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Content Development - TFT00024C

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  • Department: Theatre, Film, Television and Interactive Media
  • Module co-ordinator: Mr. Simon Van Der Borgh
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: C
  • Academic year of delivery: 2021-22
    • See module specification for other years: 2022-23

Module summary

Bringing your first year at York to an exciting and creative climax, Content Development will give you your first taste of how ideas are worked up and stories refined in the professional worlds of film and television.  You will work intensely and intensively in three key areas: narrative drama, long-form non-fiction (documentary) and formatted drama and factual programmes.  Sessions will operate on a boot-camp model. Just like the professional world you will be asked to work on your ideas quickly, with carefully targeted research and in terms of industry standards and criteria.  And you will be asked to pitch and explore the potential of your ideas and stories with your colleagues in lively round-table discussions led by the department’s leading teaching-staff.  The module will allow you to pull together and apply all that you have learned previously in the year. It will call on you to think through stories and narrative structures, to deploy production techniques and technologies and to apply theoretical ideas and history so that successful films and TV shows from the past inform your ideas, and new creative departures, in the future.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Summer Term 2021-22

Module aims

This module is designed to acquaint film and television students with some of the procedures – and the associated critical thinking – required for turning raw ideas into screen content, both fictional and factual. Using an intense, ‘boot-camp’ mode of delivery, it will provide students with insight into and understanding of a professional creative environment relevant to contemporary film and television production practice where ideas have to be generated and delivered on a regular basis. These ideas are then researched and developed at speed, sometimes under pressure.


This module will:

  • Introduce the basic principles of story research (for both factual and fictional programmes)

  • Explore the necessary disciplines for identifying, seeking out and recording potential ideas

  • Provide core guidelines for judging the necessary technical and practical requirements to make ideas work

  • Introduce the analytical tools for evaluating existing formats and screen story structures, and judging their applicability to new subject-matters.

  • Equip students with the core skills required for proposal writing and presentation


The academic and graduate aims include:

  • Developing critical thinking: understanding previous practice, and critically evaluating how to develop and explain (screen) ideas.

  • Facilitating independent working and self-directed research

  • Encouraging co-operative working on reflective criticism and project improvement

  • Working to deadlines and schedules

  • Writing and presenting materials for professional audiences.

Module learning outcomes

Upon completion of this module students are expected to be able to

Subject content

  • Understand what constitutes a viable screen idea – fact or fiction

  • Possess the core skills for researching both the subject-matter and practical aspects of screen content

  • Apply the storytelling skills explored in the prior (term 1) “Story” module

  • Possess the ability to communicate screen content ideas in writing and in verbal presentation


Academic and graduate skills

  • Understand how to work to schedules and deadlines

  • Work independently to meet deadlines, and to explore the potential of ideas

  • Work co-operatively and effectively with colleagues on ideas and projects

  • Critically analyse content ideas and their industrial and cultural contexts and assess the value of previous industrial and creative practice

  • Present ideas and proposals compellingly and efficiently


Other learning outcomes (if applicable)

  • Develop regular topical reading habits in order to generate ideas, and to engage with issues in the external world generally.


Task Length % of module mark
1500 Word Programme Proposal
N/A 75
Oral presentation/seminar/exam
5 Minute Presentation/Pitch
N/A 25

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
1500 Word Programme Proposal
N/A 75
Oral presentation/seminar/exam
5 Minute Presentation/Pitch
N/A 25

Module feedback


  • Reports on class participation will be compiled session by session and might be reported back within a week of formal teaching ending.
  • Presentations will be marked in situ – and might be reported back within two weeks.

Indicative reading

  • Bernard, S. C. (2007) Documentary Storytelling. Amsterdam and London: Focal Press.

  • Thompson, K. (2003) Storytelling in Film and Television. Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press.

  • Potter, C. (2001) Screen Language: From Film Writing to Film-making. London: Methuen

  • Holland, P. (2004), The Television Handbook. London; Routledge.

  • Chater, K. (2001), Research for Media Production. London; Focal Press

  • Lees, N. (2010), Greenit: Developing Factual and Reality TV ideas from Concept to Pitch. London; Methuen Drama.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.