How to make a taster tape

The man behind Danny Wallace's How to start your own country, BAFTA award winning producer and documentary maker Lee Phillips, provides a few tips on making a taster tape.

A taster is much better than just having a name on a bit of paper. Commissioners are always keen to know who is going to front the idea. In your taster tape, your presenter will capture the tone and the attitude of your film. Look for someone who will stand out from the crowd, who can take direction, and ask yourself if they have a particular expertise that you can capitalise on.

The taster should prove to commissioners that you will have access to the right subjects, characters and locations that will feature in your programme.

Other characters
How your presenter interacts with other people is key, and can help bring out the funny, moving, and engaging soundbites that will lift your taster tape.

Don't spend much time or money
You don't need to use expensive kit and crew - the commissioners aren't looking for slick production values, and restricting yourself to a couple of hours filming and editing should deliver what you need. Even filming on your camera phone can capture a good taster tape, if it includes the right information pitched in the right way. Archive material with your own voice, simple graphics and even music can help join the dots and make a cohesive taster tape.

"To get your idea commissioned, it has to hit the three t's: timing, talent and territory." – Lee Phillips

The pitch
The taster tape is just one tool that will help sell your package. The proposal will always be the key element, however the taster will help back that up. If you're an independent producer, or someone who isn't attached to a production company, you'll need to find a production company who can then sell your idea to a broadcaster. Keeping a record of your contacts, with presenters and contributors, can also help make sure your value to the production is ensured and you don't get sidelined from the production if and when it comes to life. But manage your expectations of where you will be in the production process. You may not end up being series producer, especially if you've never done it before.

The three t's
To get your project commissioned, it has to hit the three t's: timing, talent and territory. Is it the right time for this idea? Have you got the right talent attached? Is this subject matter engaging? If you can satisfy these, then you stand a good chance of getting people interested and getting your project off the ground.