Top Tips: Producing Comedy
James Dean has enjoyed a lengthy career producing programmes for mainstream british television, starting out with factual programmes including popular shows ‘Come Dine with Me’ and ‘Supersize vs Superskinny’. He later moved into producing comedy, freelancing on the second series of E4’s Midnight Beast and producing the cult surreal comedy ‘This is Jinsy’ (Sky Atlantic.)
James recently visited Met Film School to talk to ourMA Business and Producing students about what to expect from the industry and how to carve a role for yourself as a Producer in the world of comedy. We caught up with him to find out more:
What advice would you give an aspiring Producer?
The most important thing is to find your project- the project that brings passion and energy to everything that you do. The next step is to surround yourself with a group of people which works for you; a writer, director and also a technical team. It’s important to find that right team who bring key ideas to the table and share your ambition around the project. What Met Film School does so well is to bring students from these disciplines together to collaborate early on so those connections are already being made.
What are the important issues to remember when pitching your project?
When you come to pitching a project you should pour as much detail as you can into them, making them innovative and distinctive. If you don’t have a cast attached to the project yet, imagine who you would cast and use this to help you to sell the project – it makes it easier for those who read it to really see it.
You should put yourself in the shoes of the commissioner and ask yourself “does it have a good format?” and “will this sell overseas?” The commissioner is looking for a show to last at least two series and have a sense of longevity in the pitch.
How can you make a move into the world of comedy?
I managed to cross over into comedy through finding a project with a group of filmmakers that I work well with. This is Jinsy was an idea that was ambitious and very distinctive. If you want to move into a particular area, you have to put the work in to make it happen for yourself. Do not wait for the perfect opportunity to come up, make your own opportunity!
Another good tip is to attend Edinburgh Fringe Festival, as you often find an act that you connect with and a lot of the performers are keen to get onto television! If you can’t make it to Edinburgh, get yourself into the London comedy scene and you’ll start meeting like-minded creatives.
And finally… what shows should we be watching?
W1A is great because it’s a format that really works. I loved Him & Her and also I thought The Trip (with Steve Coogan) was beautifully shot. In the US, I really enjoy Veep and Mad Men (for it’s distinct style)