The Society of Authors (SOA) organised a session, in London’s Barbican, called From Page to Programme – about turning your book into a radio programme.
The chair was Patrick Humphries, a Bob Dylan expert – and prolific broadcaster. The speakers were Jane Ellison commissioning editor for BBC Radio 4,Susan Marling whose production company is Just Radio and David Prest whose company Whistledown Productions pitches mainly to Radio 4.
– The way forward is to target a producer or production company, having sussed out what sort of programmes they do. ( Get the Radio Times for this.) An initial pitch should be about 200 words and should embue the recipient with an insatiable curiosity to know more. Link your programme to a celebrity, if possible, and tie it in with an anniversary. The BBC loves both, it seems. Come at your story from an angle and begin in the middle. Check out any archives related to your story.Was it covered 50 years ago? Then find the report.Focus on the dark side of an upbeat story.
Cyril Connolly wrote about the enemy of promise ( the pram in the hall) but he also pointed the finger at journalism. Susan Marling disagrees. “ Forget you’re writers,” she said. “You need to bend your work.” Hmmm. As a journalist and a writer I thought I did this already but, let’s face it, I could be I’m wrong. Marling was energising, though, and full of practical ideas.
David Prest played a couple of clips from two programmes he produced and talked hard about the amount of work that goes into a pitch eg checking facts, chasing up audio links and, here’s the rub, having original ideas.
Jane Ellison said that the BBC General Factual Programmes ( that’s her set up) plan a year in advance so start thinking now for 2014.
What shone through was the huge commitment to and enthusiasm for radio. I came to the Barbican with two ideas I had been incubating and not only did both firm up in the course of the day but a third idea moved in and took possession of my mind. Now I can think of nothing else.
Below is a list of useful websites:
To email bbc producers: email@example.com
Trade Mag for broadcasters www.broadcastnow.co.uk
The Radio Independent Group represents 2/3 of UK independent broadcasters www.radioindoes.org
The Society of Authors will check out contracts for its members. It has done for me in the past and was very helpful on one or two other related matters.