Chris, you know pitching TV was what I did for a living for 25 years! Check me out on IDMB! And, creative "pitches" were my speciality! I did some VERY CRAZY things in my day! Some even worked...
Great Presentation Ideas: How to Pitch a TV Show
Got a great idea for a screenplay or series? Then you need some great presentation ideas – and, if you work it right, you could see your message on the big screen!
Find out the secrets of how to get the deal for your next creative venture, with secrets from a TNT executive. (An excerpt from The NEW Elevator Pitch by Chris Westfall).
Dylan Proctor* is getting into a cab in New York City. “And the cabbie asks me where I work. When I tell him ‘TNT, the cable network’, this guy starts in on his idea for a new series. So before you can say La Guardia, this guy wants to tell me his pitch”.
Dylan Proctor is a Senior Manager for Current Programming at TNT. He provides creative oversight hit TV shows like “Rizzoli and Isles”, “Major Crimes” and “Falling Skies”. Prior to TNT, he spent several years in development at the CW – where listening to TV-show pitches was virtually a daily event.
Here’s what this production exec has to say about pitching a network studio:
- Show and Sell: So, it’s all about who you know, right? “Well, there’s more to it than that. We’ve taken meetings – and bought shows from – students right out of USC film school. In the world of TV, it’s all about the execution of the idea.”
- Clear visuals can also be useful in a TV show pitch – and we’re not talking PowerPoint here. As Dylan explains, “The CW bought a show; it was a mystery/adventure, with a supernatural hook. The story centered around this guy who came across a treasure trove of paintings in his grandfather’s attic. He discovered that, within these paintings, there were clues to disastrous events – events that were going to happen in the future. The show was about trying to piece together the clues based on elements in the paintings – and then averting the disaster once it was discovered. So, to help wrap our minds around the idea, the guys came in with mock-ups of 6-7 paintings. In this case, the pictures created a clear image and basis for the story line. (Ultimately, the network bought the script but did not produce the pilot – the show was #6 on a five-show season pickup. But the pitch was still successful).
- Great Presentation Ideas: You Gotta Do Your Homework: Ultimately, it’s all about knowing your audience. “If you’re pitching to TNT, you have to understand our target market – the demographic is 25-54, and skews more female than male. You must demonstrate that you know the kinds of shows that we produce,” Dylan says.
- Point of Attack: you don’t have to start at the beginning of the story. “If it’s a character, if it’s a guy like House (who we haven’t seen on TV before), you don’t want to start off with, ‘Oh, it’s a medical show, set in a hospital, blah blah blah…Immediately, you tune out: somebody pitching another medical show. Old news. Not interested. But, if you start with the dialogue of your guy – your lead character – reaming somebody out, telling somebody to ‘Go die’ …and then, you find out he’s a doctor at the hospital, the reaction is, ‘What’?!”
According to Dylan, knowing where to start your tale is key to arresting the attention of your listener.
“That’s the difference between being a storyteller, and a describer” he says. (Which one are you?)
Creating Your Pitch, for a TV Show
Assuming that you’ve got the connections to get in the room, the ability to execute, and the research you need about the network, here’s Dylan’s advice for a pitch that would make him say, “Tell Me More…”
Creative Pitch Strategies
- Paint a vivid, clear picture of your story, your characters, and your dialogue
- Make it emotional and relevant to the people in the room
- Consider your “triggers” – what is going to arrest the attention of the viewer? “You can arrest their attention with something that is going to visually get their mind active and engaged,” Dylan says.
Lost is a great example – imagine starting your pitch with the opening plane crash – that image, that sequence, has become an instant classic for anyone who’s seen it.
“The plane crash is so visual, so compelling that you are immediately pulled in. If you’ve got ‘em, then you can take ‘em anywhere you want.”