Pitching a TV show?
February 17, 2007 1:54 AM   Subscribe

I have an idea for a television show. What are the guidelines for a treatment/pilot?

I've done some reading as to what a film script should look like. But are there resources out there for what a good television "pitch" should look like? Fwiw, the idea is for a reality show, so scripted dialogue wouldn't fit the bill.
posted by bardic to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Well... This doesn't really answer your question but if you've got a decent pitch, you could email me at travis {at} dorsia.com. We produce media properties, including TV. We've produced a number of shows for PBS, The Discovery Channel, The Travel Channel and more.
posted by travis vocino at 6:47 AM on February 17, 2007

A good pitch is a spoken, not written... the trick is getting someone with connections to get you into the room where your pitch will be heard.
posted by Scram at 6:53 AM on February 17, 2007

The best bet is to find episode 5 of Studio 60, in which someone makes a perfect pitch for a reality show to the execs. Jane Espenson (whose blog - Jane in Progress features a lot of adviceon pilot writing and pitching) recommends that (albeit fictional) pitch as, basically, exactly how one should pitch something. And, as I say, it was for a reality show.
posted by opsin at 9:24 AM on February 17, 2007

You're not going to like this answer, but I'm just being honest:

The reality is, as an outsider you probably wouldn't be able to sell a tv show idea. For the most part, there is not a lack of ideas in Hollywood. They don't want ideas, they want people who can execute ideas well. So you pitching your reality show idea may mean very little to them, but Mark Burnett pitching your exact same reality show idea = millions of dollars because they know Mark Burnett can execute the idea, get it produced, make it slick, etc. This is the only way you can get the kind of leverage you need to make the kind of money you're probably thinking you can make.

Each of the studios usually has a fully time position / department devoted to thinking up / hearing / producing reality shows but mostly they won't hear or read unsolicited ideas for fear of being sued if they have something similar in development.

Even as I say this, there's always the chance you could make a connection with someone who would want to hear your idea, so keep trying... but be realistic about your chances.
posted by sharkfu at 9:32 AM on February 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

Ditto to what sharkfu said.

I have a friend who works in Hollywood, is close friends with the creator of Baywatch, and is paid by one of the major TV studios to basically reject scripts, all day long.

In all my conversations with him about "the biz", a recurring theme is that if you don't have connections with respected people in the industry, your chances of pitching--let alone actually selling--your treatment is basically zero.

This was a real bummer 10 years ago, when the means of entertainment distribution was completely controlled by Hollywood. But since the internet has evened the playing field for people who just want to get thier ideas out there, you should probably be going that route first. Create and produce your show by yourself, put it out there for free on YouTube or as a video podcast, and if your idea is truly any good, people *will* watch it, viral blahblahblah--you probably know the drill already.
posted by melorama at 11:13 AM on February 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

That said, if youʻre still motivated to pitch your own show ideas, you should get involved with NATPE (National Association of Television Program Executives). They have a lot of good resources that are useful to people in the creative side of television production. They also have an annual convention which is basically a required pilgrimage for anyone seriously involved with this aspect of TV.
posted by melorama at 7:18 PM on February 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the comments. I do have something of a viable "connection" so to speak (doesn't everyone who think about getting involved in the biz?), but at this point I want to get the ideas down on paper. I know that if a film script isn't written in the appropriate format, it won't even make it into someone's mailbox. In writing a treatment, what kind of length should I be looking at? Five pages? 20 pages?

But thanks again for the insight.
posted by bardic at 8:00 PM on February 17, 2007

In writing a treatment, what kind of length should I be looking at? Five pages? 20 pages?

Read the "resources" link in my previous comment...it has some no-BS advice regarding treatments (the thing about using 3 brads instead of 2 brads on your treatment is absolutely true, by the way).

Another thing that TV people are looking for is a boiled-down, succinct, "blank meets blank" description of your show (i.e. "Lost" meets "Iron Chef"). If you can't describe your idea in those terms, your chances are slim that anyone will want to spend any more time listening to your pitch.
posted by melorama at 11:42 PM on February 17, 2007

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