Screen Forever 2024: “We’re really trying to avoid shows starting with a dead female body”

Four Drama execs reveal what it is they are not looking for in new script pitches.

At the recent Screen Forever conference, four drama executives from Public Broadcasters and Subscription TV were asked to reveal what it is they are NOT looking for…

The answers varied depending on their audience, budgets and current development slates.

Rachel Okine, Head of Scripted, ABC:

“I’m not looking for (Young Adult) at the moment. I think there’s ways to reconceive a project that once could have been YA, but become something much more multi generational such as (Stan’s) beloved Bump.

“There’s a way you could have told that story that was very much just focused on the high school characters and their journey and that would have been one version. But there are those really meaningful story arcs for the parent characters as well and then you’ve got something that would work for ABC I think.

“But YA on its own, not looking for that. Not looking at the moment for Horror, SciFi, anything too fantastical, we’re preferring our stories for the moment to be grounded. That’s mainly because I don’t believe iview is a destination for that kind of content at this point.”

She added, “We’re also not looking for Adult Animation at this point in time. A few people have asked me about one-offs but right now we’re focusing on series.”

L to R: Rachel Okine (ABC), Julie Eckersley (SBS), Lana Greenhalgh (Foxtel Group), Amanda Duthie (Stan).

Julie Eckersley, Head of Scripted SBS:

“No Kids, Comedy, YA, Feature films, and we’re really trying to avoid shows starting with a dead female body.”

Lana Greenhalgh, Head of Scripted, Foxtel:

“I’m really reluctant to ask this question….six months I would have said no Kids, no Horror, but actually Kids are the future -who knows what will happen in that space? Look at Talk to Me.

“I guess we don’t have a firm commissioning strategy around Feature films yet. So unless it’s something really distinctive or based on very specific, broad IP, then maybe it’s not quite right for us at this stage. Until we see how (How to Make Gravy) goes later this year. But honestly, if you feel like you’re watching Binge and Foxtel and you’re seeing a gap, come talk to me.”

Amanda Duthie, Head of Originals, Stan:

“In the scripted space, it’s half hour / one hour fiction. We’re open to genre ….. some YA but really, it is in that more co-viewing multigen approach.

“What are we not looking for? We look at a lot and we just want to be open to surprises. A half hour can be a dark drama. It doesn’t have to be a comedy. A one hour can be comedic. It doesn’t have to be a heavy drama.

“We’re looking for super-muscular, looking for hope and love. We probably don’t think about romance or rom com. enough in Australia. It’s not the space we orientate ourselves to, as a sector. But definitely the audience does. So I would encourage people to think about that. And also with our partnership with the ACTF, please do think about family films.”

Almost all commissioning execs at the conference reiterated the importance of being surprised by a pitch for the show they didn’t know they needed.

7 Responses

  1. Let’s be real here, they have no idea what will resonate with viewers, and this is just a list of things they don’t want. They’re as clueless as everyone else!

    1. That’s a fairly simplistic view of a story I took time to write. At conference they did outline their areas of success, which is based on viewing numbers and data. The story chose to focus on what they are not looking for, which is pretty clearly framed. Sorry if it wasn’t to your liking.

      1. David, you are often defensive re critical feedback. If you don’t welcome an expression of all views, then disable comments. The churlish tone seems overly personal, given Idiotboxing’s rather innocuous comments. And the criticism was directed at the commissioning executives, not you. Idiotboxing wasn’t shooting the messenger, so why do you?

          1. These things are not mutually exclusive – they can be both clueless about what they do commission and certain about what they aren’t looking for. As someone with experience in this space, commissioning a series is a complete shot in the dark. As the showbiz adage goes, ‘nobody knows anything’. The comical part of your piece was how confidently these executive speak about a job that is largely guesswork – and judging by ratings, usually a miss not a hit. The problem is that these executives exist in silos largely divorced from their audience. Hence, an endless stream of outback/rural nourish sludge with the necessary cultural/social handwringing to secure funding and/or meet guidelines.

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