Creating a Television Program with a Good Story and Characters

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You Already Have A Good Idea

But is it a good 'story'? A story in television terms is the retelling for the camera of an interesting event or events. It must have a beginning, middle and an end. This has to be accomplished within the time frame of the program, whether it is 10 minutes or 110 minutes. Viewers have short attention spans and need to feel that they are watching a program that is going somewhere, and has some substance to it. It is vital that your idea is told as a story that will have a strong beginning, involve the viewer, and reach a satisfying conclusion.

What Makes a Good Story

'Dog bites man' is a story, but not one that will interest anyone. 'Man bites dog' is a much better story. It is unusual and immediately arouses the interest of the viewer - why on earth would someone do that? To make the story really stand up the dog should probably be of the furry friend variety, and not just any old mutt, and definitely should not have suffered in this encounter. So this could be a story of the 'skateboarding duck' variety. It is an amusing and unusual encounter between animal and man. The character that has done the biting must be interesting, and the production must have access to that character. He must be able to talk about it and be interviewed. To make a good television item out of this story you also need the two other elements - characters and access.

The Importance of Characters

Television is about people. Factual programming needs characters on the screen that are engaging and watchable. The best characters will give you breadth, action and even humor. One director I know came up with an exciting idea to film soap about life in a famous flower market. In his treatment he showed that there were many stories to tell based on the way the market changed from day to day, and season to season. His idea was a good one, but it was only saleable as a television program because he had identified several key interesting and distinctly charismatic characters. The stories created by these sympathetic market traders made fascinating television.

Watch any soap on television to see how important the characters are, and to see how they are worked into a storyline by the production team. Story and characters often go hand in hand.
How do you know if your main documentary characters are going to be a hit with the audience? This is not easy, but there are some things you can do to make sure they are not a total flop, and a waste of your filming time. Ask yourself these questions when deciding on your characters.

* Can he or she be natural in front of the camera?
* Does this person really capture my attention both to look at and to listen to?
* Would I like to see this person in my living room at home with my family?
* What sort of audience would this person appeal to?
* Can this person do the job I need him or her to do for this program?

If you are still in doubt, then the rule of thumb is can I work with this character? If the answer is yes to all or most of these questions then you should go ahead and book that person for your program. If not, then you need to look for someone else.

By: Bob Willson

Bob helps people understand the DISH TV Network and knows all of the DISH Network local deals for new customers. He has an in-depth knowledge of DISH Network HD services.

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