As creatives and artists, we are so close to our creations, but do we make sense when we pitch our ideas?
I’d like to share two examples of pitches I’ve heard and my honest advice for how to pitch your idea in a way that best represents you and your work.
The first pitch was a multi-camera television sitcom pilot about a Millennial working as a production assistant on a reality show that is filmed in different states across the country to take advantage of tax credits. There are so many ways you could execute this logline. To better understand how to proceed, I asked myself: What makes me want to tune in every day to see this? What about this Millennial is relatable to viewers?
At her core, the main character is single, career-minded and loves to travel. Digging further, some production companies like a road show, some don’t. But as I mentioned above, this show planned to move to different states for low-tax credits. I worked on a show similar to this, and while it was successful, it wasn’t a major hit. I explained that it may be a hard sell to get someone on board and suggested the client dig into what makes this show unique.
I recommended a 30-second visual pitch. Visual pitches today don’t cost a lot of money anymore because you can film on your smartphone, and even regular cameras have a video mode. In my experience, production value can still look good at that level. If your idea is not fully fleshed out, it’s not ready. Take the time to show people what the show will look like and how audience members might react or experience the show.
It’s important to understand that when you pitch to funders, like I have, that they are “numbers” people. You have to be able to tell them what is different about the execution of your show and make comparisons.
For example, it’s like pitching a show based on Laverne & Shirley, a well-known series from a long time ago. Depending on how you pitched it, and who you had attached, if you had all the right elements in place, you had a show people are going to watch because it is a fresh, new take on something that has a proven track record.
We (industry people) really don’t want to see a remake. But if you can tell me it’s like Laverne & Shirley, those who know the show would probably go, “Wow, we miss that.” If you have that fresh, new take on a vetted show with the script and team to back it up, you will likely get funded. Look at how many sitcoms there are. It’s all about what story they are telling and how they are telling it (execution).
Bottom line: Make sure your idea is fleshed out and you’ve made the proper distinctions showing your idea is unique and captivating.
On to my second example. This pitch was a comedy and overall more fleshed out. It was written based on the writer’s observations of interactions at Hollywood parties and the antics that ensue when people are on a mission to get what they want. Here are the questions I asked that all creators pitching a show need to be able to answer:
• What’s the title? Does it make sense for the content?
• What are you going to film/shoot on? (This tells me if they know the visual style.)
• Is it cast? If yes, has the talent been in anything?
In this case, the writer had a catchy title that matched the pitch (they don’t always), and while the show had been cast, the talent hadn’t been in anything previously. In my experience, if the writer has contractual agreements with all first-time talent, this will be very hard to get funded unless it is funded by family, friends or crowdsourcing.
The next topic we discussed was TRT or the total running time of the finished project. The writer wanted to fit the old format of short- and long-form content with set commercial time. Sometimes different TRTs are accepted, but even so, the writer has to make a decision. Is this short- or long-form content? Is it a short, a pilot for a TV show, an episodic or a feature film?
In this case, the pitch was commercial enough where it could be on TV versus a short that could lead to a web series. For instance, a 30-minute short can be cut into 10-minute episodics today — formatting content is much more fluid. However, you need to ensure you have a throughline when cutting a short into smaller episodics. It’s important to determine what format fits your content best and convey that to whoever you’re pitching.
Returning to our example, the writer decided to keep it a 30-minute short, which led me to explain that it’d be difficult for me to get funding and/or monetize at the level I could with episodic or feature length. If you’re making a 30-minute short, I really suggest you consider a web series format. A web series is when you typically have at least three episodes: a pilot and an episode or two (or more). So the first one would be a pilot, the second episode would make it a webisode, and then the third episode officially makes it a web series.
However, there is no right or wrong to this. It is the writer’s journey, and all I can do is give honest advice based on my experiences to date, which is my whole life. Take the time to think about your project and be honest about your expectations. Be open to the honest advice you get along the way.