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30 July 2018

Top Tips for Making Your Factual Idea Stand Out

Mary Portas and Jamie Oliver at the launch of the Pat Llewellyn Bursary Fund

The WFTV Pat Llewellyn Bursary Fund was launched earlier this year with the aim of finding, and funding, women with the best, boldest and most creative factual entertainment or factual TV projects. The Fund is open both to experienced film makers as well as women who have never made a TV programme. What matters is not your experience, but the quality of your idea. The bursary awards will be used to fund the development of the idea, not the production.

But just what makes a good idea for TV ? We caught up with WFTV Chair and Pat Llewellyn Bursary Fund committee member Liz Tucker, who is also a multi-award winning documentary executive producer and director, to get some insider tips on how to sell your idea and make your application stand out from the crowd.


“If you have a brilliant proposal, you have nothing to lose and you might just end up with a very handy cheque to help fund the development of your project.”


WFTV: When you are pitching an idea for the Pat Llewellyn Bursary Fund – what are the key elements you need to make sure you include?
Think about what it is about your idea that makes it bold and original. It’s always a great start to have a powerful title that helps sell your proposal. Then there are some key questions you should ask yourself: Why would an audience want to watch your film? What makes it unmissable? Who are the key characters? How will you tell the story of the film? What sequences and pictures will we see? And remember you only have 250 words to pitch your idea, so make sure you make every single one count!

WFTV: Is there anything you are not looking for?
We are only looking for factual or factual entertainment ideas, so that means genres such as Drama are excluded. This is also a development fund, so we can only provide funding at the start of projects. We cannot, I am afraid, provide production or finishing funds.

WFTV: Does it matter if you have never made a programme before?

Not at all, we simply want the best and most creative ideas, so if you don’t have a programming background, we will provide you with a mentor who can support you and get you in to see the people who can help make your idea happen.

WFTV: What advice would you give to anyone new to TV, or in the early stages of their career, who may be thinking about applying to the Fund with an idea?

Go for it, if you have a brilliant proposal, you have nothing to lose and you might just end up with a very handy cheque to help fund the development of your project.

Liz Tucker

WFTV: Can you tell us a bit about your own experience making factual programmes and how the industry has changed since you started?

I started as a radio producer than moved into TV working in specialist factual and documentaries. One of the key changes I have seen has been the explosion in the number of channels, which has led to a huge increase in competition for audiences. That means that a programme today has to work really hard and punch above its weight to get recognised.

WFTV: How do you know when you have a good idea for a factual TV programme, rather than just an interesting subject or character?
It varies from programme to programme, but ideally you want a story with lots of different threads and layers. You’re looking for a powerful unfolding narrative with twists and turns along the way for your audience.

WFTV: What has been the most satisfying programme-making experience of your career to date and what was it about it that makes it stand out?
It’s difficult to select any one show, but certainly one of the most entertaining was a science programme, when we tried to turn Professor Richard Dawkins into a religious believer. Sadly, we failed!

WFTV: What qualities do you think make someone a good fit for working in factual TV?
I always say to people don’t do this job unless you can’t imagine doing anything else, but if that is the case, and you have passion, drive, endless determination and lots of great ideas, what’s stopping you?

You can find more information about the WFTV Pat Llewellyn Bursary Fund, including guidelines and FAQs here.

The deadline to submit your idea is Sunday 19 August 2018. Good luck!