The only way is social: TOWIE’s production process

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TV production is something that really interests me. Having brushed up against it a few times in recent years, I thought I could learn a little more by listening to the BBC College of Production podcasts.
They have turned out to be a real find, and I highly recommend them to anyone involved in any kind of media work. Even if you don’t work with TV, hearing about other people’s creative¬†processes are really useful.

One episode on “constructed reality” programmes was particularly interesting. The bit where Tony Wood, who created The Only Way is Essex ¬†(TOWIE to its fans) shares his production approach with his enthralled peers reveals how groundbreaking this show has been.

Some may be be snobbish about the show’s content or fans, but the craft and invention that has gone into that show is really amazing. Each episode is produced in four days and costs double what an episode of soap like Hollyoaks does, such is the intensity of production resource – 130 people full time – required to tease out stories and situations from its cast (of real people).
Wood also talks about how the show was always designed for social media. Because recording happens so close to broadcast, and – as the show’s spiel has it – “these people are real”, the moment it airs, the cast are all reacting to what they are seeing, finding out things, talking about how they are being portrayed.
The TOWIE experience for a fan isn’t just the twice weekly shows – it is constant, persistent. The stories spin out through newspapers, gossip magazines, Twitter, Facebook, real people, media and the show itself.
Looking for transmedia narratives, for two-screen/three-screen TV? This is it, folks. Sorry it isn’t on BBC4…