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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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8 Responses

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  1. Suzanne Herlihy says

    Logline:

    What would you do if you were an ordinary cop , and living an ordinary life ?

    Your girlfriend has been forced to go to an island!
    Once there you are tricked into being part of a crazy experiment!
    It leaves you as a flesh-eating cannibal!
    They try and cure you.., but it leaves you as a vampire!
    They thought that you are going to die. So they decide to clone you!
    Now you must raise a clone son and deal with being a cop during the day
    and drain people of their blood at night! A serious conflict!
    The government is very interested in your anti-aging and healing properties!
    Your survival and that of your family’s survival depends on one thing?!
    You have built your Vampire Empire …,one baby at a time …,in ” Blood Relatives–Vampire Detective Series”.
    “Family must endure!”

    There is a surprise Vampire virus cure! (Garlic) They use it to have children and
    then turn back into vampires…, as they see fit.
    There are no vampire myths left to be broken in this series!
    (Think True Blood–only wilder!)

    ” Blood Relatives ” is a fiction, horror, romance, crime, mystery drama that I’ve written for television. This is also in book form…
    I have 60 Epic TV Episodes available. Over 1,000 scenes.

    Blood Relatives is a TV series…

    Suzanne Herlihy
    6 farm lane #442
    Roosevelt, NJ 08555
    WGA east

  2. ellissa says

    Would a producer with a pitch idea, ever pitch a show to a network/studio without copyrighting it or registering it first? If the producer had a deal with the network/studio, like a first look /development deal, would they pitch it without registering it? Would a network ever go to pilot without having the producer/creator/writer of the show register or copyright a script or treatment? Would network/studio want validation of ownership before it shot a pilot or went into series production? Thanks for any info on these questions.

  3. Pablo Arredondo Iglesias says

    help to interview Tim gibbons

  4. Earl says

    Well I’d like to know how i get something pitched.
    I’ve got a demo reel on YouTube here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Spw92pLTQA

    There are several trailers and teases and three episode pilot
    shorts…

    And a whole seasons worth of episodes of a series
    in various states of pre and post (probably have to be redone) and several
    completed scripts or scripts in various stages and a board full of cards with
    ideas for other episodes…

    I’d love any advice you could give me

    X)
    Cheers!

  5. glendon_isabella says

    hey tim, great insight. tnx!

Continuing the Discussion

  1. Tim’s Tweets for 2011-02-16 – The Gibbons Update linked to this post on Wednesday, February 16, 2011

    [...] Gibbons Update > A New Blog Posting: How Do I Pitch a TV Show? http://timgibbons.tv/2011/02/15/how-do-i-pitch-a-tv-show/ [...]

  2. Tim’s Tweets for 2011-04-13 – The Gibbons Update linked to this post on Wednesday, April 13, 2011

    [...] Do I Pitch A TV Show? Well, here's one way: http://timgibbons.tv/2011/02/15/how-do-i-pitch-a-tv-show/ [...]

  3. Should I Register or Copyright My Project? – The Gibbons Update linked to this post on Monday, December 26, 2011

    [...] Project? A reader, ELLISSA, recently asked a few question (in the Comments section of this post: How Do I Pitch A TV Show? ).  Ellissa’s questions were interesting enough, that I thought I’d give it a fairly [...]



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