Accelerator Project’s Jon Kroll and Melissa Conway are behind the scenes with ‘Extreme Cake Sports’ producer Bevin Linkhorn.

Accelerator Project’s Jon Kroll and Melissa Conway go behind the scenes with ‘Extreme Cake Sports’ producer Bevin Linkhorn, middle.

A Wellington-based kids show has caught the eye of an American producer.

‘Extreme Cake Sports’ is the brainchild of producer Bevin Linkhorn, from Wellington-based production company Good Times.

Bevin is a producer, script editor, and development executive. He’s worked across the screen and live performance sector for more than 20 years.

His show combines sports and competitive baking and involves intermediate-aged students. It aired on TVNZ in 2022 with help from NZ On Air. A second season will screen on Sky, Radio New Zealand, and YouTube in 2024.

Keen to elevate his show to the international stage, Bevin took part in the 2023 Screen Accelerator Project. 

Producers Melissa Conway and Sean O’Donnell of Tall Poppy Films run the Wellington-based programme. It’s led by Emmy-award winning Hollywood producer Jon Kroll, of Avocado Entertainment Ltd, who now lives in Wellington.

Piloted in 2022, the programme provides opportunities to pitch to international production companies. With support from WellingtonNZ, UNESCO City of Film, and Yoobee College of Creative Innovation, the 2023 project involved a series of workshops. Held over six weeks, it pitched to domestic and international buyers.

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The workshops helped Bevin and 17 other participants develop unscripted content ideas for pitching. Their target was US production houses, and they were given direct access to a wide range of streaming platforms in America.

Through the project Bevin tweaked the original format of his show and, as a result, it has attracted overseas interest.

“Through working on the project and getting feedback I’ve been adapting the format to work for a wider ‘family’ or ‘co-viewing’ audience so it appeals to a wider range of channels and buyers,” says Bevin.

“I’ve got interest from an LA-based producer who responded well to the pitch session. She’s been watching full episodes and wants to talk further. I’ve also got feelers out in Australia and interest from other companies too. Watch this space!”

‘Extreme Cake Sports’ involves teams of young athletes who face challenges on the field and in the kitchen. The show combines the action of sport with the sweetness of cakes.

Production of season two took place over a week. It involved 20 teams of three intermediate-aged putting their skills to the test in sports and baking.

Points scored on the sports field go towards ingredients each team’s baker needs in the kitchen. If they don’t earn enough points on the field, they don’t get the ingredients in the kitchen.

Project co-organiser Melissa says it’s good to see Wellington producers take up opportunities to get in the room with buyers.

“It’s great to feel you’re doing something to boost the industry. The really exciting thing is the project has helped to open avenues for producers like Bevin to expand his reach internationally.

“It’s why this is so much more than simply a training course. It’s a professional project that offers authentic opportunities.”

Of the 18 participants in 2023, 12 pitched their concepts. Nine received follow-up interest from both domestic and international buyers. Four had interest from multiple platforms.

Jon says there’s high demand across global streaming platforms for unscripted TV content. Streamers are seeking out competitive and reality series like cooking, documentaries, docu-series, docu-dramas, and game shows.

As results already show, the accelerator programme is providing a vital pathway for Wellington producers to access the US and global television marketplaces.

“New Zealand producers have proven to be remarkably adept at harnessing their creative superpowers and unleashing them on global buyers. The buyers have been responsive and want more — this is only the beginning,” says Jon.

A dark blue flag with the ‘Extreme Cake Sports’ logo displayed in the centre of it.