Wednesday, February 4, 2009

My Interview with Nicola Lees

Here it is, the moment we've all been waiting for!

My interview was with Nicola Lees, of TV Mole. It's a fascinating website that...wait, what am I doing? I'll let her tell you:

Ruth: What is your website, TV Mole, all about?
Nicola: It's all about inspiring and informing factual TV Development - in other words, helping TV professionals and aspiring filmmakers to originate, develop and pitch their ideas. There is 'Be Inspired' section to help spark ideas, there are links to industry resources, and also a series of how-to (have ideas/write a proposal/pitch) articles that you can read as a masterclass, or dip into as a refresher. My ambition is to have people say that they couldn't have got their idea commissioned without TVMole - for me, that would be the equivalent of an online dating site celebrating a wedding. I have my hat ready.

Ruth: What inspired you to create TV Mole?
Nicola: I've been developing ideas for seven years, and have amassed a huge number of resources that inspire ideas and help me do my job. It made sense to compile all the interesting snippets and insider intelligence in one place for easy reference, and that turned into an email newsletter that spread virally. I had requests to turn it into a website, so TVMole has evolved partly in response to that demand. I'd also noticed that there are many resources designed to help screenwriters develop and pitch there scripts but nothing to help factual TV producers develop their ideas - and although the information is out there, it's spread around and not that easy to track down if you are just starting out. There is a tendancy to think that good ideas only come from senior people within the industry (there are number of reasons why they are more successful than less experienced people, but they're not necessarily anything to do with the quality of their ideas). TVMole's mission is to demysitfy the process and encourage everyone, whatever their level of experience to get involved with development - hopefully the commissioining editors will soon have an avalanche of exciting and original ideas landing on their desks.

Ruth: You have a very impressive resume, having been involved in numerous aspects of the development of factually based TV (originating, researching, writing, etc.). What is your favorite role, Mole?
Nicola: That's a tough one to answer. I'm always having ideas and love bouncing them around with people who 'get it', ie. those who understand that creativity is about being collaborative, constructive and reciprocal (unfortunately not everyone is like that). However, I also enjoy the challenge of giving those ideas shape in a good proposal, and I find that really satisfying. I don't feel like I've done a good day's work unless I've written something.

Ruth: What is your favorite kind of show to work on (art, science, etc.)?
Nicola: I have spent a long time developing science and history programmes, so that's my default, but I've also enjoyed developing lifestyle formats.They're different beasts - for specialist factual programmes (art, history, science, religion, natural history) you usually start with researching a subject and then weave a narrative. With a format, it's more usualy start with the structure of the programme and the story is driven by the format points. My favourite thing to do is mix two opposing genres, but that kind of behaviour can make the commissioners nervous. However, when it works, it can be extremely successful, for example: cooking + stadium sports = Iron Chef; business + reality = The Apprentice / Dragons' Den (sadly none of those were my idea).

Ruth: What would you consider your most important pursuit, outside of TV?
Nicola: To live life rather than just get through it. I try to get outside my comfort zone as often as possible by learning new things, going to different places, meeting new people. When I lived in NYC, I listened to my iPod as walked to work over the Brooklyn Bridge every morning: the sky was usually bright blue, and the rising sun at my back gave the Wall Street skyscrapers a golden glow; it seemed like every day was full of new opportunities. Now I'm back in grey London, I try to hold onto the feeling I had in NYC.

End of Interview

To see this interview on Nicola's site, click HERE.

To read the rules, so you can get in on the game yourself, click HERE.


  1. What an interesting interview! It's great what motivated people can accomplish!

  2. It certainly is (to both statements)!

    BTW, I'd enjoy interviewing you, if you want to play.