SuperSizer – Interview

Neil McCallum

Neil McCallum is Development Executive Producer at Hungry Bear Media, leading the team at Pacific Quay in Glasgow.

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He was part of the most recent SuperSizer programme, which brought Development Executives together from throughout the Nations and Regions for a six-month training programme that focuses on generating big ideas for returning series. We caught up with Neil to chat about his experience of the training.

Why SuperSizer?

“I had limited experience of pitching to commissioners before starting at Hungry Bear. My career path is slightly different in that I moved into commissioning very early on and grew at Channel 4 for eleven years. I had experience of people coming to me with ideas, but it’s a completely different ball game when you’re selling your own ideas to a commissioner who is being pitched to by lots of different people – how do you stand out in the crowd?

For me, taking part in SuperSizer was about knowing I’m at the top of my game when I’m in those meetings – fully prepped, knowing what I’m selling and having troubleshot the issues we might come up against. Ultimately it was about ensuring I’m better equipped to sell myself, sell the ideas and sell Hungry Bear to get us that big break.

I recently had two back-to-back meetings with Channel 4 and can genuinely say they were two of the best pitch meetings I’ve ever had, and I don’t think they would have been anywhere near as successful if they had happened before SuperSizer.”

The development process

“Development can be a bit of a dark art, but the course has given me a comprehensive check-list that I can always refer to, so that when I’m pitching to our Head of Development and Creative Director before taking an idea to a commissioner they aren’t going to push back with questions like ‘who’s it aimed at?’ or ‘I thought the channel wanted…’ – you can think a bit more about why you’re selling something in a particular way. It’s about finding the holes in the idea and plugging them so that when you’re selling ideas internally or to a commissioner you have reasons to back up the idea, and there’s something quite satisfying about that. Some of that definitely came from commissioners talking about their ‘do’s and don’ts’, which is all pretty fundamental, but I’ve been sharing that with my relatively small development team to ensure that we’re constantly reinforcing the quality of our ideas.”

Support Network

“What surprised me the most about the course was how candid and open everyone was. We were able to talk very openly about issues we might have – be that with a line manager, a commissioner who is unresponsive or with a junior member of your team who isn’t on board. Everyone dropped their guard and there was an immediate support network with the group. I didn’t sign up to the course with that in mind, but it quite quickly became a reason you would look forward to subsequent sessions.”

The production sector in Scotland

“It was great to get a deeper understanding of the indie sector in Scotland. I’ve only lived here for two years, but you realise very quickly here that everyone wants to help one another out. SuperSizer is almost an extension of that – sharing knowledge with your peers, recommending good people for work and generally supporting the sector. Meeting peers from throughout the Nations and Regions was great too, and I always keep an eye out for when their shows air. Being part of this network really benefits Hungry Bear.”

Commissioner access

“SuperSizer really makes you question why you work in certain ways and gave you confidence in your work. We interacted with so many people over those seven sessions – there was a real momentum and every session was tackling a new issue or channel. To have the access to such high-level commissioners in Glasgow was amazing and after every session I was able to feed something new back to my team – whether that be Jo Street’s ‘do’s and don’ts’ for pitching or new intel from Channel 5.

The course exceeded my expectation and I can’t recommend it enough. Whether you’re a head of development, senior in development or looking to grow your wings, it’s a unique and invaluable opportunity.”

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SuperSizer is an original training concept by TRC.

SuperSizer is funded by BBC Nations and Regions, Channel 4 and Screen Scotland.