The Doc Fix

The complete solution to solving story problems in Factual TV and Film

What does it mean when a story isn’t working? Answering this question is the key to producing a successful TV programme - in every genre.

Story is complex, mysterious and endlessly fascinating - but also frustrating. With so many hard-won elements in a TV programme - a hook or unique take on the material, special access, amazing characters, cinematography, music and sound design - it can be hard to see that the reason a story hasn’t taken off is due to problems at a much deeper level of structure. Like a building with poor foundations, a programme without a solid structure is always close to collapse. Whether a fly-on-the-wall observational documentary or presenter-led history programme, get these right and your programmes will fly.

For the first time, in this day-long seminar, Nigel will share his unique approach to fixing stories. By exploring story at its most fundamental structural level, it will give you the security to recognise and fix story issues - from development to problems in the edit. Issues such as: Why does the story run out of steam? Why do we have to remake the opening over and over again? How can we produce a satisfying ending? Why does it seem like a list and not a story? How can we make this story work at feature length - and what exactly is missing? What does it mean when the chronology of events doesn’t seem to match the story you are trying to tell? Why does this just feel wrong?

Nigel Levy
Beginning at the BBC, Nigel Levy is an award-winning writer and director who has both worked in Hollywood - directing stars such as Sharon Stone, Mia Sorvino and Christina Ricci - while also creating and producing successful Specialist Factual series for US TV and Emmy nominated drama-documentary. Most recently his skills have turned him into one of the most in-demand story fixers. From story development to help in the edit Nigel has ‘fixed’ natural history documentaries with David Attenborough and high profile documentaries in the genres of history, science and the arts, for BBC2, BBC4, Channel 4, Netflix and multiple global broadcasters. He has taken programmes from un-broadcastable to becoming RTS nominated, multiple award-winning, and critic’s choice in national newspapers in a matter of weeks.

His approach is based on the latest theories in story analysis. Using before and after samples from multiple examples of his work, this seminar will cover:

  • What a story is - and the difference between a story and a tale.
  • The concept of the story mind, and how we can explore the argument a story is making.
  • The difference between structure and story telling. How both are vital skills, but how it is essential to separate out the two and identify where your problem lies.
  • Throughlines. How breaking open the story into fundamental through lines gives you complete control and the ability to add richness to the story without compromising elements you already possess.
  • What exactly is an act, where does this idea emerge from and how can we use them in our structure?
  • Genre and theme, which naturally emerge from structure. How can you define them, or find them, in your programme?
  • How do you accurately add drama or jeopardy? Option locks and time locks and how having both will only confuse your audience.
  • The danger of reacting to your story rather than constructing it.
  • What do we mean when we are asking a character to go on a ‘journey’?
  • Fool-proof ways to know the scenes that are needed to begin and end your film.
  • Pitching - designing a story based on the profile of your intended audience.
  • How a solid structure can then lead to creative and novel directorial choices.
  • Software tools that can help you with the process.

These are fundamental insights that can help any story that you are working on, in any genre. From commissioning editors watching a cut that just isn’t working to pitching an idea, these concepts will give a security in understanding story that will stay with your throughout your career.

Those attending will leave with a toolkit which will allow them to understand story in a fundamentally different way and give them all the new solutions that they need to resolve the vast majority of problems in factual programmes.

Participant Profile
Development execs, producer and directors, executive producers and commissioning editors. These skills are essential to anyone who comes in contact with a story at any level.