Word on the Street

Rovers Return Inn on the Coronation Street set
Steventattum/wikimedia / CC BY-SA 3.0

Creative Writing student Hazel Clarke joins other Liverpool Screen School students for an intensive two-day pitching and storylining workshop with ITV staff

The first day of the workshops was dedicated to pitching, with the morning session a practice run for what was to come in the afternoon. The class was split into two groups, one preparing to pitch an idea for a game show around textures, and the other a reality show about men’s makeup and people’s reaction to them.

As a student attending the boot camp, it was fascinating to learn the stages of the pitch that ITV staff had to meticulously go through in order to get their idea commissioned: title and logline, pitch gimmick, blocking the commissioner, the pyramid of expectation, and the clincher. Each side of the class delivered well for their first time, especially since we were all pitching to John Whiston, who is the Managing Director for Continuing Drama in the North.

After the first test was over, we split into smaller groups, preparing to once again pitch to the ITV staff for a chance to go to Media City in Salford. Each group picked an idea for a television programme to pitch: a reality show about reality stars after their fame has ended, a drama about homelessness, a game show where a celebrity and normal person are handcuffed together, a drama about five women on a bus and their life stories, and my group’s idea, a true crime thriller which was given by Katrina Paterson, a third year Creative Writing student whose grandfather’s first wife had been murdered.

The pitches were given to the ITV staff, John Whiston heading the judging panel, along with: Ben Smith, a Development Producer who works on Popular Factual and Shiver; Matt Cleary, Emmerdale’s Head of Production; Jim Adnitt, Production Specialist; Nicky Gillham, the Creative Account Manager for Northern Productions and ITV Commercial; and AJ Read, the Publicity and Engagement Manager for ITV in the North.

Each of the pitches was impeccable but the ITV staff decided that the group who would be going to Media City were the ones who pitched the game show idea about a celebrity and normal person handcuffed together.

Creating stories for Corrie

On the second day, which was solely focused on storylining for Coronation Street, John Whiston and AJ Read were joined by Mark Bickerton, the Head of Editorial Engagement for Continuing Drama. He’s responsible for the huge Richard Hillman story on Coronation Street and the Cameron serial killer storyline on Emmerdale that we’ve all come to know so well.

The morning was structured as a typical storylining session identical to those they would have at ITV, each of us shouting ideas out and bouncing developments off one another.

Large group of students in a workshop roomThe afternoon saw the class split into groups once more, this time told to pick a story from this week’s episodes and write the continuing storyline for each episode the following week. 

One group looked at Roy, Cathy and Alex, another three explored Carla and Nick, and my group took on the Platts, focusing in on Sarah and her erratic emotions concerning Callum’s murder and their baby together. 

Each of the ideas was pitched to the ITV staff, and from there more ideas were generated, giving us a real taste of what working at ITV would really be like.

AJ Read, the Publicity and Engagement Manager for ITV in the North, had this to say about the LJMU students:

‘It’s always a pleasure to go to Liverpool John Moores and this time the ITV team was even more impressed with the level of dedication, understanding and confidence from the students. We always intend to try and help students gain a better idea about the industry, but it’s an added bonus when they give us a run for our money with their ideas, pitches and storylining – there was some really professional and impressive work. Well done once again, LJMU.’

This was a fantastic opportunity not only for myself and the other LJMU students to learn how to pitch and storyline, but also to create contacts with ITV staff, ones that hopefully can be maintained far into the future.

Visit Liverpool Screen School to find out more about their range of courses.

Image: Steventattum, CC BY-SA 3.0


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