Friday 29th July 2011
Breakfast with Stuart Murphy
Director of Sky 1 and Head of Commissions
**This blog is for anyone interested in tv, pitching to Sky.**
I was lucky enough to come across a stray ticket (kindly given by a fellow actor Mo) to the Rushes Soho Breakfast at Bafta with Stuart Murphy.
I went along yesterday and was pleasantly surprised. Im not entirely sure about Sky but I have to say that Stuart Murphy is an amazing man.
Like Sky or not, this man has great visions for Sky, and british tv in general. I came away enlightened and excited by what he might commission, although a bit sad about the sci-fi (I'll get to that).
He started off by giving us the names of the heads of each department and their emails so we can send them pitches via email:
Entertainment: Duncan Gray
Head of Drama: Ann Mensah
Comedy: Lucy Lumsden
Head of Factual: Mark Sammon
And if in doubt or if it is for Sky 1 he said send an email to him.
(For email addresses please email me and I'd be happy to give them to you).
For Sky Atlantic - Elaine Pyke
The purpose of Sky 1 is that they are a family entertainment channel, they want broad shows that are family orientated, which give a 'premium service for free for Sky customers' (as in they dont have to pay extra for Sky1. They see themselves as younger/cooler/naughtier than ITV or BBC (main competitors).
Stuart brought a lot of this with him when he moved from the BBC years ago, he said even now, British tv is dated, outmoded and fairly bland. He wants to change all this.
He wants to commission more shows that are broad, but with a slight twist, yet not too far left of field (like The Mighty Boosh - which he confessed to liking).
Less Commissioning Shows
He explained that when he started at Sky it was a fairly blah service and they commissioned 20 shows with £100,000 budget each. Any producer worth their salt knows this is ridiculous and to get the quality you need to create a tv show you need a lot more than that.
So he cut commissions by a third, instead of 20 they commission 4 with great big budgets, however that does mean they are less likely to take a punt on unknowns creating a project. As he said, they want to work with established companies that can deliver what they need. Therefore its better to team up with a production company who already work with Sky. Even so, last year they took on a completely unknown writer who is now writing for Strikeback.
A good question came up of what have they tried that did not work in the past, and they wouldnt try again?
Surrealist comedy (too surreal - ie Mighty Boosh).
Even though he loves surrealism don't bother.
However a few good things he likes are
Comedy LOTS OF COMEDY.
But it needs to be comedy with heart, or as he termed it 'kind comedy', love, family, rural based.
Now coming up on Sky they've just announced their new shows which are airing soon and sound great fun,
The webseried now tv show 'Trollied'
This is Jinsey (not sure if that is correct spelling)
Spy (Looked hilarious!).
See bits of these here:
He started by explaining drama is trickier than comedy,
1 Its more expensive
2 You cant keep repeating all the peaks, it peaks and thats it.
3 It is harder to get an audience for it.
However they still do commision drama,
"What I love is when you meet someone who is so excited about their project!"
And he genuinely meant that. He wasn't one of those crazy execs who speak business jargon to your face and have egos the size of small planets. He was down to earth and open about what Sky is looking for and how you can go about giving it to them.
Strikeback - Action
Pratchett & Treasure Island (looks amazing) - Kooky/Adventure - Although there is a gap here too, they are looking for more adventure drama
Lyrical Drama - there is a gap here for someones amazing project. He admitted to wanting a 'Darling buds of May' Reboot. If you have one send it to him asap!
Also if you have a drama, dont give him a depressing one, he said after BBC, he's seen them all and got depressed by them all. Instead of druggies, single mums and homelessness he wants to see people winning! However thats not to say that you cant make a documentary pitch about these (they are looking for a domestic violence doc), as their doc department is also looking for new things.
Saying all this if you have
1 A List Cast
2 Brilliant and established producers
3 Sense of Epic
4 Sense of Naughtiness
Then you might just have the next Sky Drama show!
They are not doing any online series or games and admits this might be an oversight. They are interested but not hugely at this point. Still I'd send it in just in case!
Finally make sure your show has more than one level, great shows have on its surface one idea and underneath its about something else entirely. Eg. Madmen is about corporate drama underneath its about men and women, feminism and rights.
Tips for pitching:
2 page document send to the HOD
but its not about the document its about YOU, the person behind it.
Apparently the whole pitch interview for Trollied consisted of Stuart asking the writer all about her live, her interests, her family etc. Because just like a job they are interested in who you are, rather than just the content of your script. They need to see you are flexible, interesting, workable and able to work with them.
Happy pitching and Goodluck!