Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Submitting TV proposals (local)

A number of recent hits to this blog have been searches for 'how to submit proposals to the SABC' and 'submitting proposals to local broadcasters' - so I thought I'd post a general overview on 'how to' - based on my own recent experiences.

The SABC issues a RFP (request for proposals) booklet once a year usually at Sithengi. This contains tenders for numerous programmes across a range of genres including: religion, education, factual, drama, entertainment, children and reversioning. Last year, in an attempt to provide greater scope for programme development, they also introduced 'research and development' (R & D) briefs across all genres. Since the future of Sithengi is hanging in the balance at present - the next SABC RFP booklet could be issued at any point over the next few months. The RFP booklet is usually available to download from their website or a hard copy can be picked up from any of the main SABC offices. In the current booklet, there are still a number of drama R&D proposals whose deadlines are yet to expire - so it is still worth looking through.

The RFP booklet contains a comprehensive guide on how to submit and a list of names and contact numbers of all the various commissioners. There are a few schemes where individual writers can submit proposals directly but most of the time proposals must be submitted via a local production company. Small or new companies can sometimes pair up with more established companies, in a 'joint venture' to make a submission. In some instances the genre teams may guide newer companies - if they sense an idea has merit. It can be worth sending an email query - or phoning..

So how to submit? First of all, it is best to read through the RFPs carefully and see what attracts. Then do what it says on the tin. Many of the RFPs provide strict guidelines of what materials need to be submitted (in addition to the company and other administrative documentation and budgets). For drama they usually require a step outline of one episode, a synopsis of the remaining episodes (for a series) a character bible and 10 pages of sample dialogue.

For factual and other genres the application materials vary but usually require a detailed proposal of not less than 10 pages showing evidence of research. Evidence of research means proof that characters (for the documentary etc) have been located and that experts have been approached, logistics worked out etc. Sources of archive material, historical references, supporting organisations should also be listed. If a particular presenter, anchor or personality is to be used within the programme then a letter of intent from them or their agent should be included.

It is important to adhere to the language/ representation requirements of the brief and address these adequately in the proposal. If applicant team members do not speak the language of the proposed programme then they need to provide evidence of how they will meet the language requirement, who will be involved and how etc.

For all genres the proposal must provide what the broadcaster terms 'a goal statement.' This is a brief sales pitch for the programme - describing what makes it stand out from other shows and who the audience is.
A synopsis should then provide more detailed overview of the programme content.
A more detailed treatment should then provide a breakdown of at least one episode for factual programmes (and most other genres.) The treatment should describe the specific format, style, content, new media elements, graphics etc.

The key word to remember when writing up a programme proposal is simplicity. Keep the language easy rather than academic. Make the proposal fun to read - convey a sense of the style and energy of the programme in the language. Make reference to similar programmes.

Always read through and check the proposal carefully before printing it off. Make sure that all the correct materials have been assembled. Companies based in Cape Town can actually hand deliver proposals to the SABC in Seapoint right up to the day of the deadline. These are then sent up to Jo'burg overnight. Short listed candidates are supposed to hear within 2 months of the submission deadline.

In the past the SABC have also run road shows for unsolicited proposals. It is also worth checking out their website for separate RFPs that may be issued throughout the year.

Mnet have put out several drama industry briefs over the last year and it is worth checking out their website for updates. They usually require a comprehensive proposal and a full script or sample script for drama proposals.

eTV run an occasional regional documentary strand which is usually advertised on their website.

If anyone has a query about any of this (or anything else related to the world of scriptwriting) then feel free to email me (address in profile) and I'll respond in a future post.

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