One of the questions I often face, as an instructor of television series development, is “how do I break into the business?” My first answer is: (1) start with a comprehensive, industry-focused education. And let’s assume this can be found near you. But then (2) next comes the challenge of landing that first professional commission or staff writing job on an existing series. That is the magic first step from school to career. But unless you are one of those lucky few dozen students who attend a state-sponsored school with nearly-automatic connections to a television network – this first step can seem more like a quantum leap over a field crowded with competitors. It can seem impossible.
Fortunately, a visit to Cannes for the MIPTV Conference in 2019 revealed 3 major opportunities new tv creators don’t know about. For those not familiar with conference, here is your primer: MIPTV (Marché International des Programmes de Télévision) and its larger sister MIPCOM, are trade shows. They are content markets for co-producing, buying, selling, financing and distributing entertainment content worldwide. It’s where studios come to present new series (think ‘red carpet’ premieres); it’s where distribution deals are made to expand series into new territories; it’s where formats are bought and sold; and where network presidents gather to discuss the newest challenges to their business (think Netflix), the newest market trends, and their plans to face them.
MIPTV is an eye-opening event for anyone in the television business, and for students and new creators, it holds the potential to open doors that don’t exist anywhere else.
MIPTV’s ‘IN DEVELOPMENT’ PROGRAM
Fortunately, the organizers behind MIPTV have made it easier for new tv creators to walk through those doors by adding a new IN DEVELOPMENT program to the conference.
The program “focuses on early-stage development by connecting rising producers and talents with commissioners and financiers.” And if that isn’t music to your ears, it should be. Here’s how it works:
OPPORTUNITY #1 – DRAMA SERIES PITCH
This year’s pitch competition unfolded in 3 Categories: Drama Producers Pitch, Drama Writers Pitch, Drama Short Form Pitch (note: these categories may change next year). From several hundred submissions, 18 projects were selected to pitch on stage at MIPTV’s IN DEVELOPMENT forum in Cannes; with several finding development partners and funding as a result.
OPPORTUNITY #2 – KIDS SERIES PITCH
A pitch competition in 2 Categories: ‘Kids Live Action’ and ‘Pre-School Animation.’ A total of 10 projects were chosen to pitch at MIPTV’s IN DEVELOPMENT forum in Cannes. Key speakers for this program included executives from BBC Children, Universal Kids, Kidoodle TV Canada, France Télévisions, and others.
OPPORTUNITY #3 – STUDENT PITCH CHALLENGE
Open to current film and television students, this pitch challenge saw 4 student teams selected to pitch at MIPTV’s IN DEVELOPMENT forum in Cannes. 2019 was the first year for this student pitch challenge with extremely strong performances by teams from Regents’ University UK (winner), Lekovic of the Faculty of Dramatic Arts (Serbia), Gobelins & CEEA (Paris) and Loz Film School (Poland). Beyond the opportunity to pitch in this professional forum, students enjoyed full access to the IN DEVELOPMENT Program, Canneseries Screenings, professional mixers, and Keynote Presentations across the industry. MIPTV hopes to expand this pitch challenge into 2 Categories in the future (both Scripted & Unscripted Series).
BONUS OPPORTUNITY – IT’S A MATCH WITH BUYERS AND COMMISSIONERS
An exclusive opportunity for writer/producers and distributors to pitch projects to top international buyers and commissioners, understand what they’re looking for, and cement new partnerships. This year’s hosts included Acquisition Executives from AMC/Sundance, Lumiere, Hulu Japan, NRK Norway, RTL, RAI Italy, BBC America and others.
BONUS OPPORTUNITY – ROUND-TABLE NETWORKING BREAKFAST
International drama producers and executives meet for breakfast, with seating arrangements based on their profiles and interests. A host will guide discussion on development and production challenges in international drama series. This year’s hosts included executives from UK’s Channel 4, All3Media, Bavaria Fiction, Yellow Bird US, The Gersh Agency, SVT Sweden, and others.
The organizers of MIPTV were kind enough to invite me to participate in their IN DEVELOPMENT program in 2019 and 2020 (cancelled, sadly, due to the COVID-19) so I have gotten to know them a bit and can tell you with confidence that these are great programs for television creators, whether you are new to the industry or a seasoned veteran seeking to expand your audience.
The people behind IN DEVELOPMENT are exceptionally motivated and work tirelessly to make their programs as supportive and relevant as they can possibly be. So put MIPTV on your calendars for March 30 – April 2, 2021. And start preparing your series pitches now for their submissions window.
I will keep you updated here as news unfolds.