How do I pitch ideas to a TV producer?
September 5, 2006 2:14 PM   Subscribe

Pitching to TV: I'm a writer and used to pitching ideas for magazines (mostly print) and then writing the story, sending the invoice, and getting paid. I have a great opportunity to pitch ideas for a TV show (on public television). The show is already in production and has money for next season lined up. Has anyone transitioned from print to TV? How do I charge money for this?

80% of the show is filmed locally (it's shown nationally), so most resources would also be local -- subjects, experts, real-life examples, etc. I already pull these together for printed stories.

I already know these guys from writing a story about their show. They offered me a job as I was interviewing them, but I want to keep freelancing, so it's still out there.

Any other suggestions re: putting my TV glasses on would also help. But I'm interested in how this process works.

Thoughts? Personal experiences, good or bad?
posted by mdiskin to Media & Arts (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I have some experience to offer, but don't know what to tell you without the specifics of what the TV people are expecting from you, and what kind of show it is. Are they expecting you to write and produce an entire episode of their show? (If so, this may be what they had in mind when they offered you a full-time job.) If you're just pitching them an idea that they will then go make a show out of, you're not offering them a lot -- since they will be doing most of the work.

TV writing is a whole different animal from print, and the production of a TV show is a lot more complicated and collaborative than the lone-wolf style of a freelance journalist. If they were offering you an entry-level job that comes with training in TV production, and you want to continue on in the business, then I'd jump on it.
posted by turducken at 5:20 PM on September 5, 2006

I used to work with a newspaper editor who wrote some scripts for a locally-produced public television documentary. I'm pretty sure he called the folks involved with the show, made the pitch, then explained his lack of a TV background. Anyhow, they worked it out. (Insert the details that would really help you here, which sadly I don't know.) It took a lot more time than he'd predicted for the result that they got.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 8:34 PM on September 5, 2006

...and to answer your most pressing question, if you're doing piece-work (i.e., writing a script-for-hire), and they're a legit outfit (and it sounds like they are), they will have a standard rate that they pay. Just ask them. No, you don't need an agent, no, you can't squeeze more out of them, especially if it's public TV. When you write a few things for them and they love yourf work, then you can ask for a raise. (Just like with a magazine.)
posted by turducken at 11:25 PM on September 5, 2006

Thanks. It seems as if I could do a lot with the team in several capacities (primarily as a writer and editor). Their show is right in the sweet spot of where I'm pitching my mag articles, and I have some fantastic sources of info that I could develop for the show, and who deserve TV time.

If I can pitch, write and make some $$ doing it, I'd love to diversify. (I do have a little grad-school film/media experience.) The show has a"tell it, girlfriend" vibe that fits well with the stuff I've been writing lately, too, so I think I could transition easily to how the hosts speak.

I hit it off with the exec producer and host and like the idea of working with them as a freelancer.
posted by mdiskin at 7:04 PM on September 6, 2006

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