When Am I Ready to Pitch My TV show?
If you’ve clicked on this article, chances are you’re thinking about pitching an idea to a production company or a network. But where do you start? And when is your concept ready?
I’ve pitched a significant amount of unscripted shows over the course of my career, some of which miserably failed and others that landed contracts with production companies. I'm often asked about how the process works so I thought putting what I’ve learned could help others. There's not an exact "how-to" guide on these things, but there's a general process in which it happens.
Please note that this article primarily refers to scripted and unscripted TV show pitching, therefore adjust to your vertical accordingly.
So, let’s get started:
1. Write your idea down 💫Similar to a mood board, put all of your ideas into a document. Clearly think out the storyline, the characters, the plot, the episodes and the tone of the show. Take your time and poke holes at your work. If you’re stuck, [I wrote this article](https://www.castingdepot.com/blog/posts/creative-writing-tips) on how to get over mental blocks. Starting is the hardest part, so don't be discouraged if this step takes a while.
Once you've gotten your ideas organized, begin to mold your pitch deck. What is a pitch deck, you ask? This is a PDF document that outlines your story, the characters, and episode proposals in a visual way. This is the product you'll share with networks and production companies.
2. Validate your idea 🚀Scrub the internet to see what's been created before in an adjacent space. What networks have aired similar shows, how long did those series run for, and why did they end? These are important questions to discover before bringing your project to pitch. If you say to yourself, “this hasn’t been done before”, then you most likely haven’t done enough research. At the end of your research, you should be able to say, “this has been done before like x, but this is how it’s different.” Sometimes it's not about creating an entirely new idea, but building upon an existing one. And that's ok.
3. Attach talent 🎬Whatever type of project your pitching - unscripted, scripted, etc. - it's always a good idea to attach talent to it. How do you do that? Post a casting call on our site, invite applicants to apply, and find a cast that can adequately tell your story. In unscripted television, this process is called a "proof of concept".
Once you've selected a draft of your cast, bake those characters into your pitch deck and go on to write why they're the best fit for your project. Often times your cast sells your project better than the concept itself.
4. Create a concept sizzle 🎥Put together a short trailer video (3-10 minutes) that outlines a high-level look into your project. Make sure that the sizzle answers three very important questions:
- What are we watching?
- What's the structure of each show?
- Why is this important?
Chances are you're not a TV editor. That's totally fine - most people aren't. Freelance editors usually can do the job, so look online to see who is available for work. You can also post in Casting Depot groups to see if anyone has referrals.
5. Get ready to pitch ✅Pitching shows is a tough business to be in, especially if you’re an independent creator. Brace yourself for opinions. Content is subjective and everyone will have their own take on your work. If you're receiving the same feedback over and over, look at your deck and readjust. Pitching shows is a very humbling experience and all you need is for one person to believe in your concept. Don't be discouraged if you hear 9 'no's'. You'll hear a 'yes' eventually.
So where do you pitch, exactly? If you're an independent creator, you're most likely doing the process solo. Often times major production companies don't accept unsolicited submissions from unknown sources. Sometimes they do. If they do, there'll be a section on their "contact us" page that allows you to upload your pitch deck. My best suggestion is to scan the internet of the production companies that:
- Purchase shows similar to yours.
- Accept outside submissions.
- Have the submission process clearly outlined on their website.
And there you have it. Five steps to creating a TV show to pitch. While there are tons of nuances within the process, and it's unfair for me to generalize the craft, I do believe that the above outlines a very high-level overview into the workflow process.
Did you pitch your project after reading this article? I'd love to hear your experience! Tweet us here.