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How Do I Pitch a TV Show?

I recently had this inquiry from a relative newbie (I think) to the business:

“I have a question I’m hoping you can answer for me. From a business stand point how does one pitch a show to a major network or company? I see reality shows, movies, adult and rated R content and I wonder how they got that meeting. LOL. I would appreciate any answers and suggestions you could give me. Thank you for your time.”

Now, aside from the “LOL”, I think it’s a great question, so I’ll share with you my answer:

Well that’s a big question that could be answered in detail in an entire book, no doubt.

But the short answer is:
  • The networks only let in the “approved” people to pitch.  “Approved” means someone they know through previous experience or that comes in through a trusted entity – an agent or production company.
  • But it’s a bit of a Catch-22 at the beginning.  A producer with minimal credits needs to find an agent.  Almost no agent will take on a producer with minimal credits.
  • Some larger production companies may take a cold pitch (meaning from someone they don’t already know), but that’s difficult at best to make happen.
  • In this business, it all comes down to who you know.  Find a well-known or very experienced producer or director or writer, see if you can get any interest from them.
  • If you’re able to interest an agent or production company, AND they like your pitch, then they may set up a meeting to pitch at the networks.
  • To properly pitch, you need to have more than an idea.  You need to have fully fleshed out your project – whether it’s scripted, reality, or anything else.  Know the characters, know the themes, know the look and tone, know the basic story backwards and forwards.  Be able to discuss your show from every angle. Think of episode storylines if it’s scripted.  Think about what we’ll see in each new episode, and why we want to come back again.
  • It all comes down to telling a great story with great characters (whether real or created).
  • If you can shoot a presentation that shows what the project is (especially good for reality/non-fiction shows), do that.  If it’s scripted, shoot a short for it.
  • Have a logline (one line sentence saying what the show is), a concept paragraph, and a full page explanation of the show.  My typical “pitching treatments” are 15-25 pages, made for me only, describing everything in great detail — it helps me know the show really well.
  • If it’s based on a real person or book or movie, you’ll need to have the rights secured.
That’s the short answer, the best I can do here!
Hope this helps…
— TG

Now, of course, if you asked 50 professionals in the business about this, you’ll get 50 different stories, since the one thing we do know is that there are no rules in Hollywood…

Posted in Career Advice, Hollywood.

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