How to get a TV network to say “Yes”

January 21, 2018

We recently were part of a Canadian delegation of factual documentary entertainment television producers that went to the UK to promote coproductions between producers and television networks the two countries. As part of the event, attending producers presented demos of their work, as well as info on their companies.

When it was our turn to present, we showed our reel, which heavily features our series “Mushers: Conquering the Yukon Quest” a factual documentary about the Yukon Quest 1000-mile dogsled race, that we had recently delivered to Quebec-based cable network Canal D for airing on their channel.

Following the presentation, a number of Canadian producers were curious to know how we’d managed to sell a production about a dogsled race to a TV network. Many of them had tried to pitch the idea to networks before but had failed.

The fact is that the Yukon and Alaska have been in fashion in the factual world (the term factual denotes everything from documentary to lifestyle to reality television) for quite a few years now, and almost every television network has pitched a dogsled race when featuring this rugged, remote and unforgiving region.

So how did we do it?

Back in 2010 we had just completed a documentary about French-speaking population in British-Columbia and we thought it might be interesting to do a similar documentary about the French-speakers living in the Yukon Territory.

In order to get a broadcaster interested in doing a documentary on the subject, we needed to do some preliminary research, at our own expense, to know if there may be something worth making a film about. With a population of less than 34 thousand, of which less than 1,200 are considered francophones, we did’nt know if we could do something worthwhile in the Yukon.

Every summer Red Lette Films hires a student to come and help with our projects. It’s significant help to us, but also gets them valuable work experience. Sophie, our summer student that year loved the thought of featuring French speakers in the Yukon. She came to me and said: “If you let me do the research, I’ll pay my way there.”

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