What makes a great ‘factual’ format?


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SQ and ABC iview recently launched a search for the next thing in factual formats – great ideas for returnable series that can entertain Australian audiences aged between 18 and 35 and then sell around the world.

So what makes a great format? Here are a few things to think about.

> Formats, from Grand Designs to Go Back To Where You Came From, are the exploration of a slice of life with an ambition to elucidate or entertain – or both. Hugely varied in content and approach, there are some common elements that many of the best contain.

> There’s a hook that connects with the audience, a mystery or a promise from the start.

> They may feature ‘ordinary’ people but these are always compelling characters.

> There are stakes in the stories. Sometimes societal. Always emotional.

> There is a structure in each episode – the format points – that keep the audience coming back, knowing what they’re getting but never how it will play out each time.

> The best formats are entertaining ways of smuggling big ideas about the world in which we live.

Some questions to ask yourself:

> Is your subject one that the iview audience will care about? Is it an issue important to them? Is it relateable for 18-35-year-olds in other parts of the world? Has it been done before?

> Is your idea contemporary? Is it distinct and original? Is it ambitious? Spiky? Risk-taking?

> Does your format have the potential to entertain? Does it have the potential to cut through and be talked about?

This brand new program is not an opportunity to rehash and restructure existing ideas for documentaries and factual series, but instead, a chance to think BIG, think fresh and create something new and relevant for young Australian audiences that will resonate around the world.

Applications close 5.00pm (AEST) Monday 11 April 2016. For more information please visit the factual formats page and read guidelines here.