Thursday, February 10, 2011

Here Comes the Pitch!

You want to know what it takes to sell a television show? It takes BRASS BALLS to sell a television show, my friends. And it all starts with the pitch.

“But I’m a writer, not a salesman!” you wail. No, you need to be both. Whether you’re trying to get staffed on a show or impress a production company, you will be in many situations where you need to pitch your script. And the success of that pitch is directly related to your overall success.

Hold on, all you painfully shy writers out there who are freaking out. Pitching is a skill – all it takes is practice, practice, and more practice.

I practiced myself last night at the CAPE TV Pitch Lab, sponsored by CBS. I began by submitting a one-sentence logline and no more than 100 words describing my pilot. My description ended up being 97 words. Safe!

Last week, my name was announced as one of ten winners that would be pitching our shows to actual network executives, including Christina Davis, Senior Vice President of Drama Series Development at CBS. Do you love The Good Wife? Thank her.

A few of the chosen writers gathered to practice over the weekend. My pitch was too long, not to mention wordy and crappy. After working on it on my next few lunch breaks at work, I was ready.

I won’t comment on how my pitch went, other than to say this – it came, it saw, it kicked their ass! Yes, I left feeling a bit like Dr. Peter Venkman, smirk and all.

So I experienced firsthand the success of a solid pitch. Now it’s your turn – here are a few gems of advice that were offered by the execs last night for everyone pitching a television pilot:
  • Be sure to outline the mechanics of what your show will look like from week to week. What will the characters be doing in each episode? How will each case or adventure unfold? Give examples that have a beginning, middle, and end.

  • Visual aids should accent your pitch, not detract from it. Only use them if they’re easy to visually digest and reference during your pitch. And present any leave behinds at the end of your meeting.

  • Beware of pilotitis! Otherwise known as a pilot that is filled with setup and back story, but doesn’t give a solid idea of what the series will look like after the pilot ends. Present your back story succinctly, then lead them to where your characters will be playing throughout the season.

  • Introduce your characters and their emotional hooks before going too deep into story elements. They need to know who the audience should care about before diving into the plot.

  • Even if you have an ensemble cast, there’s always a first among equals. Make it clear who that person is in your show.

  • Know who you’re pitching to and format the style and content of your pitch to their brand. The same script should be pitched differently to different networks.
Coffee is for closers, people. Start practicing those pitches – you never know when you’ll need them.


  1. Congrats on kicking ass as I know you would.

    And I don't believe you have the capacity to be crappy, Teresa.

  2. Thanks Ken! Wish you could have been there to see everyone - it was a fun night!

  3. Thanks Audrey! We'll see what happens next...