Is it a Prime Time to Pitch an Animated Series to the CBC?
On May 10, 2010 CBC Vancouver hosted an industry panel aimed at local producers and writers. On hand to answer questions about the CBC’s development process were Kirstine Stewart, General Manager, CBC Television; Sally Catto, Executive Director for Arts and Entertainment; Tom Hastings, Creative Head for Drama; and Anton Leo, Creative Head for Comedy. As stated in cheery hand-out folder, the purpose of the panel was to let the local production community know that the CBC is…
…“seeking fresh ideas for drama, factual entertainment, documentary, children’s, comedy and variety programming.”
These days at the CBC, “drama” means series and made-for-TV movies but not mini-series. “Unless they are about Don Cherry,” Stewart quipped. “Factual entertainment” includes reality shows like “The Week The Women Went.”
An Animated Discussion
The panel was asked if the CBC would consider developing an adult animated series. (The CBC airs a full slate of animated preschool and kids’ shows. See: www.cbc.ca/kids .) Anton Leo said that he has received pitches for animated series in the past but that they tended to be of the young male-oriented gross-out variety. The bottom line seems to be that in theory, yes, they’d consider a prime-time animated series but it would have to have a wide demographic appeal and be a good fit with the other shows on its scheduled night.
In other words, would there be a place for it somewhere in those two hours between Jeopardy! and The National? Would it be a good lead-in for Little Mosque on the Prairie or just the right program to follow Dragons’ Den? Could it match the astonishingly high numbers of Battle of the Blades?
The CBC exec panel noted that Fox TV presents its prime-time animated series in a block (Sunday night’s “Animation Domination” consisting of The Simpsons, The Cleveland Show, Family Guy, and American Dad). I gathered this meant it wasn’t something the CBC would be prepared to do, so you may now stop salivating at the thought of all that airtime dedicated to adult-oriented Canadian animated programming.
Someone mentioned the growing use of animation in documentaries, citing the Israeli film Waltz With Bashir as an example. Tom Hastings said they do have a feature-length animated TV movie in development (no mention of genre) but that animated movies have their own particular challenges including budget.
But say you’re not discouraged. You KNOW that Canadians are yearning for a prime time animated series all their own. Just what is the CBC looking for?
According to the hand-out, it’s: “clever, smart, popular, relevant television programming that resonates and entertains Canadians.” When Stewart joined the CBC, the average viewer’s age was 50. Her goal was to broaden the appeal of CBC with drama and comedy that had co-viewing potential: i.e. shows with sufficiently universal themes that everyone from teens to grandparents could relate to them. Some of the shows renewed for another season that met this goal are: Little Mosque on the Prairie, Heartland, Being Erica, and Republic of Doyle.
CBC Pitching Tips
How to pitch? Keep it short. Tom Hastings said he prefers a one to two-page pitch to begin with. Anton Leo said he likes an in-person or over-the-phone meeting with someone who can really convey the concept of the show. Although they said they’d read whatever materials you submit, scripts included, the panel said they like to get in early on creative development.
Someone asked if the CBC was interested in developing darker, edgier programs like Wired. The answer was “no.” Stewart made a distinction between series on cable and those on network TV. Like ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox, CBC wants its programming to appeal to a broad spectrum of viewers.
For more information on development, see: www.cbc.ca/independentproducers