How to win a Prix CIRCOM award... well, maybe

There are no easy answers on how to maximise your chances of winning an award. These few words are offered by me as chairman of the judges over many years as result of the experience gained.

Neither I nor CIRCOM Regional can be held responsible if you enter and fail having followed these suggestions. That is because the judges change every year, tastes change every year and the competing programmes change every year. No two years are identical. No guidance can ensure success.

However...

 

Pick your category carefully
The toughest category is without doubt “Documentary”. The judges probably see 20 programmes which are of superb standard. Your chances of winning in this category are far lower than in other categories. Check out the possibility of entering other categories, even if your programme is in documentary form.

 

Read the judges’ reports
Every year, a very substantial document is produced in which the judges’ comments on each programme are set out. They give superb clues on what the judges are looking for, what impresses them and even what annoys them. Also, every year, the chair of each category makes comments about the range of programmes submitted. These also give very strong indicators of weaknesses in submitted programmes and hopes for the following year. About half the judges from last year’s judging will attend the following year, so their views could still be influential. This Judges’ Report is available in printed form at the conference and also on the CIRCOM website on THIS PAGE

 

Target your efforts
With the above information, you could start looking usefully at categories such as Most Original and Innovative, Young Onscreen Talent, – or maybe Entertainment and Drama. Attack the categories with fewer entries than, say, Documentary and judges are always looking in these categories for new faces and new ideas. There are many missed opportunities!

 

Try a new category
Categories usually take a little time to be noticed by entrants, so attract fewer entries in the first year especially. Keep your eyes open for changes in categories and be among the first to enter. Notice that Entertainment now adds Drama and what was Music now adds Arts. There are fresh opportunities here. Spot them before others do.

 

Good story in a bad programme?
You can still win with a short piece of high quality hidden in a weak programme. For instance, News Stories For All requires only 5 minutes – and it encourages direct delivery. The category Europe is similar: it just needs one good story well told.  Also both categories permit TWO entries for each regional station – so there’s double the chance of winning.

 

Great moment in a boring programme?
The Most Original and Innovative category asks only for a moment of inspiration or evidence of innovation behind the camera. This does not have to be sustained throughout the programme, so the judges can be flexible and encouraging.

 

Trust in youth
The Young Onscreen Talent category is a great opportunity to parade talent and encourage young on-screen talent. In recent years, the entries have been fewer than hoped – so the category offers a great chance of giving you a winning chance. Take it and enter! What’s more, in 2018, you can have not one but TWO entries in this category for every regional station!

 

Avoid travelogues
These may make popular and easy viewing in your region. But the judges almost always demand something more challenging as a category winner. The travelogues may have beautiful scenery and the station may be very proud of its region – but this is not enough. Good characters may improve such programmes but the quality of storytelling is often missing.

 

Avoid re-fighting old battles
Like travelogues, history programmes can be a core part of regional television as a region’s history is explored in the tensions (and often atrocities) of the past. However, there are many of these programmes presented to the judges and they often fail to be distinctive. They can make interesting historical reflections and essential regional viewing - but do not often produce winners.

 

Add helpful background information
The judges do read the supporting information carefully. This offers a great chance to argue the case for your programme. You can explain why it is significant in your station’s history or output; or why it was so difficult to produce; or the impact it had; or even other awards it has won.

 

Read the category criteria and the Rules carefully
If you are disqualified, it is often because you have failed to fulfil the requirements of the criteria or the rules. It is pointless, as one region did, to seek to enter a programme without subtitles. The rules are clear and are there because it is impossible for judges to speak every language in Europe: we have to create a common language. Nor does it help to enter but say that rights issues prevent any agreement to transmission by CIRCOM members should you be a winner. Check first that rights are available as required by the Rules of Entry.

 

Consider how you came to choose your content
New in 2018, the Rules and criteria now require a station to make clear how content can be “bottom up” and not just “top down”. If you are proud of how your audience involves itself in stimulating your content and news stories, make this clear – and the judges will take note.

 

Show how flexible you are in reaching your audience
New in 2018, judges will also look for how regional stations distribute content and what opportunities there are for interactivity. If one of your possible entries demonstrates this well, do enter. Again the judges will notice.

 

Double your chances of winning
New in 2018, four categories will offer TWO chances of winning rather than one for each regional station: News Stories For All, Europe, Video Journalism and Young Onscreen Talent. These are all short-form content (the first two have maximum length of 5 minutes) so this limits translation and subtitling costs. There is no need now to make hard choices on what or whom to enter: Enter both!

 

If you have a query, ask
Once the competition is launched, I cannot give advice beyond these words. I will, however, explain any rules which you do not understand clearly.

 

Good luck and best wishes, 
David Lowen

President PRIX CIRCOM Regional and Chair of the Judges