The downtime in Hollywood has afforded me some extra time to write in between client development projects. Most recently, Funds for Writers published my article, "How to Create and Pitch a Television Show." So for anyone out there who's just getting started in this world and needs some guidance on the proper steps to take, give the article a read. It can be found here: https://fundsforwriters.com/how-to-create-and-pitch-a-television-show/?hilite=%27Mark%27%2C%27Heidelberger%27 But I've also pasted it below for your convenience :)
Stay safe. Stay healthy. Cheerio!
How to Create and Pitch a Television Show/ 2020-07-17
Series programming continues to be a desirable source of content for buyers around the world, even as the entertainment landscape shifts and evolves. And the proliferation of newer platforms like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and others means more places for writers to pitch their shows. In the marketplace of ideas, a good one will rise to the top. The key is knowing how to develop and present that idea like a pro. For beginners out there with a million-dollar idea, here are the most important steps in the process:
Work Out the Concept
Work Out the Concept
Flesh out your idea with a logline. This is a simple one- or two-sentence description of what your show is about. Consider whether the idea is truly original and what would make viewers want to tune in. Think about who the audience would be, the length of each episode (half or full hour?), which networks would air it and in what time slot. Then solicit feedback from people you trust. That could be members of a writers’ group, industry colleagues or really honest friends.
Develop the Story
If the idea passes muster with your test group, it’s time to jump into the development process. Come up with a strong title for the show and write out a synopsis of the entire series. Figure out who your characters are, what they want and what obstacles are keeping them from getting what they want. Make sure it feels unique but marketable and that the storyline can be extended for a full season (or multiple seasons). It’s not a movie; the pilot should be a catalyst for future episodes.
Write the Pilot
The pilot script is critical to your pitch because it gives executives a strong idea of a) what your show is about; b) the feel and tone of the show; c) your writing style; and d) how their audience will respond to it. Make sure structure, format and length are correct for whatever type of show it is, whether a one-hour cable drama or a 30-minute sitcom. (There are plenty of books and online resources that can offer guidance here.) Again, solicit feedback from trusted sources and rewrite as necessary.
Create a Series Mini Bible
A mini bible gives a sweeping view of your series from top to bottom. First, it should include the title, logline and synopsis. It should also feature a breakdown of the show’s main characters, including they’re goals, flaws, quirks and motivations. After that, have a synopsis of the pilot episode followed by a list of all episodes for the first season, including a short description of what happens in each one so executives can see where your show’s headed. And feel free to spice it up with photos and illustrations throughout.
Practice Your Pitch
Most pitch sessions only last 20 to 30 minutes, so you need to be able to pitch your show cogently and coherently in a shorter window than that since you want to leave time for the executive to ask questions. Remember, you’re not just pitching the plot, but the larger concept – what the show is really about and the message you’re trying to share with the audience. Practice pitching to a member of your trusted circle, get feedback, and revise.
Show It to the World
You’ll need an agent or manager to send out your pilot script to networks and then set up pitch meetings based on the strength of the response. (See my article on ways to get an agent if you don’t already have one: https://fundsforwriters.com/five-ways-aspiring-screenwriters-can-get-an-agents-attention/.) Research the networks you get meetings with so you can tailor a pitch on why your show is specifically right for them. In the room, be energetic and passionate about the show. Because if you’re not, why should they be? And bring a brief one-sheet that includes your name and contact info along with key elements of the pitch (genre, logline, synopsis, messaging, your bio) to leave with the executives as a way to remember you.
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