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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!