Kelly Gangoso


"I love developing a project that I really believe in. It doesn't happen often, but there's this excitement that you might have found something awesome..."

Although facing rejection is the nature of Kelly Gangoso's job as a development producer,  she never gives up on potential stories and ideas.

Photo by Lena Lewis

"I WORK AS a development producer - developing ideas, coming up with concepts, finding new talent, which we develop into pitches of series, one-offs, etc. These we then pitch to channels to get a commission (or, channels approach us to develop a beginning concept, which the idea that they'll commission it if they like what we propose).

It's difficult, it's probably one of every 50 pitches that gets interest, so it's about churning out a lot, all the time... we develop the ones that get positive feedback, but there are many which just don't pan out. All part of the business. Once it's commissioned and ready to roll, we hand it over to the Production team to execute it. So essentially we're the ideas people, and research people. I don't shoot a lot, but I do sometimes - my company likes to make sure we don't get too far removed from the realities of production. I shoot reels/sizzles for new ideas a lot.

Yeah, a day in my worklife would be incredibly boring because it's just me staring at my laptop, frowning, muttering to myself, and eating. NOT FUN AT ALL!  My day off would involve basically being OFF the internet...

I love when something I've developed gets commissioned or top ratings. It reminds me that I know what I'm doing, and that I'm in the right job. My least favourites are the most annoying parts of being on shoot: brutal van rides and bad roads, 4.30AM call times, and let's be honest, having diarrhea in the middle of the jungle. That really sucks.

One of my scariest experiences would have to be trekking in pitch black with incompetent guides who were drunk from baijiu. No one knew where we were, none of the GPS machines worked. They were also terribly unequipped with no water, food or lights. But that shoot is also one of my favourite memories and I wouldn't trade that experience for anything! Since then I travel with heavy duty headlights and flashlights and a treasure trove of medication for every type of stomach ailment. Oh, and I know how to fend off a potential rapist.

I always thought I would become a writer, journalist, or author. Writing's been a love since young, and I was making websites and zines since I was 14. I got a different perspective once I went to university. I had a rough stint at veterinary school (long story) and got kicked out, so after that it was all about just doing what I felt like doing. Law felt too much commitment but media seemed like fun.

Pretty much everything I've been paid to do has been related to media. I worked at DHL for a short while as a writer for their website overhaul - I would finish all the work in an hour and then spend the rest of the day writing a mediocre chick lit novel just to cope with the boredom, hah. I also worked with their marketing department. But corporate culture was filled with really unhappy people, so I took a huge pay cut and left for a media internship - that was over 4 years ago.

At university I did a conjoint degree of media and English lit, and I ended up doing much better in my media subjects. But I hated production and was disappointingly bad at scriptwriting. It was just my luck that I had a fantastic mentor in my scriptwriting class who noted that I was a lot better at critiques and developing other people's work... and that's how I got into the idea of development. I really owe it all to her steering me into development. When I scored this dream job and received my first business cards, I sent them to her (in NZ) with a thank you note.

I get inspiration for my ideas and concepts by reading a lot. My Feedly brings in over 1,000-2,000 every day and they come from a range of sources: news sites and blogs on science, tech, lifestyle, fashion, personalities, magazines, nature, new discoveries... everything! It's about translating something that catches my eye into a concept that would be interesting to a channel. Factual TV is moving more into entertainment, so it's becoming more about searching for certain types of people, groups, hobbies and occupations. This is where Google search and Youtube comes in.

I love developing a project that I really believe in. It doesn't happen often, but there's this excitement that you might have found something awesome... and that a broadcaster might agree and be willing to give you money to make it a reality. I shoot 2-3 minute reels to promote talent we have found or to give a teaser about a show concept that we've developed. These videos end up being part of our pitch to broadcasters to sell them on the idea -  essentially it's like our elevator pitch.

One thing people don't realize about being a producer is that it takes time to get better at this job. Have a listen to Ira Glass' advice about storytelling, the 'gap' and taste - and keep working. Your quiet achievements will come with each progressive year.

Diving with whale sharks

Photo by Keitha Haycock

On location at Mengyuan, China