4 Creative Writing Tips for Pitching an Unscripted Television Show
Ah - the golden article you’ve been scrubbing the internet to find. How does a normal, everyday person, pitch an unscripted TV show? While I can’t reveal all of the cards, I can give you pointers as to how to write good content that people will want to read. The rest of the process you’ll have to figure out by yourself.
I’m lucky enough to have come from a background filled with different types of TV creative writing. Pitching is never easy and I always remembered to tell myself, in the face of rejection, that everything creative is subjective. There will always be somebody who hates my writing and there will always be someone who absolutely loves it. The two come hand-in-hand. However, it’s important to listen to all types of criticism as that’s the only push you’ll get to growing as a writer. Take everything with a grain of salt - including this article.
Commit to your angle. This tip is simple yet always overlooked. If you’re going to write something funny, commit to being funny, even outlandish. Give your words a personality. Use descriptive adjectives. For instance, if you’re working on a deck that is about a dramatic series, don’t forget to paint the drama in every sentence you write.
Take time to walk away from your writing. Write when you’re inspired and walk away when you’re not. I walk away from my writing (depending on the project) at least three or four times. When I walk away, I try to do things that distract me - like eating lunch, listening to a TedTalk or laughing with my friends. If you sit, writing with a goal that includes striving for perfection your first go-around, you won’t create your best work. Great pitch writing takes time and patience.
Poke holes at your work. Remember you are your toughest critic. When you’re in a pitch meeting, the buyer will be looking to poke holes in your format. They’ll test your market research on the project and it’s up to you to be as prepared as possible. I suggest having friends look over your work before you pitch so that you can get objective comments. Encourage them to be honest and curious. Ask them what they feel is missing from the storyline and adjust your work accordingly. Don’t be overprotective of your work.
Attach talent. The biggest mistake I made early on in my career was not attaching talent to my work. Concepts don’t sell. Concepts are not protected and someone will steal your idea. Too often do I receive inquiries that start with, “I have a great idea”. Well, everyone does. But what sets apart your great TV concept from the next is the talent attached to it. Talent with great storylines sell. Not every storyline has to be dramatic or comedic, but every storyline needs a great hook. Find the talent that gives you that ‘hook’, and then pitch.
While these tips are a bit vague, they can be extremely helpful when navigating your first (or even fifth) pitch. Creative writing can be extremely intimidating, especially when you’re new to the industry and don’t know where to start. Don’t forget that every opinion is subjective and that if you genuinely believe in your project, someone else will too.
xo, Lacey Kaelani, Casting Depot