Part 3 The Road to successful TV Format Development

Part 3 of Jonathan Glazier’s 12 week creative development plan


In true TV style programme construction, lets start with a recap. Start with a life changing personal vision that motivates you to execute.

Set 3 Goals, what do you want to achieve at the end of 12 weeks? Keep in mind you won’t get a commission in that time, so adding that as a goal will be setting yourself up to fail. The Goal given our frame of reference should be in the form of pitch ready ideas. If you have been at this a while one goal could be a new idea, a second to get the last 12 week idea pitched and commissioned, and a third goal could be to write your novel’s first chapter or to get the VAT done.

These basic goals are the corner stone of the idea, the VAT is a serious notion, you simply cannot create with the boring and mundane hanging over you, the system is designed to get things done and dusted and keep a clear mind.

Each goal will have tasks attached more on that later, but let’s deal with the biggest challenge first…


I believe there are two types of idea, a professional idea and a non professional idea, let me clarify. We all have ideas and flashes of inspiration about all kinds of stuff, the ideas generated by these are non professional. I don’t mean they are not good ideas, on the contrary, perhaps my description of professional ideas will get the concept over. In a creative environment where people are paid for ideas they are locked in a room and given a task, to come upon with something creative. This is a professional idea. So when I say to my development team at the BBC we need a new stripped game show on BBC2, and the team gets to work to fulfil that brief, that’s professional creativity. When two people are at a dinner party and get talking, and one thing leads to another and they chat and come up with a great title for a game show, they wonder about how hard can it be? They spend the next 12 weeks refining the idea and send it to the BBC, it sits in a pile of other 3rd party (non BBC) ideas for a few months. Someone notices it because the title is good, the team get behind it and a deal is done and Fintan and Cathy become millionaires because they have devised “The Weakest Link.” That’s a non professional idea!

Having a non professional idea is Day one of the 12 week plan, sitting around to come up with an idea is day one of the professional 12 week plan.

good ideas

Clearly you want good ideas but what is a good idea? In the hard world of tv or most any other sector a good idea is one that sells. Yes I know I’d like to live in a world where a good idea is just that and we all celebrate a good idea with an improved life that costs nothing and makes the creator feel warm and fuzzy, doesn’t pay the mortgage though does it?

So we have to sign up to the fact that a good idea is worth money and also some times a good idea is just a good idea and nothing more, it won’t make a great TV show or any money. The other thing professional idea smiths do is research what ideas will have the best chance of being good, aka “selling”.

So development teams will look at the opportunity, competition and reward. Identifying a slot worth developing for. This can be depressing, what are the opportunities on Saturday night? We have Got Talent, X factor that’s almost 6 months of slots that will be very hard to get into, and actually it’s a waste of time to develop for any similar slot. The non professional ideas are not researched, but given these are “hobby” projects the need for reward is not so pressing and therefore these ideas may seem impracticable but they can at least sit in a file for years waiting for the right moment. Professionals have these ideas too but the only keep them as sparks of ideas and don’t waste valuable time developing until the opportunity becomes more likely.

where do ideas come from?

It’s not rocket science we all know ideas happen all the time and at any time, these are non professional ideas. The trick is capturing them and then executing or actioning those flashes of inspiration, most of us just instantly forget the idea or simply jump to the too hard, no time or not my thing frame of mind. If your vision means you are looking for ideas there’s also another down side, the moment you start looking your mind blanks! All of this is normal, just relax, people used to say carry a note book and pen, have one next to your bed etc. As it happens I actually do, I find pen and paper, with scribbles and crossing out, very creative, but you also have a phone, and if you are normal it’s never more than arms length away. Use that to record a spoken note or get a note app and writing it down, Evernote is great for this and I also use a OS/iOS app called things 3 for my todo note tracking.

Professional ideas come from brainstorming, or in plain English throwing a few ideas around. There are many techniques and academics dispute there effectiveness. My view is that blue-sky brainstorming lacks focus, I prefer set parameters and goals. I also believe that brainstorms are full of individual ideas that have been simmering in the minds of the participants,all generated when they were having non professional ideas. So brainstorming tends to really be about, “what do you think of this?” sessions. Many say no idea is a bad idea, so create a non critical session where no one is worried about speaking up. Well guess what, there are bad ideas and if you are so sensitive that being told so sends you over the edge, TV may not be your thing! (I think that’s an HR issue but hey that’s entertainment.)

But here’s the thing, you need to feed creativity you need to read, to watch, and to just move around. Do stuff counter to your actual task, go to art galleries, museums, to the pub, have a bath, this is where creatives get there eccentric status or even their time waster label. But all these things feed creativity and increase the chances of that flash of inspiration. And here’s an example of the issues creatives face. I was asked to mediate a session at IPC who publish many of the lifestyle magazines we read. I asked them to come up with an idea for a new magazine for 18 to 24 year olds, the room fell silent, I then asked them to do the same but for a new TV show, the room became alive with chat, arguments and what ifs. Ideas are the biggest challenge, feed creativity to maximise the chance of having and idea, and we are still only on day one of our 12 weeks!

There is nothing wrong with your idea being similar to an existing show too. Commissioners will always say they want new they want fresh. What they commission is the next iteration of a show or one in the same area, look at hole in the wall, total wipe out, ninja warrior and cannon ball. Each bettering the previous is somenway (cannon ball being the exception to that observation.

So part of the ideas process is to watch TV and know you slots and schedules. Follow trends and yes go for a drink, like me now, next….

Next comes development the start of the 12 weeks

Jonathan Glazier Cambridge UK

Creative Consultant


TV Format Developer

Executive Producer

TV Director


Part 2. Jonathan Glazier’s 12 week creative planning technique

Now some basics


For this system to work you need a vision, humm i can already hear the sighs. But creatively, vision is key and here we are talking about creativity. But lets be clear about what i mean in regard to vision. So your vision is to make a BAFTA winning TV show. That’s the worst vision you can have. You can have a goal of making a good TV game show, or drama, or some online content that gets some views. As I said BAFTAS are not won be great programme makers they are won by people wwho set out to make great programmes, just setting out to make a BAFTA winning show is not clever.

If at 7 or 8 you watched the BAFTAS and saw great speeches by David Lean and started dreaming that one day that would be you, that’s a vision because it motivates you be be the best you can be. If at 11 you got a paper round to save up for your own super 8 camera because you just wanted to tell stories on film for a living, that’s a vision because you have to be good for people to pay you. If at 22 you wanted to be the best multi camera director ever because it was the best job in the world and you dreamt that you could support your self and possibly a whole career maybe a family or a whole life doing something you loved, that’s a vision. It a vision of the life you want to die having lived. And its not too late to ever have a vision, I want to walk down the isle with each of my daughters and I don’t want diabetes but i do want to be buried with my own hips and knees, that’s a vision and my goal was to lose 50lbs, which I’ve done.


My point is that the vision, if big enough will provide big motivation to achieve your goals by executing your tasks. As a species humans are typically really bad at motivation or execution. You can tell people they will die from smoking but still that excuse of addiction is coughed up. Addiction is real, I know that, but a person who is addicted will act as though its not their problem as it’s the fault of the tobacco giant. All of which is true but to take responsibility with “I am addicted” is a huge step to envisioning a life clean from smoking and powerful motivation for giving up. Particularly if you couple that with and imagine you could have enough extra cash for… people take money over death under these circumstances.

12 times as fast

So your vision needs to be big, life changing, I mean really life changing and personal. Imagine standing on your yacht, or having the car you dreamed of. Or giving your family a new home. Freeing your self from stress with financial security. These big personal vision will drive you to your goals. And you will need several goal to achieve your vision on several sets of 12 weeks. But believe me you will get their much faster with goals over 12 weeks rather than 1 over a year. For the non mathematicians reading this that’s 12 times as fast!

Your vision is your life change, your goals are to make successful bits of content.

Next comes the first principals

Jonathan Glazier Cambridge UK

Creative Consultant


TV Format Developer

Executive Producer

TV Director