Mar 10, 2009

TV Format Development

Probably the biggest hurdle any writer or creator faces is the translation of that great concept onto paper. How do you communicate what a producer or network executive needs to read? How do you get them to see the clever hook your concept has, and the potential of the show? Is your written synopsis showing them what the show is?

If you have any specific questions about the development or pitching of your television projects, post them here, and we'll discuss.


  1. I once read that every great movie title either "says what it is", hints at irony...or both!

    Does the same hold true for television?

  2. It absolutely does. Often you'll find that the title tells it all, but its also fun when there is a bit of irony to keep it from being too on-the-nose. Television is an advertiser/mtv medium and viewers need to be hit with clear, powerful, funny, and clever titles that will accomplish two things: 1)Get the viewer excited about what they'll probably see in the show, and 2)Make them tune in to have that curiosity satisfied.

    The same applies to the importance of a great title when pitching producers. I've had producers want to buy a concept simply based on the title. Of course the format has to work, and there needs to be a great hook, but if they fall in love with the title...they WANT it to work.

  3. Hi Scott...

    This is a great initiative from your end. I'm sure some great new thoughts will emerge out of this.


  4. Thanks Ajit-
    Glad you're enjoying it.
    Stay in touch.

  5. I was surfing the internet to find examples and expertise on how I can translate my ideas from my mind to the paper. My concept is basically a show that has elements of a documentary, reality tv show and Diane Sawyer feel. Is this realistic and how would one form a creative hook for viewers and executives?

  6. I have had some activity on both screenwriters and tvwriters vault. I make it to the review status on alot of my projects. I would assume that this implies that the titles were "eye-catching." How long should I wait to change/edit the log line, etc. if there has not been any additional activity for the past month. Also, how long does it take for industry executives to respond? Do I need to consider changing the title?

  7. Scott-I'm wondering if you have any insight as to whether programming concepts for middle aged women have any chance in today's market? As a forty something female, I don't find many shows directed at my age group. I have a preliminary concept for a show but am concerned that there is not a market for this age group...

  8. Hi Dee-
    Sounds like you've got some key elements from various genres. It may sound exciting, but I would caution to really take a hard look at what may be entertaining in the mind, isn't as entertaining in actuality when watched. If you knew exactly what we'd be watching on the show, it'd be easy to know if its strictly a reality show, documentary, or news mag show.

    Creating the right hook is all up to you. If its a documentary, you may be following a true life event as it unfolds, not knowing the outcome, but relying more on your perspective and commentary as the final result is produced.

    If its a reality format, you can set the circumstances and manipulate scenarios to induce conflict, drama, or any incredible outcome. Its up to you to create that, and detail the storyline that takes us there. Reality IS all about story.

  9. Hi Becky-

    If a producer at the TV Writers Vault is interested after reviewing your project, they'll usually make a request immediately, or within a day or two.

    If no action after a week, and you really think the logline can use a revision, then do it only if the new logline is better.

  10. Hi Alyssa-

    You're actually a key demographic for a lot of programming today. The other great thing is that we live in a world of a thousand channels, and there's more than a handful that specialize in women's programming. However, I don't think you are necessarily limited to that. If your concept is truly amazing and original, and finds the right path, it could work for any Network or Cable Net.

    It all comes down to the content that we're watching. And if you consider the fact that your program may also be interesting to other demos, such as men, younger and older, keep in mind that you don't want to have it so narrow that it alienates others from being able to hold interest in the show.

    Best of luck!

  11. Hi Scott, I have submitted a few idea treatments to MANY production companies over the past few months and have had many replies, both positive and negative. Now I am down to 3 ideas at 3 different production companies.

    My ideas are either documentary or reality based, but I would like to know a few things:

    1) Is my method (contacting Prod Companies directly) a good/better way than other methods? I feel it has produced replies faster than other avenues, but you can't be too sure.

    2) For my documentary idea, the Prod Company I am talking to asked for a tape (sort-of an audition tape) of the members of my group and has continually reassured me that they are 'still interested' my idea still in the 'long shot' for being picked up by the company? I do understand that a producer picking up my idea and a network doing it are two different things, but I am in this limbo state on this idea and would like to know where I stand.


  12. Hi Ed-
    Congrats on getting a production company interested in your project.

    To answer your questions:

    1) Yes, approaching production companies direct can be the quickest way to make progress... but only when you contact a production company who will take your call, and accept unsolicited material- Hard to find, but there are many development executives who are more casual about being open to taking outside pitches. Its a lot of work to network and cold call to get enough companies for pitching, and to find one that connects. Use all methods for marketing, whether its , pitching direct, or through a third party connection. Any way to find the six degrees of separation from you and the mountain top is the right way.

    2)If the company interested in your project asked for tape (assuming docu-style), they're definitely interested. Don't be disouraged by any time lag. Often we feel the the enthusiasm the executive had means it the only project they care about, when in reality they're handling dozens of projects at various stages of development. Its also important to realize the your executive may have to use a bit of time to rally their superiors to get behind the project. Its all good. Have faith, and good luck! Let me know how it goes.


  13. Hi Scott,

    I've been pitching movie/tv ideas to Bob Kosberg the last several months but have had no luck. You wouldn't happen to know what could get his attention would you? Creative wise?
    Probably not, but worth a try huh!
    Anyways, besides using him I'm using a site online to promote my many ideas. Some are really just basically the concept, but alot have some of my expressive writing within them. What do you think the odds are of any of them being ripped off by hollywood?
    I heard that it does happen and basically you can't do much unless you have copyrighted your material. But in the fantasy market of movie pitching that I'm seeing, the industry is extremely competitive. And with my lack of funds I really have no other options. What is the best advice you can give for a wannabe movie idealist/and screenwriter!

    And believe me,
    I have alot more ?'s

  14. i RC 1212-
    Robert Kosberg is the real deal, and probably one of the best high-concept producers out there. I've spent many years bringing Kosberg concepts for film and television... some he was able to sell, but most can't see the light of day. That's the nature of the process.

    Only approach him with a very original concept that hasn't been seen before in film. He offers a lot of information on formulating concepts, so take a read and look at creating one line pitches (loglines) that can sell.

  15. Hi Scott is it better for alot of people to read my script to get feed back or keep it secret

  16. Hi Ben-
    I wouldn't shotgun the script out to the masses unsolicited, but do your homework in targeting companies and executives who produce similar genres or are positioned right to get it produced. Keep records of all submissions and requests. It is a numbers game to find opportunity, but put some calculated efforts into it and you'll get better results.