Can you make good TV?

The head of comedic development for Bell Media has good news for those hoping to break into television.

“It’s never been a better time to break into the industry,” Sarah Fowlie told about 30 hopefuls on September 17 during a development and production workshop for aspiring writers, comedians and performers at the Telus Convention Centre.

“With the advent of on-demand streaming media like Netflix and Hulu, there are more places than ever to sell programming to. It’s a very exciting time.”

In outlining what it takes to turn budding ideas into national television, Fowlie told her audience that she and her team are constantly on the hunt for new TV show ideas.

Canadians with potentially marketable concepts are encouraged to contact Bell Media’s Development Department in Toronto with a “one-sheet,”outlining the overall project, a three- to five-minute video (to offer visual texture), and a mini-bible containing pertinent information, such as character names, their relationships with one another and the overarching plot, she said.

Fowlie, who became an official Calgarian by pledging an oath and wearing a white cowboy hat, has multiple TV hits under her belt, most notably PicnicFace, Hot Box, The Jon Dore Show, A Russell Peters Christmas, Match Game and JFL All Access. 

At any given time, Fowlie has 15-20 projects in development, but that’s no guarantee they will go into production.

Bell Media’s umbrella spans a wide variety of channels, including CTV, The Comedy Network, SPACE, Much Music and Bravo, so if a show doesn’t belong on one channel, there are other options.

However, Fowlie emphasized the importance of being able to pitch ideas articulately and succinctly.

“You can’t afford to let me get distracted,” she said. “Don’t go into some long unnecessary diatribe about how your characters came to be. I want to hear about concept. I want to hear about characters.”

Also, don’t come into a pitch meeting wearing a costume,” she warned. “That’s the equivalent of putting glitter into your 8×10 headshot.”

It’s never been a better time to break into the industry. – Sarah Fowlie

Fowlie also spoke about the grey areas of intellectual property and the importance of ensuring ideas don’t get stolen.

There was plenty of discussion among attendees after the workshop, but none were willing to share their show ideas.

“You’d like that wouldn’t you? You tell me yours and I’ll tell you mine,” one attendee joked.

Many of those in attendance came away confident their TV dreams are achievable and that one day they would see their work on-screen in living rooms across the nation.

“By the end, I felt like it wasn’t so impossible to connect with people from the TV industry,” said Karlee McTavish, an aspiring filmmaker and late night talk show producer.

However, not everyone is going to be successful, the audience was cautioned, and there was advice on timing of submissions.

“Don’t send an e-mail every five minutes,” said Harry Doupe, moderator for the event and organizer of the YYC Comedy Festival.


About Kyle Lovstrom 4 Articles
As a writing and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Kyle Lovstrom worked as a reporter for The Press during the 2015-16 academic year.

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