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Thursday, 17 April 2014

The Quick TV Questionnaire: Alex Ayling

There are plenty of chances for us to share the television we love on the GEITF blog (and also on our YouTube channel), but we thought it was high time we let a few other people have a go...

We asked Talent Schemes committee member and YouTube Channel Manager for BBC Worldwide Alex Ayling to share some of his favourite programmes, nostalgic memories and boxset picks, and found out why he'd want to be friends with House of Cards' Frank Underwood.

1. Childhood favourite?
There was a children’s TV show called T-Bag in the 80s which was about an evil witch who hid out in random pieces of junk (I think she was miniaturised or something) plotting nefarious schemes, but was always vanquished by a plucky young heroine who had to collect magic objects in every episode. It had series-long narrative arcs that changed each year and pre-figured the era of Joss Whedon’s “Big Bad” by a good decade. I remember it being very affecting to me as a kid, but I’m sure it has aged dreadfully – so have resolved not to look it up on YouTube!

2. The popular show I just can’t get into
Even though I ought to be slap bang right in the middle of its target demographic, I can’t quite seem to get into The Big Bang Theory. Perhaps it’s the sheer number of episodes looming ahead of me that terrifies a perfectionist completist like me... But I also just can’t shake the feeling that these nerds are being laughed at, not with, and that just sounds like being back at school all over again

3.The programme I have on series link It might be shorter to list the shows that I don’t have on series link to be honest, I tend to devour as much as I possibly can. This year though, there has been one show which was elevated even above series link status in our house, as I found myself tuning in at 9pm every Wednesday to watch Keeley Hawes’ amazing turn in Line of Duty. I can’t remember the last time I made an appointment to view for a non-live show, so they must have been doing something right.

4. The last boxset I bought was...
Game of Thrones S3 – I don’t have Sky Atlantic, so I’m about a year behind everyone else on GoT. Fortunately I’ve read all the books so I’m unlikely to be spoiled. And anyway, with that show you should go into every episode thinking that your favourite character is about to meet an untimely end, as half the time you’re probably going to be right.

5. Guilty pleasure?
I fundamentally disagree with the entire concept of a guilty pleasure. If you like something then you should be proud of liking it! I could list all the critically-acclaimed dramas and worthy foreign imports to counteract the next half of this sentence, but you’ll still not see me much more excited than when the votes start coming in from the Eastern Bloc during Eurovision.

6. Reality show I’d be most likely to apply for...
I’ve always quite fancied going on The Apprentice. Not because I want to work with Lord Sugar (we’re just not Twitter compatible) but because I think the tasks they do always look like loads of fun and the house they stay in is always preposterous. I’m pretty sure I could come up with some winning hyperbole so the producers could hoist me by my own petard during my inevitable downfall and I’d also do a great line in two-faced snarkiness about the other obnoxious contestants in the talking heads.

7. The TV character I wish I knew in real life...
Maybe it’s my masochistic nature betraying me, but part of me kind of wishes I knew Frank Underwood from House of Cards. If I did know him, everyday life would be that much more exciting – not knowing whether I was going to get a sudden promotion or a one-way ticket to purgatory (or worse!) but at least it would never be boring.

8. If my life were a sitcom, it would be…
W1A (even though I work in W12).

9. TV theme tune I can’t get out of my head
My colleagues who sit near me have said that I frequently tap out the percussion line from the Doctor Who theme, but the weird earworm that I can’t seem to shake right now is the theme tune to Adventure Time.

10. Cancelled show I wish they’d bring back
Twin Peaks. Bring back Kyle MacLachlan for the first episode and then kill him off (again?). Cast Summer Glau as a hotshot FBI recruit sent to the town to investigate the murder. Russell Tovey can play her on/off love interest and Jessica Lange would make an excellent log lady. David Lynch would produce, Vince Gilligan would script and Ben Wheatley would direct. Come on Netflix – what are you waiting for!?

Alex is part of the Festival's Talent Schemes committee, who are responsible for the editorial direction of the schemes and selecting their delegates. The members of the committee are individuals who have extensive knowledge of the industry and are passionate about the future of the media. 

To find out more about our two talent schemes - The Network and Ones to Watch - visit the GEITF website:

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Tomorrow's responsible leaders | Lisa Campbell

"Prune the raspberries to make way for new growth," declared broadcaster Michael Buerk this week.
Essentially, his point was that to make way for the fresh-faced in this industry, we need to ditch the wrinklies.

Not surprisingly, his comments met with cries of ‘ageism!’ and ‘sexism!’ Yet exactly how new talent breaks into this industry is a perennial problem. Forget whether the golden oldies are hogging all the plum jobs or not, the more immediate questions are: do you have to be from the right background/part of the country/university? Do you need to know someone?

It’s ironic that an industry obsessed with youth and keen to appeal to increasingly fickle 16-34-year-olds makes it tricky not just to get in, but crucially to get on. Attending an RTS Futures event last year, an AP with a string of decent credits told me he was on the brink of quitting as he could not see how to progress his career, and as a freelancer, felt there was little support from employers. His remark prompted similar comments from the other 20-somethings in the room.

This is why we’re keen to extend the aims of one of the festival’s new talent initiatives, Ones to Watch. Traditionally, we’ve focused on identifying and supporting tomorrow’s leaders; now we want to find tomorrow’s responsible leaders. We want to find people who are not just determined to make great telly, but determined to make a difference to their industry, whether it’s around diversity, working conditions for freelancers or through a willingness to mentor others.

As well as benefiting the wider industry, those prepared to rise to the challenge will reap personal rewards: a free ticket/accommodation for this year’s festival and a tailored programme of events. Last year’s lucky delegates had their own Q&A with Breaking Bad’s Vince Gilligan and BBC1’s Charlotte Moore. They also joined an impressive network of alumni including: Myfanwy Moore (ITV), Kate Quilton (C4), Cameron Roach (Sky), Kim Shillinglaw (BBC), Katy Thorogood (ITV), Andrew Zein (Warner Bros) and current advisory committee members Anna Fern (ITV) and Neale Simpson (RDF).

We’ve helped over 4000 individuals to get in and get on in the television industry so far and we know that between us, we can do more.

The deadline for entries is fast approaching – 27 April – so recommend the best here: 

Or encourage them to apply here:

We are also hosting a Ones to Watch surgery on Wednesday 23 April in central London. This informal drinks event is an opportunity to learn a bit more about the scheme and chat to our alumni about their experiences. You can register for your place here.

Good luck!

Lisa Campbell | Festival Director

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

6 Format Regenerations You Need to Know About

As ITV confirmed that Through the Keyhole would be returning for a second series, we were also excited to announce that the Festival will also be welcoming Keith Lemon back, to host a very special version of Controller Through the Keyhole.

Through the Keyhole is part of a literally-glittering lineage of quiz shows that have been regenerated, rejuvenated or reformatted across the years (and even across continents). Here are 8 more that you need to know about...

1. You Bet!

You Bet! was a staple of Saturday night British telly in the 80s and 90s, but the original German version is still running on channel ZDF, with the same core idea of celebrities making wagers on whether normal people will be able to complete difficult or bizarre tasks - including a blindfolded farmer recognizing his cows by the sound they made while chewing apples, or this cool character popping balloon by doing The Worm. Attracting top-ranking celebrities including Angelina Jolie, Karl Lagerfeld and Bill Gates, Wetten Dass is one of the most successful Saturday television shows in Europe.

2. University Challenge

Decidedly peppier than it's UK spin-off, the GE College Bowl was the predecessor to University Challenge. Where Bamber Gasgoine (and latterly Jeremy Paxman) have focussed on intense academia and a compact filming style that's led to generations of viewers thinking the show has a two storey set, the College Bowl had a far sportier style: all college pennants and meeting the "coaches" before the big game. The questions were just as hard though.

3. Mr & Mrs

Proving how well you know your respective partner is the foundation of many a good quiz show, but Mr & Mrs has it down to a fine art. The format originated in Canada, with the first British version being a Welsh language version called Siôn a Siân, which still runs on S4C. Subsequently hosted in English by the likes of Derek Batey, Nino Firetto and Julian Clary, the show's celebrity spin-off All Star Mr & Mrs is currently filming its sixth series.

4. 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown

Like retro Instagram filters and typewriter-style iPad keyboards, 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown beautifully blends the old with the new, as Jimmy, Sean & Jon wreak comedy havoc whilst still actually playing Channel 4's longest running quiz (trivia fans will probably already know that Countdown was the first programme to be broadcast when Channel 4 launched), all under the watchful eyes of Rachel Riley and Susie Dent . We're also very excited that Rachel will be bringing some Countdown glamour to our We Love TV Quiz in May, which she'll be co-hosting with Mark Watson.

5. Catchphrase

Brought back to TV screens in 2013 with Stephen Mulhern, the revived version of Catchphrase retains all the charm and character of the Murray Walker era, just with whizzier graphics and more contestants. Mr Chips is still around and it would seem that there's still every opportunity for hilariously lewd-looking reveals, as Kimberley Walsh, David Walliams and Emma Willis found out on the most recent Mother's Day Special...

6. Through the Keyhole

And of course, we couldn't finish without having a closer look Through the Keyhole! With the ever-industrious Keith Lemon taking on the role of both host and tour presenter, the last series nosed around the houses of Mary Berry, Mel B and John Prescott, to name a few, and we're looking forward to many more in series 2, as well as finding out what going on through t'keyhole of some of TV's big decision makers in Controller Through the Keyhole.

GEITF delegates will be treated to home truths and juicy secrets at Controller Through the Keyhole on 21 August 2014 - the opening session for this year's Festival. To ensure your place, book now and get the discounted Early Bird rate too!

Friday, 28 March 2014

#WeLoveTVQuiz - The Answers

To celebrate the announcement of our two wonderful hosts  - Rachel Riley & Mark Watson - for the unmissable 'We Love TV' charity quiz, sponsored by Dave, we ran a mini #WeLoveTVQuiz over on our Twitter account @EdinburghTVFestQuestions and answers are all below. 

And if they've whet your quizzical appetite, why not enter a team for the quiz? A firm favourite in the TV calendar, the event, which takes place on May 13
th in the sumptuous surroundings of Café De Paris, raises money for the Edinburgh TV Festival's new talent schemes – so a chance to show us your support, as well as showing off your TV trivia. 

And alongside your battle with TV rivals, you’ll also get to race against the famous Countdown clock in our letters and numbers rounds. So dust off your times tables and start assembling your A-team. Plus, can anyone knock last year’s winners, the mighty Endemol, off their perch? All the details, including how to book, can be found on our website, and if you enter before April 4th, you'll receive the special Early Bird rate.

Q1: What links: A Save the Children charity shop, House of Fraser, a knicker factory?
A: They have all been helped by last year's Alternative MacTaggart speaker Mary Portas

Q2: According to Mr Hamilton in the Fawlty Towers episode, there are four main ingredients to a Waldorf salad. Name three of them.
A: Celery, apple, walnuts, grapes

Q3: Which esoteric BBC4 panel show did Mark Watson host with Tim Key and Alex Horne?
A: We Need Answers. And Mark will of course be hosting the real life We Love TV Quiz on May 13th too.

Q4: *Picture round* – Which two famous faces have we morphed together?
A: Oprah Winfrey & Alesha Dixon

Picture Round 1 - Oprah Winfrey & Alesha Dixon
Picture Round 2 - Alan Carr & Jon Snow
Q5: What links Mad Men, E4 & Broadchurch?
A: They’ve all won at the Channel of the Year Awards (and you can too. Enter here:

Q6: Who recently featured on the first episode of W1A, arm-wrestling?
A: Alan Yentob & Salman Rushdie.

Q7: In Gavin & Stacey, when Dawn and Pete renew their vows, how does Dawn express her love for Pete during the ceremony?
A: Reading the lyrics of ‘BEN’ Michael Jackson

Q8: Where will the follow up to Educating Yorkshire be filmed?
A: Walthamstow, Frederick Bremer School

Q9: *Picture round 2* - Which two famous faces have we morphed together?
A: Alan Carr & Jon Snow

Q10: Who is taller: Ant or Dec?
A: Ant

Conscious coupling | Lisa Campbell

Lisa CampbellNo doubt your "hearts are filled with sadness" at the "conscious uncoupling" of Gwynnie and Chris, so we've embarked upon some conscious coupling of our own to help ease your pain.

These two are as beautiful (ok, one of them is) and as talented - but crucially, they'd be much more fun to go for a pint with, which is why we've brought them together to host one of the best nights out in the TV calendar - the festival's annual We Love TV Quiz.

Step forward Rachel Riley and Mark Watson who, with help from our lovely friends at Dave, we've lined up to host one of the most fun, competitive and, yes perhaps, drunken nights out you'll ever experience (with the exception of Karl Warner's leaving do).

We'll be mixing TV trivia with some Countdown rounds, so dust off your dictionaries and brush up on your arithmetic, ready for battle. It's one of our key fundraising events, so enter your A-team now. Book a table here.

Our aim as a charity is to foster new and diverse talent in the industry with The Network and Ones to Watch schemes. We all know how hard it is to get a foot in the door in an industry which, like the charge levelled at the BBC's arts plans this week, is "too London, too white and too establishment". So if you know a promising individual who'd benefit, please encourage them to apply. The deadline is fast-approaching (The Network: March 30, Ones to Watch: April 27)

Recommend an individual for Ones to Watch or read more about The Network.

And while I'm cracking the whip, there's another deadline to bear in mind - entries for our Channel of the Year Awards close on Friday April 4.  There are several categories up for grabs, including the new TV Moment of the Year, so submit your best work now. And unlike most other award schemes, they are free to enter.

The festival's sessions are shaping up and this week we bring you news of what are bound to be two of the most popular. Want to see how the other half live? Join Keith Lemon for our opening session, Through the Keyhole with the Controllers, where he'll be sniffing out the secrets behind closed doors (literally, no doubt).

Meanwhile, the controllers will be on stage again as we reveal the results of our latest commissioning survey. Will we see the improvements promised at our last festival?

It was one of the most talked-about sessions, and with more channels taking part, it's set to be the same this time around.

We look forward to seeing you there.

Lisa Campbell  | Festival Director

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Ladies and gentlemen, I have a screen

We were at BAFTA’s Television Lecture this week delivered by Lenny Henry CBE. In his important and often entertaining speech, he proposed a pathway to ensuring that more television productions use Black and Asian Minority Ethnic performers and production staff.

With statistics from the latest Creative Skillset report, Lenny made the compelling case for immediate action to tackle the decline in BAME people working in the TV industry. Here are some of the highlights from his lecture:

"Between 2006 and 2012, the number of BAMEs working in the UK TV industry has declined by 30.9%
“Want some more evidence? Here’s another rocket-propelled statistical grenade for you. In the last three years the total number of BAME people in the industry has fallen by 2,000 while the industry as a whole has grown by over 4,000.” 

“Black British Oscar-winning filmmaker Steve McQueen –damn, that sounded good, I’m gonna say that again.”
“The evolution of BAME involvement in British TV seems to lurch one step forward and two steps back - a bit like John Sergeant on Strictly Come Dancing, except he had a job at the end of it.”   
“I have a screen. I have a screen where great programmes are produced by the multi-cultural many, as opposed to the mono-cultural elite.” 

On the BBC’s promise to represent the nations and regions: “The promise was to represent the UK’s nations, regions and communities. The BBC has kept its promise for the nations and regions but what about communities? More precisely, the BAME communities?”
To the audience: “ You have it within your power to effect a radical change upon this appalling situation. Let your greatness blossom, and let’s just see how great our generation can be.”  

Photos: BAFTA/Jonathan Birch