If you remember a while back I did a post on TV writing. That was from my first class which basically focused on how to write a TV spec script. Essentially you write an episode of an existing TV show. Now I’ve picked back up with TV writing II: Electric Boogaloo…I mean writing a pilot.
I could explain to you what a pilot is, but I think I’ll turn that over to my friend Jules…
Thanks Jules. Now in case you don’t like Pulp Fiction or that video has been taken down or SOPA/PIPA/ACTA got passed and I’m in jail, I will explain what a pilot is after all. When developing an original idea for a TV series you sell the first episode of a show to a production company and/or (not sure if it’s either or both) a network. Let me clarify, you don’t sell quite yet. You option your pilot script.
When you option the show you get a certain amount of money and the production company has a window of time to make the show. Then if they film the pilot episode you get more money. If the pilot episode is successful and a network makes a second episode that’s when the real money comes in!
So how do I sell my show? I need my elevator pitch! An elevator pitch is a short 30 second – 1 minute pitch I could rattle off if I were in an elevator with an executive or whoever could get my show made. Not that any of us will be so lucky. But when pitching the show I need to distill what’s important about my show and what’s most attractive to get someone’s attention.
What do my targets need to hear?
- Distill the essence of my show.
-Depending on which network I pitch to, my script will have to subtlety change. A pitch to MTV better be a bit different than a pitch to HBO. No matter who gets the show, changes will be insisted upon. What in my idea must I hold on to that makes it different from every other show? If I can be as specific as possible on this, I can hold my ground on what I need and change everything else that’s not so important.
- What THEY need to see.
-The production company (people physically making the show) needs to see that the show can last 100 episodes. Around that time a TV show goes into something called syndication. I.e. it goes to TBS or channel 32 and it shown at 6:00 pm then again at 11:30 pm. When that happens everyone who makes the show really gets money. Every time the show airs, you get money, but when it goes from once a week to 5-10 times a week, that’s 5x -10X more money a week. When a show’s on network, it will only airs as long as it’s being made. In syndication it could run for decades.
-The network (the people airing the show) needs to see it appealing to a massive audience and possibly attracting celebrities. They don’t care so much about it going into syndication, they want it to have as many people watching it at one time for the sake of ad revenue.
- The type of pitch. Depending on the type of show, my pitch needs to be different.
a) Title Show pitch. (Seinfeld, Cosby, Louis C.K.) For these shows I’m pitching the character.
b) Circumstance pitch. (Northern Exposure, Raising Hope) Guy X is taken from big city and moves to small town.
c) Concept pitch. (LOST, Battlestar Galactica) Most appropriate for sci-fi, you have to sell a concept about the world of the show.
d) Theme (Modern Family, Sex and the City, Desperate Housewives) You guessed it, you’re selling a thematic idea for the show and how your characters revolve around that theme.
So that’s pitching and I have to develop my idea enough to have a sound elevator pitch for class next Monday. Come back next week for another exciting installment of Jack’s TV Writing Notes!