Report – Commissioner Conversations BBC

Posted on: Thursday 08 July 2021 6:51pm by Cate Zerega

Takeaways

  • BBC Children’s has moved to an open-door pitch policy, and ideas can be pitched when ready, no need to wait on the calendar. 
  • The team welcomes ideas rooted in British culture that reflect the variety of lives of kids growing up in the UK today.
  • New and platform-agnostic voices/projects are welcome.


Patricia Hidalgo and her team announced the Ignite initiative during this session. Ignite seeks to fund animation from both established and new voices with ideas rooted in British culture and relevant to British children growing up today. Sarah said she was eager to get started leveling the playing field with real funding for British animation from different voices. 

Patricia stated that the biggest change during her tenure at BBC Children’s has been to increase the pace and boldness of commissioning so that there is the right mix of content across BBC platforms to welcome and keep young audiences, content that moves as quickly as the young audience’s consumption. 

BBC Children’s now has an open-door policy for pitching to the integrated children’s and education teams, so a single pitch has the opportunity to get commissioned by two teams. Commissioning and acquisitions have merged in order to deliver one ‘platform agnostic’ content strategy based on age groups 0-6 and 7-12. The advantage of the open-door pitch is that producers can bring ideas when they are ready (rather than having to wait for a pitching window).

BBC Children’s is trying to meet the challenge of big-budget, global streaming services by going local, reflecting the lives of UK children. This means that they are open to co-productions if they help bring the best content to the audience. Having found success balancing an array of content, the decision was taken to invest more in animation via the Ignite initiative to help balance the live-action slate.  

Helen Foulkes commissions the majority of her year in April, so she encouraged creatives to reach out to her to get on the list so they can be updated on what’s coming next from education. Helen’s next big commission is for Bitesize, addressing climate change, which is the number-one concern of children. 

Michael Towner will be commissioning a greater volume of fewer titles for ages 0-6. He has found the most commissioning success when he utilizes a less prescriptive approach and trusts content makers to bring their ideas to him. This partly speaks to the consistency of the 0-6 age: what has always worked for this audience continues to work. Content in which kids see themselves and their lives reflected back to them does well. Michael seeks unique, high impact, multi-platform projects. 

Sarah Muller will be commissioning for 7-12s, with an emphasis on what children want when they are self scheduling their content, having something for everybody and curating tonally different content. Sarah is excited about the opportunities for animation for 7+, as well as more content coming from the BBC Writersroom in 2021. 

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Cate Zerega

About the author

Cate Zerega

Freelance Production Coordinator

Cate has worked as a nanny, a talent agent, in casting & production. Cate’s resume means she no longer fears anything and has sunblock & headshots always about. She completed an MA in the screen industries in 2018 & works passionately to promoting female filmmakers. Read more