What Makes Development Tick?

Speakers: Meghan Cassin, Senior Director of Development, National Geographic Wild and Jessie Springer, Coordinator, Development and Production, Nat Geo Wild

It’s a space race for commissioners and programme makers, and there’s lots of competition to win a commission and win the best films – so how do you go about giving your pitch the best shot? Meghan cassin and Jessie Springer of Nat Geo Wild gave us their take.

What to do and not to do at a pitching session.

  • Always start with a question
  • Pitch in a concise manner – really hone your 5 minute elevator pitch
  • Always listen to feedback
  • Either pivot or pass – make sure you go in with a back up idea incase they pass on yours
  • Always remember to follow up afterwards

The role of an agent.

Agents are used more in the USA than in the UK, but they can be great in helping producers build their business and link in with bigger platforms. Agents can provide background and knowledge of where you can take your ideas, and are often well connected.

Nat Geo takes both ‘represented’ and unrepresented ideas.

The Development Deal.

These give the network an exclusive window of – 90 days usually- before the idea is greenlit.

Where to take your idea?

Some networks have high ratios of hours per year, and they are easier to pitch to. Always remember to ask them what their programming needs are ( ie how many hours per year) . Know the brand; ensure you have a clear idea of the network’s identity and vision and the things to change if you are taking it to a linear or digital platform. TV networks that have more established teams and heirarchies are easier to navigate, whereas ditital platforms are more tricky.


It usually takes 4-6 weeks to get approval .

It really helps to network with executives and make connections at a personal level – and to establish your personal brand. Your personal brand is what you’ll bring to the pitch- they’ll get many similar ideas, so you need to stand out.

Don’t be too precious – work with your executive to mould your idea.


Tips for newcomers with ideas to sell

Ideally it helps if the newcomer comes with some key skills and is open and humble enough to be partered with a more experienced producer to make their film. Networks can set up ‘speed dates’ to match newcomers with producers.

Nat Geo Wild – Pitches they want to see.

Nat Geo Wild are looking for vibrant uplifting ideas – Blue chip stunts like Shark Fest and Big Cat Week work well. They have 52 weeks of blue chip programming.

They are also looking for something that has unique access

How important is a sizle reel?

The pitch is usually anchored by the talent, a treatment is key which outlines the tone, style, camera kit/ act breakdown.

If Nat Geo Wild passes on the idea, who owns it?

If the network asks you to explore an idea, assume that it’s the networks idea. If you take it to them, assume its yours.

What are the Lead times

How far in advance should you pitch an idea – when are the next gaps in the Nat Geo Wild slate?

Blue chip July 2021

Character led – July/Otober 2020 to air

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