Learn how to create, pitch, and sell an idea for a reality show to a production company or network:
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.
Networking & Marketing Your Pitch:
Partnering With A Production Company:
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.
RESOURCES: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.