new ideas for shows were conceived, tested, and written up and I was fascinated by how this all happened.

As I gained experience, I became closer to development departments and was regularly asked to prepare draft budgets and schedules for ideas that the development team were working up. It got me closer to the magic, so when I had the opportunity to work solely with a development team for 3 months preparing budgets, I jumped at the chance. It was an opportunity to see up close how the team worked and how ideas went from, often a comment in a meeting, to an idea, through casting, to a concept to a worked-up show. Some ideas came out of the blue, others were carefully crafted to meet a brief. All were prodded and poked along the way. Examined and tested from all sides to find the flaws and fix them. It was a magical time.

Scroll forward to today, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to bid to run a development researcher training course when ScreenSkills put out a tender. They had identified a lack of skilled development researchers in the sector, so training funds were allocated to enable new development researchers to be trained up.

Now, as I prepared the bid, all I had to do was cast my lead trainers. I wanted to find people who were as passionate about development and the development process as I was. Sophie Morgan sprang to mind straight away. We’d been working together through her production company, Portopia Productions and I knew how passionate she was about development, and that she also had a great deal of experience, both in development and also in commissioning.

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I also knew I needed another trainer for the team. Development is a collaborative process, and there is no hierarchy for ideas, so I looked around my wider networks, and approached Perjeet Aujla, a Series Producer and Development Executive I knew. I persuaded them both onto a zoom call – they’d never met – to talk about the project and as soon as they started talking, I knew I had my team. Not only are they fantastic ideas people they could explain how the development process works – it’s a science as well as an art. Sophie and Perjeet’s collaboration is now so strong that they are working together developing shows outside the course!

Together, we designed the Development Researcher Training Programme to train up people, who are brimming with ideas, and give them the tools and knowledge of unscripted TV so that they can turn their ideas into programme pitches. There is NO requirement to have any prior experience in TV. Just a minimum of two years’ work experience in any sector.

The training takes participants through the development process and at each stage they work on their idea(s) and develop them by using the tools and insights from the trainers. By the end of the course each participant will have a worked-up programme idea and pitch which they can use to showcase themselves when looking for development researcher roles.

What’s really exciting is that many production companies have already expressed an interest in meeting our participants as they are looking for development researchers to join their teams, which means there are jobs out there afterwards and we’ll be working hard to connect people to opportunities.

So if you are brimming with ideas, have two years’ work experience and like the sound of working in a development team creating unscripted TV shows then there is still time to apply. The course is running 4 times between January and July.

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Nuha is a development researcher who has answered some burning questions you might have. 

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