Aug 31, 2014

How to Pitch & Sell A Reality TV Show Idea

Learn how to create, pitch, and sell an idea for a reality show to a production company or network: 

Much of my background in television has been in and around the pitching and selling of reality TV ideas, many of which originated from ordinary people outside the industry with extraordinary imaginations, and a whole lot of persistence. With contemporary reality television having emerged in the same breath as mainstream Internet close to two decades ago, I witnessed the leveling of the playing field for new Writers and Producers breaking into the business. The industry began seeking outsiders with extraordinary lives and stories, and outsiders finally had a direct method of exposure for their ideas to the once insulated producers and executives of Hollywood. The TV Writers Vault became a catalyst to simplify that process, but still, navigating the inroads of Hollywood is a confusing and misleading journey unless you understand the fundamental steps that inspire a Producer to invest in your project. Following is an overview of the most important factors to consider when creating and pitching your reality-based projects:

Character Is King:

A great idea for a show goes a long way, but in today's programming landscape we're seeing a heavy focus on documentary style reality shows, and that means one thing...CHARACTERS. They cover the spectrum of unique professions, businesses, families, lifestyles, and celebrities, and within any choice of subject or concept, Character Is King. No matter what world your project is set within, the people within that world are key to its success. Your pitch needs to focus on a person or people with personalities that are peculiar, strong, odd, hilarious, or unique in some way that transcends the expected norm. Projects with characters involved often gain the quickest traction with Producers and Networks. Docu-style series are low cost, relatively simple to produce for pilot, and have a "what you see is what you get" factor that gives networks confidence. Here's some good insight on the hot sub-genre of Docu-Style Reality Series and how to build a pitch around unique characters within a subject that sells.

Story Sells:

In any subject that you build your pitch around, focus on the most compelling stories within that. It may be as simple as the "make or break" moments a business entrepreneur faces, or the emotionally charged circumstance a family must survive. Producers want to see to the potential journey viewers will be taken on. Write a strong premise that sets the circumstances, and makes our character a potential hero. Producers want to see people set against unique challenges, whose lives or professions take us through a process we haven't yet discovered.

The Pitch:

Communicating your pitch to buyers is an exercise in both talent and choice. They need to know that the content of your show will be compelling and entertaining. Don't get bogged down in preambles and "education" on the subject. You need to get right to the core of what we're watching.

Start with the high concept (the one-liner) that tells the unique premise and hook of the show, and then drill right into the most compelling moments or ultimatums for the people involved that propels the stories within the show. Being able to describe the extreme circumstances, or ironic events, triggers the Producer's imagination so they'll see the potential for great content.

A pitch that makes in impact is typically 2 to 4 pages. Focus on what we're actually watching. The premise can be great, but if you can't detail what we're potentially seeing unfold, there's no content for a show. The TV Writers Vault has a great section on "Creating Reality", that helps anyone new to the process find the potential in their pitch.

If you're pitching in person, go into the meeting with the main goal of gathering information and making the Producer or Executive a new partner in future collaborations. This greater goal takes the pressure off of "desperately needing to sell" your project, and can sow the seeds for future meetings based on information you learn. If you're in the room, you're there because they're interested in your project. Get to the bones of it quickly, and communicate your pitch even more efficiently than your written pitch. If they do like it, they'll often take the lead in discussing potential moments and content we'd witness in the series. It then becomes more of a discussion in collaboration, because they see it, and they believe in it. If they make a deal with you for your project, they'll then prep it to pitch to the Network, often producing a "sizzle reel". This is typically video taped coverage of the people and world within the pitch. Skype has also become a great tool for Producers to interview and share coverage of the proposed characters involved in the project being pitched.

Networking & Marketing Your Pitch:

National Association of Television Producers and ExecutivesTo increase the odds of your pitch connecting with the right Producers you must use a multi-pronged strategy when marketing your project to the Industry. Two of the best venues for making direct contact with decision makers are the NATPE and Reel Screen Summit trade shows held annually. Both independent and major producers use these exciting events to scout and sell new projects for television. The entertainment industry is a contact sport, and using these open forums to create new contacts for pitching is a must-do for any creator and producer.

Pitch A Reality TV Show Idea at TV Writers Vault
Another efficient way to get your reality show pitch in front of top producers is the industry's online marketplace at the TV Writers Vault. The service was developed to break open the "closed door" of  Hollywood, and has helped many writers land producing deals, with many shows produced and broadcast globally for networks including; Discovery Channel, Lifetime TV, SyFy, A&E, and others. New writers submit projects to the database where the producers and executives review them, connecting directly with the creator for any pitch they're interested in pursuing.

Partnering With A Production Company:

Networks buy shows from Production Companies who can deliver, and those are the people you want to sell your project to. Your goal should be to land a deal with a producer experienced in producing your type of show for the networks that are best suited as possible outlets for your project. They have the resources and relationships with Networks to bring your concept to reality. Ideally, a production company would secure the rights to your project, and then sell it to a Network for production and distribution.

What's The Deal?:

Your basic expectation of any proposal given to you by a Production Company should include the following; A Per Episode Fee. This is what you get paid for every episode produced and delivered to the Network. Keep in mind that Cable Networks order in bulk, so even though the budgets are relatively low and the fees are modest, a hit show that delivers 40 episodes a season can bring in some serious revenue. Ask for profit participation in licensing fees. Expect 10% net (3% gross), IF they'll give anything. But know that this is where a hit show can deliver great financial reward, and its worth negotiating for. On Screen Credit- Typical offerings will range from Consulting Producer to Co-Producer. A "Created by" credit is also very important, and is often split with a designated showrunner (Executive Producer) for the Production Company.


Please take the time to visit the following resources that we've found to be invaluable for any new Writer or Producer creating and pitching new television projects:

The TV Writers Vault - The Industry's online marketplace for buying and selling new television projects. Used by hundreds of the top production companies and networks.

May 8, 2013

You Don't Have To Live In L.A. to Sell TV Shows

tv writers vault logo

Networks Scouting The Nation

Just wanted to bring you up to speed on some very exciting news for the TV Writers Vault. We've recently welcomed three new executives from ABC Entertainment, Lifetime TV, and Discovery Communications, all seeking original concepts for new shows from Writers at the TV Writers Vault. Its also been an exciting week seeing projects discovered that were pitched by Writers from Charleston, WV., Fort Worth, TX., Atlanta, GA., Miami Beach, FL., Phoenix, AZ., and Palmer, AK., proving you don't have to live in Los Angeles to get your work discovered, if you use the TV Writers Vault to pitch your projects.

Following is a list of current Networks and Studios using our service to discover new projects from Writers and Creators like you:

20th Century Fox TV
ABC Cable Networks
ABC Entertainment
ABC Studios
CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)
CBS Entertainment
CBS Films
CBS Paramount
CBS Studios International
CBS Television Distribution
CBS Television Studios
Disney Channel
Fox Broadcasting
Fox Television Studios
FX Network
Lifetime TV

Congratulations to six of our members receiving contact requests from Executives in just the past few days, after their TV show concepts were reviewed at the TV Writers Vault:

Elizabeth DeVaney - Atlanta, GA.
Misty Lively - Charleston, WV
Wayne Erik Williams - Fort Worth, TX
Manuel L. Fernandez - Miami Beach, FL.
Joni Navarro Sucato - Phoenix, AZ.
Deborah Burlinski - Palmer, AK

This, in addition to the hundreds of Writers we've helped break into the industry, with dozens of Producing deals for their projects, and multiple shows aired globally. We're seeing the Industry's activity at the site heat up, so get your projects in the mix. We invite you to pitch your original TV show ideas and script. VISIT HERE

If you'd like to learn more about the TV Writers Vault, check out our recent interview featured at the TV Writers Podcast detailing the history of our site, how it functions, and how we've helped countless new Writers & Creators break into the Television Industry. VISIT HERE

We look forward to helping you connect your projects with the right Producers. Email us if you need any advice or guidance.

Best of luck with your projects!

Yours Truly,

Scott Manville

Apr 29, 2013

TV Writer Podcast Interview

I had the pleasure of being a recent guest on Gray Jones' TV Writer Podcast, discussing the process of developing and pitching reality TV shows within the Industry, and the TV Writers Vault. Gray has produced a terrific series of interviews with a variety of TV Writers and Executives, delivering a ton of "must know" knowledge and insights on Writing for Television. Check him out @tvwriterchat and at The TV Writer Podcast. Enjoy the discussion below:

Apr 28, 2013

Reality TV Producers Want Fresh Ideas To Produce As New Reality Shows

What does a used-car salesman, a mother of twins, an escape artist, a private investigator, a tire store manager, and a former air traffic controller all have in common? They've all sold ideas for reality tv shows using The TV Writers Vault. has transformed the way Hollywood is scouting new projects for Reality TV, with top Producers and Networks scouring the site's database for potential projects, and producing new TV shows from pitches made by families, individuals and business owners who propose their life or business as a subject to be produced for docu-style reality series'.

Reality TV Producers and Networks have made the site an industry standard for sourcing new projects, delivering deals for anyone with an interesting idea, subject, or life they feel could be the basis for a new reality series. TV Writers Vault founder, Scott Manville says, "There is a huge drive by Producers at the site to find that next hit reality TV family or business. For those projects with potential, they're making deals with anyone from anywhere."

This past season, two original series ("Saw Dogs", and "Deals From The Darkside") were discovered at the site and produced for global broadcast on networks including; Discovery Channel, A&E, SyFy, UKTV, TV4, OLN, Velocity and others. Currently, another series is going to pilot at A&E (details are confidential until announcement by Network). Dozens of producing deals have been landed by people pitching TV show ideas at the site, with hundreds of others making direct connections with TV Producers. The first deal ever secured using the site was pitched by a former pro-wrestler turned used-car salesman, and picked up by the Sr. VP of Reality Programming for Fox TV Studios. That opened the door for Producers reaching out to discover new shows pitched by ordinary people with extraordinary ideas. Notable companies with Producers scouting the site include; Fox TV Studios, ABC, CBS, Discovery/TLC, Lifetime TV, Sony Pictures TV, and more than a hundred others.

CBS Studios International Exec, Paul Gilbert, commented on the value of the site for the industry, stating, "The service is a very valuable asset for anyone involved in programming and production".

Oliver Bogner, Executive Producer at Fremantle Media North America (Prouducers of "American Idol", and many hit docu-style reality shows) makes TV Writers Vault his secret weapon for scouting new projects. He explains, "...For buyers, it's all about who could be the next Millionaire Matchmaker or Dog The Bounty Hunter, and with The TV Writer's Vault I get direct access to television worthy talents pitching their stories and ideas. We're always looking for the next big show, and has become a valuable tool. It's my little development secret for finding hot new projects and people to build shows around. I have personally optioned a number of ideas from the TV Writer's Vault, and I'm actually in discussions with a major network right now based on a show with a person I met through the TV Writer's Vault."

"It's all about characters and content", adds Manville. "They want individuals and families with lifestyles and professions that are fun to watch. They want ideas that deliver comedy, drama, and compelling moments. Every week we have people connecting with Producers, and every day Producers are at the site scouting new show ideas. The Internet has allowed us to level the playing field for new writers and creators breaking into the business."

Dorie Geniesse, a former Air Traffic Controller from Mazomanie, WI. is the most recent, selling 7 concepts for docu-style reality projects, including a multi-project development deal with the Executive Producers of "Mobbed"(FOX). She gives credit to the site, saying "I wouldn't have one project in front of anyone had it not been for the TV Writers Vault. Without them, I never would have gotten to work with these wonderful Producers".

David Howe, a tire store manager from Maryland, used the TV Writers Vault to pitch his own reality-series based on his life and the ironic fact that he is a Royal Prince and direct descendent of the Royal Family- a real life "King Ralph". Producers loved the premise, and struck a deal with him to produce the show. In a recent interview, Howe was asked if he'd recommend the site to others pitching reality show ideas. His response- "Without question. You just can't get this kind of exposure anywhere else."

Leisa Naples, an entrepreneurial mother of two sets of identical twins, was courted by two major companies- Dick Clark Productions, and Fremantle Media, using Manville's services, ultimately settling with a mid-level company for a Co-Executive Producer Credit and greater financial participation when the series is produced. welcomes submissions for new TV Formats and Concepts, from anyone with an original idea, or who feels their family, profession, or lifestyle could make for a great reality series. Site is also used by Executives scouting other reality show ideas, gameshow formats, and other genres.

Apr 21, 2013

Duck Dynasty: The New American Sitcom

When "Reality TV" hit hard in the year 2000, with breakthrough hits like Survivor, The Bachelor, and Big Brother, the TV industry and viewers alike were as equally conflicted as they were compelled to watch what seemed to be a cheap thrills genre that was quickly pushing the Sitcom and other scripted fair off of the programming map. But as we've watched the evolution of reality-based TV, its refreshing to see that the American appetite for good story and funny families hasn't changed at all. Move over Archy Bunker, The Robertsons are in town [Insert Duck Call Here].

As A&E describes in their Logline for their hit reality series "Duck Dynasty", "The Robertsons, a Louisiana bayou family living the American dream, operate a thriving duck call business while staying true to their family values and lifestyle", Duck Dynasty has become the new Great American Sitcom. One-liners delivered by dry-witted characters that you couldn't script (though most of their lines probably are), an unlikely situation of "red necks" who struck gold by creating of all things a Duck Calling device, a crazy uncle, judgemental grandparents, brothers at odds, and you have the ingredients for a great sitcom masked as a "reality show".

As unorthodox as the Robersons are, we love their integrity, and their devotion to God. What is also refreshing to see is an extended family essentially living together. How many families today have grandparents, parents, and kids, all intermingling on a daily basis? As a guy, I love seeing men not only wear the pants in the family, but camouflage pants! Or more likely, the women are smart enough to let the guys think they wear the pants while they truly run the roost. As a result, both are satisfied in their traditional roles, and their relationships seem all the more healthy because of it. How many times have you seen a zz-top lookin' grandpa pinchin' grandma's rump, and makin' eyes at her. Strangely refreshing.

As we follow the Robertsons through their jambolaya drenched lives, we'll see through the camouflage something we all wish we were, and Hollywood is so great at producing. Atleast they're not creating the Brady-esque sitcoms that gloss over real issues, and create expectations of relationships that just simply aren't REAL. We have the Housewives show to give us that!

Mar 17, 2013

Is TV Writers Vault A Scam? | Legitimate Facts

The Internet is an easy place for any frustrated client or competitor to bash, and even slander a legitimate company. Being at the epicenter of TV development within the industry, and providing the general public with a direct link to Producers does generate a healthy amount of debate and scrutiny. But within that sits a handful of anonymous posters bent on publishing libelous statements about the TV Writers Vault being a "Scam", "Not Legitimate", a "Fraud" or other fun words.

New Writers are faced with the hard reality that an overwhelming number of Production Companies do not take unsolicited pitches. Agents are perhaps even more difficult to land because they're only interested in managing careers or representing a project that has some specific market value (Person, Brand, or Property).  So what's a new writer to do? They come to the TV Writers Vault where we provide an online marketplace that is used by top Producers and Network Executives scouting new concepts for TV from anyone with an original idea. The companies not only actively search the database reviewing and requesting contact for projects they're interested in, but they're each in agreement of our Non-Disclosure Terms of Service. All activities by Producers are tracked and recorded in the database, providing the Writer "proof of review" for their project. This is something you don't get in the traditional world of pitching.

The TV industry comes to the TV Writers Vault because its an efficient and direct sourcing tool for discovering new ideas for TV shows that they desperately need from Creators they would have no other avenue of meeting. Paul Gilbert, Sr. VP of International Formats for CBS Studios International said in an interview, "Your service [tv writers vault] is a very valuable asset for anyone involved in programming and production. Keep up the good work, Scott!". Producers at every level understand the necessity to reach beyond the rolodex in today's TV development world, because the competition to find new ideas and formats for programming is too challenging. In a sense, the playing field has been leveled.

The commitment by Producers to scout new TV show ideas at the TV Writers Vault has paid dividends to new Writers pitching projects at the site. In just the past few years we've connected hundreds of new Writers and Creators with Producers, resulting in dozens of deals made. This past year also saw two original "ideas" from two of our members get produced and broadcast globally. "Saw Dogs" aired on OLN and Velocity, before being picked up for primetime on Discovery Channel. "Deals From The Darkside" aired on A&E Australia, UKTV, and SyFy Channel in both the U.S. and UK. We've most recently had a primetime series "Kim Of Queens" run two seasons on Lifetime TV. Both the Executive Producers of the show, and the Star connected via our site.. You can read stories from others finding success through the TV Writers Vault here.

Writers who found success weren't lucky, and weren't special. But they became lucky, and became special because they overcame the odds by believing in their concepts and working hard to constantly create new concepts so that one may eventually connect with the right Producer at the right time. It only takes one right concept, but often its a long road to get there. Frustration and disappointment is like breathing air to the experienced Writer. But not all can handle the hard road. Some won't accept rejection, and feel there shouldn't be a cost for the opportunity and service we provide.

So lets look at the value of the TV Writers Vault to those working to sell a project. To the benefit of Writers who sell their shows through the TV Writers Vault, we take no financial participation in any deal. The deal is 100% the Writer's. We charge a nominal fee to post projects in our marketplace to support the ordinary business costs involved in managing, marketing, and developing our service. When you look at the costs that any Writer faces with networking, mailing, calling, travel, social events, and other practical and impractical methods to connect with a Producer with hope of getting to pitch their idea... We're a pretty darn good value. We save time and money.

One added value that I enjoy freely providing members when they're being contacted by Producers and negotiating a deal on their project, is my own personal advice and guidance. If you've never spoken to a Producer, and never negotiated a contract for a TV show, it can be a bit nerve wracking. I've helped Writers understand what to expect, how to handle specific circumstances or deal points, and often how to get a better deal. An Attorney is always recommended for negotiating and closing any deal, but its a tremendous help for a Writer when they know how to lay the groundwork for a good deal before handing the contract over to an Attorney for fine-tuning. For a new Writer to be able to let a Producer know "they know", its a glass of cold water in the face of the Producer (or their business affairs dept.), and helps them get down to real business more quickly. Its good for all involved.

There are countless web forums for writing, with a spectrum of negative and positive views on the TV industry, and even more disdain toward TV's ugly step-child "Reality TV", which is the bulk of our business, and is reflective of programming today. There are also those who don't believe that Producers actually scout projects from anyone online.  There are those who think Network Executives would never order a series from an "idea" that was posted in a database by a guy from across the country. But they did, and they do.

The first project ever picked up from the TV Writers Vault was done so by none other than the Senior Vice President of Alternative Programming for Fox TV Studios (At the time, David Martin). It was an idea submitted to the site by a guy in Chicago. So when a Senior Network Executive turns to the Internet and happens to find the TV Writers Vault, uses it,  and makes a deal with a no-name guy from outside the industry, it tells us that the old notions of Hollywood being a closed door with restricted protocol for discovering projects just isn't so anymore. We've moved into a different time, and we're all adjusting to the new technology that causes us to redefine our own methods of doing business. We're proud to have cut the path to connect the outside world with the buyers inside the TV Industry, and we're fine taking the lumps that go with it.

It would be great if everyone could sell a show, and everyone could land deals. But that's not "reality". This industry is the most competitive in the world. Finding success takes talent, time, and tenacity. We're fortunate to see what the TV Writers Vault is capable of delivering for the person who dreams of becoming a TV Producer and breaking into the business. I often think back to my days running Development for Merv Griffin Entertainment, when we had sold an "idea" to Disney's Buena Vista TV on our first pitch. Two chief executives for Disney came to our offices for one of the early project meetings, and when leaving, we walked down the long hallway connecting the Griffin Group offices to the public area of the Beverly Hilton Hotel. As we did, one of the Network Execs said, "So how did you guys come up with this idea?". To which my Producer responded, "We bought it from a guy in Florida who called up and pitched the idea to Scott". The Network Executives response? Without missing a beat, she said- "I love when that happens".

Is the TV Writers Vault a scam? Nope. Just a new link in the new entertainment world that was destined to be.

Additional Advice: We do recommend for any Creators pitching projects in the marketplace, visit to establish third party archival of your written works prior to any exposure to Producers or Executives.

Feb 25, 2013

TV Writers Vault First To Bring "Ideas" To Air

Big News. The TV Writers Vault is the TV Industry's first (and so far only) website to bring "ideas" from ordinary people outside the Hollywood system, to production and global broadcast.

Most recently, the TV Writers Vault has seen two new reality series produced and airing, after being discovered at the TV Writers Vault; "Saw Dogs" premiered on Discovery's Velocity Chanel, before being picked up for prime-time airing on Discovery Network. "Deals From The Dark Side" its U.S. debut on SYFY, after a successful first season run on A&E Australia, and OLN Canada. Series has been sold in 8 countries for broadcast. Creators, Executive Producers, and Stars of both series are all members of the TV Writers Vault where they discovered one another for collaboration and creation of these program concepts.