And a do it yourself guide, just for you
You will find that people who work for TV channels are always praying for more channels to open up. That’s mainly because it is the only time these moral and ethical institutions offer a raise. With money comes great responsibility, so as soon as one hears about evaluations, the shah ke wafaadar executive producers and departmental heads tell the poor staff to submit concept papers since that is the time to prove supremacy over others and preferably to put a dent in somebody else’s career. For some a concept paper is a piece of cake, although they later screw up by writing columns like this, or by doing something worse. For some, however, it is a big deal. Worry no more; until the time my self-help book appears on bookshelves, make do with this:
To start off with the format, while you give the project specifics i.e., ‘Working title’, ‘Language’, ‘Duration’, etc, write your name as the proposed producer and not as the one who came up with the concept. That will save your department head the trouble to edit the document if the idea is good and he feels like sending it to the CEO. Always remember you never came up with any concept in your entire career; it’s always your executive producer who does that (he has to justify his job too).
Also, even if the programme is meant for everybody, never write ‘all’ or ‘universal’ in the ‘Target audience’ field; gives a bad impression. Instead, write ‘adult’, ‘children’, or ‘housewives’, and in parentheses give age, for example (20-65); looks cool.
Once you are done with one-liners, it’s time to get down to the prose part. The first customary heading is ‘Objectives’. Write at least a paragraph, if not more. Like the Pak Studies test, content doesn’t matter – nobody reads it. Just in case somebody happens to read it, you can never go wrong with something like: ‘the objective is to highlight social issues while giving information in an entertaining way’.
The second heading, since posterity, is ‘Concept’. Coming up with one is no issue; watch famous US and Indian shows, tweak a little, and explain clearly how yours is different from the show(s) you got ‘inspiration’ from. Make sure you mention all the shows that ‘inspired’ you – executive producers and department heads get very excited when they get to know about shows running around the world. That’s what they sell when they meet the saith (owner or the real boss) to prove they are monitoring everything under the sun. Make sure you know the names by heart because the chances are that your boss will not read anything; instead, he will just keep on staring at the paper and will ask you to tell what it is.
The third heading should be ‘Treatment’. From helicopter shots to vacating the whole 5-star hotel to shoot an action sequence, put in everything. Nobody will read it, but if the show actually goes on air and doesn’t get the desired ratings, you can always blame the management for not providing you with required resources. If it doesn’t work out very well, remember that it’s your idea after all.
And now we come to the all-important ‘USP’ (unique selling point). If your concept paper reaches the saith, this is something he will read despite hearing the whole concept from someone else – most probably your immediate boss. So make pointers and keep it short and crisp. Give it some time, and for this part use some brain as well.
You can always give a proposed guest list or proposed episodes run-down, but the most important heading at the end is ‘About the host’. Even if the show has a well-known host, give the impression that you don’t know her. If you are passionate about the project and really want to do it yourself, it is very important for your boss to know that you are not friends with the host, in fact you dislike her/him. The hosts are notorious for taking over shows, and along with the saith making all the decisions, and informing the producer (potentially you) about those decisions. If the producer doesn’t begrudge the host, the department head faces the prospect of getting confined to his lonely cell with nobody to have creative meetings with, nobody to talk to, and with having absolutely no idea what is happening around. Therefore, if you don’t want him to give the show to someone else he trusts, your boss must believe initially that you will keep him in the loop in the not-so-unlikely event of the host hijacking the show.
Other than the evaluation stage, where you must submit something to achieve the goals set for you in the last evaluation cycle; if you have an idea you think is good, somehow take it directly to the saith. Wait for him to come to the office even if it takes six months or a year instead of giving it to your department head, who will make sure to sit on it long enough for you to forget about it before pitching it in his name. Disregard the evil image your boss has painted of the saith to keep you away from him; saiths are generally great people interested in money-making ideas, so go to him if you have one. He will love you for it, and might even give you a raise. Although your immediate boss will hate you for it and will stop ‘patronising’ you, that will actually be very good riddance.