EVERYBODY dreams of finding the ‘the big one’ — the shape-shifting, game-changing, generation-defining format that will surge around the world, making headlines, breaking records and earning its creators eye-popping amounts of money.
But what would you do if, as an experienced and successful producer, you seriously thought you’d come up with an uber-concept? How would you go about protecting it before launching it on an unsuspecting — and untrustworthy — world?
The answer, at least for the respected Welsh production company Yellow Duck Productions, was to turn to FRAPA. “We believe we have created an idea that is completely original, has never been done on television before and has the potential to revolutionise the industry’s financial model,” is producer/director Paul Lewis’ tantalising description of the concept, now safely housed in FRAPA’s format registry. “We’re about to send it out to several broadcasters simultaneously, which we hope will start a bidding war. But before we do that, we need the peace of mind that comes with being able to demonstrate a line of development. Our lawyers recommended FRAPA, so we joined up last month.”
Lewis, who has devised some 25 game-show and panel formats over the past six years, is best known in his native country for the critically acclaimed BBC1 Wales documentary series Coming Home. Now in its sixth season, the celebrity-led family-history show has unearthed the Welsh heritage of around 25 A-listers since it launched in 2005, including Olivia Newton John, Susan Sarandon, Terry Jones, Michael York and Michael Sheen.
“Our first guest back in 2005 was Donny Osmond, whose family left Wales for the US in 1868,” Lewis says, observing that the show is “old-fashioned television” in the sense that it is meticulously crafted, painstakingly researched and comes, as a result, with a hefty price tag.
“Each programme takes three months to research,” he adds. “And there’s nothing you can do with that research once the show’s gone out except throw it away, which makes it relatively expensive by today’s standards.”
But that level of care and attention also makes Coming Home compulsive viewing — and is undoubtedly why the format, which airs as DNA Discovering New Ancestors in Canada, New Zealand and Australia, has been nominated for three BAFTAs, draws event-sized audiences across Wales and spectacularly outperforms its network percentage.
All of which indicates that Lewis — whose production credits include the BBC lottery series, Challenge America with Erin Brochovich and Channel 4’s comedy game show Distraction with Jimmy Carr — knows a strong idea when he sees one. “But great minds think alike,” he says, referring to his mega-format-in-waiting. “It happens in this industry the whole time: you come up with a show you think is unique only to find something very similar has just been commissioned by a rival broadcaster. So with a big idea — and this one has been six years in development — it makes sense get something down in writing, just in case.”
All that now remains is for Yellow Duck’s concept to live up to its PR and “push back the boundaries of television”. Watch this space.