What does a development producer do?
Development producers find stories and scripts and get them into good enough shape to be commissioned by a TV channel or made into a feature film.
They read screenplays, analyse their strengths and weaknesses and assess if they have potential and will appeal to audiences. They make notes on how it can be improved (script notes) and ask the scriptwriter to re-write accordingly. Development work on screenplays for film can often take a few years to complete. In some cases, it might take ten years before they go into production.
For TV drama, the role of a development producer may well also involve pitching concepts to TV commissioners. The pitch is usually a verbal presentation, though it is often supported with a treatment (a brief document summarising the idea of the programme), as well as a taster tape or sizzle reel (a short video illustrating, in the most exciting way possible, how the programme might appear).
Development producers are employed by broadcasters, production companies and screen agencies. Their responsibilities vary depending on the type of organisation they work for, but wherever they work, they are on the lookout for new projects and writing talent.
What’s a development producer good at?
- Knowledge of screenwriting: understand all the features of a great screenplay, know how to improve and amend one
- Knowledge of the industry: have extensive knowledge of and a passion for film or TV drama, appreciate trends in viewing, predict what will be popular
- Communication: pitch effectively, persuade commissioners or producers of the merits of a screenplay, explain notes to writers and work closely with them
- Spotting potential: see the possibilities in early drafts, imagine the audience, estimate the cost of the production based on the script
- Arts knowledge: have a deep and wide knowledge of all genres of art, be able to source ideas from a range of genres and understand the cultural context of a production