A Q & A with Michelle van Beusekom, Manager of Program Development for CBC Montreal.
WHATÕS THE ROLE OF THE PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT OFFICE?
CBC has program development offices right across the country: in Montreal, Ottawa, Halifax, Winnipeg, Vancouver and Yellowknife. These offices are in place to strengthen relationships with regionally based independent producers and to help you bring your projects to CBC. ItÕs meant to give you easier access to network decision makers though a local representative in your own community. If you have an idea or a script for a drama, documentary, children's comedy or variety program, CBC-Montreal provides ready access to the network and potential development support via the TransCanada Development Fund (TCF). Local offices also coordinate industry events and arrange meetings with visiting CBC Programming executives. For example, on February 24th CBC Montreal is hosting a special information session for childrenÕsÕ producers with Kim Wilson (Creative Head, CBC ChildrenÕs Television). On February 28th, weÕre hosting a similar session with Andrew Johnson (Commissioning Editor, CBC News: The Lens). I-wire is another Program Development initiative meant to help keep you in the loop about whatÕs new at CBC and local productions airing on CBC.
WHAT IS THE TRANSCANADA DEVELOPMENT FUND?
The TCF is a development fund open to regionally based independent producers. It was launched in 2001 and is currently in its sixth year of operation. The goal of the fund is to work with regionally based independent production partners to develop entertaining and innovative programming for nationwide broadcast on CBC Television. The TCF accepts proposals for documentaries, drama, comedy, variety & performing arts, children's and youth programming, and new media projects. IÕm looking for projects that reflect this region, while still being appropriate for a national viewing audience.
WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR IN A PROPOSAL?
Proposals need to fit with the focus/mandate of one of CBCÕs programming departments. When I receive a proposal the first thing I look for is whether on not the project has a potential CBC home. If itÕs a documentary, for example, I consider whether or not it fits with the general parameters of The Lens, The Passionate Eye or The Nature of Things. If itÕs a comedy project, I look at whether it fits the programming parameters of that department. If itÕs a lifestyle series, IÕll suggest where else you might take your project since this isnÕt a genre that CBC currently commissions. Beyond ŅfitÓ, IÕm looking for fresh ideas, a creative approach and a well thought through and presented pitch document. Experience is also key. If you havenÕt produced anything for television before, then your first step is to partner with a company that has experience in the genre youÕre pitching. The development process is very competitive, so your proposal needs to present a very clear picture of your project, what it would look like, the demographic itÕs aimed at as well as the tone and POV it reflects. General show ideas that havenÕt been anchored on a unique approach, insight or perspective arenÕt of much interest.
HOW MANY PROJECTS ARE DEVELOPED EACH YEAR?
IÕm responsible for the TCF in the region of Central Canada (Quebec and regional Ontario). I receive roughly 250 proposals per year and put about 15 of them in development. Roughly 50% of those eventually make it to air. Projects airing soon on CBC that were developed with the participation of the TCF include the documentaries BraindamadjÕd: Take II (Apartment 11 Productions), Mommy, Mommy (Rezolution Pictures), the Genie-nominated short film Tuesday Morning Somewhere (Facteur 7) and next seasonÕs Opening Night presentation of Canticum Canticorum (Pichˇ-Ferrari Productions).
WHEN DO I SEND A PROPOSAL TO THE MONTREAL OFFICE AND WHEN SHOULD I SEND IT TO TORONTO?
You can send your development proposal to me, the network or both. It's your choice, but typically I can get back to people more quickly than the department heads and I can also get their attention pretty quickly if a project that crosses my desk appears to have CBC potential. The regional TCF development budget is independent of the network development budget.
HOW DO YOU COORDINATE WITH TORONTO BASED COMMISSIONG EDITORS AND DEPARTMENT HEADS?
Before putting a project into development, I need to know that there is a potential interest in the project at one of the CBC departments. ThereÕs no point in my developing a project that wonÕt be able to find a CBC home at the end of the development process. So when a project crosses my desk that I think has strong potential for CBC, IÕll talk with the corresponding Commissioning Editor or Department Head and make sure they agree.
YOUÕRE ALSO THE INDEPENDENT DOCUMENTARY UNITÕS REPRESENTATIVE IN MONTREAL. WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
I have a very close working relationship with the commissioning editors at CBCÕs Documentary Unit. In addition to developing 5-7 doc projects a year via the TCF, I also work closely with the Toronto team in assessing Quebec proposals and overseeing selected documentary projects that are in development and production. Producers with proposals written in French should feel free to submit their pitch document to me for an initial evaluation on whether or not the project could be a fit for CBC English Television.
DOES CBC-MONTREAL EVER COMMISSION INDEPENDENT PROJECTS FOR REGIONAL BROADCAST?
Almost never. Other than the 6:00 p.m. local news and internally-produced kidsÕ CBC segments, there are no other timeslots available to the region and the region doesnÕt have a programming budget. For the past four summers, we have broadcast a summer documentary series called DISTINCT DOCS, but the titles airing in this series are licensed on a strictly acquisitions basis. I donÕt know yet if DISTINCT DOCS will be renewed for summer 2006.
DO YOU STILL HAVE MONEY IN YOUR DEVELOPMENT ENVELOPE FOR THIS FISCAL?
Yes. The deadline for TCF proposals to be considered for the 2005-06 fiscal year is February 28th. The new fiscal year begins April 1, 2006.
More information on the TransCanada Development Fund is available online: http://www.cbc.ca/montreal/features/transcanada/
Visit CBCÕs Independent ProducerÕs site for more information on the various CBC departments and their programming focus: http://www.cbc.ca/independentproducers/
Submit your TCF development proposal to Michelle van Beusekom: firstname.lastname@example.org (514) 597-6355.
The information in i-Wire aims to be as accurate as possible. If you have any comments or suggestions, please send them to email@example.com
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