All you need to get started with a Reality-TV Pitch is a great idea! Combine that with unique characters, create a pitch and you’re ready to market to Hollywood!
Most writers or anyone with a reality-TV show idea have no idea how to create a pitch for Hollywood. Here are a few Top Tips to help put together a professional package:
TIP #1 – DETERMINE THE SERIES TYPE
Like all shows on television, reality-TV has a series type. The writer needs to determine what type of show and use this information to slant the presentation to sell a series type. Here are the different types of series:
A Competition Series pits characters against one another with a ‘win’ objective. The show may use individuals or teams competing against one another. The show can run a half hour or one hour in length. Examples include shows like Jeopardy, Hellavator, The Amazing Race, Top Chef, Americas Got Talent, & Cash Cab.
A Documentary Series usually runs one hour and hones in on a specific topic that it discusses weekly. For example, the TV show Ancient Aliens deals with the theory of ancient astronauts visiting earth in the past and explores the concept in weekly-episodes. These shows look, feel and act like a documentary and usually involve a narrator with tidbits of historical facts, expert opinions and new revelations added for entertainment value. Examples include Through the Wormhole & The Curse of Oak Island.
Any shows that has investigation at its core. This series type often overlaps with other series types, but for the purpose of a pitch presentation, use it for crime-style show, like Fatal Vows, The Lowe Files, & any type or murder or mystery show.
This series deals with investigations of paranormal activity ranging from apparitions to demons, werewolves, vampires and anything beyond the realm of reality that can be examined as potentially ‘real’. It includes shows like Ghost Adventures, The Dead Files and The Paranormal Files.
This is one of the most popular series type because this series hunts for elusive monsters worldwide, like Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster and other mysterious creatures that may or may not be real. This series usually uses a hunting or investigative style approach to seeking or luring the creature. Examples include Finding Bigfoot, Search for the Loch Ness Monster, Killing Bigfoot, & Sasquatch Mountain.
This is a ‘fun’ series that takes us behind the scenes to places and events we might not get to see otherwise. Examples include House Hunters, Diners, Drive-ins & Dives, American Pickers, Ink Masters, Pawn Stars and Undercover Boss.
CHARACTER DRIVEN SERIES
This series centers on specific characters or a group of characters and follows their stories. This type of show doesn’t have a competition factor, may or may not include ‘interviews’ and doesn’t look or feel like a documentary. Examples include Little Women L.A., Housewives of Atlanta, Naked and Afraid, and Marriage Boot Camp.
CONCEPT DRIVEN SERIES
Most reality-TV shows sell based on the characters rather than the concept. For example, there’s nothing interesting or unique about selling duck whistles, but Duck Dynasty was a hit show for years! It was the unique characters that sold the series. This is true for most reality-TV shows where the audience becomes invested in the characters and their stories. However, there are occasions when the concept wins out. An example is The Dead Files, which is just another paranormal series, but with a twist where a retired homicide detective joins forces with a paranormal medium to investigate hauntings. True, it’s a mixture of several series; paranormal series and an investigative series, but it’s the unique spin on the concept that is its selling point.
TOP TIP #2 – CRAFT THE IDEA
Each series has its own rules for what’s required to present it to a Hollywood producer. For a complete list of rules for every series type, read the book TURN YOUR IDEA INTO A HIT REALITY-TV SHOW, written by Barb Doyon and available on Amazon.
A reality-TV series often starts with an idea, but the key selling point is usually the unique characters, regardless of the series type. Shows like Ghost Adventures wouldn’t be a big hit without the unique way the 3-lead characters go about hunting the paranormal. Ancient Aliens wouldn’t be a smash hit if it weren’t for Erich Von Daniken and his flare for theories regarding ancient astronauts. And the Housewives shows wouldn’t have spin-offs if it weren’t for the character-driven conflict among the women.
Also, keep in mind that everything’s been done. Coming up with a fresh idea isn’t easy and isn’t really necessary in reality-TV. After all, there must be a dozen shows about Bigfoot on the air, dozens regarding ghost hunting and too many to count in the crime category. The key is UNIQUE or UNIQUELY QUALIFIED and interesting characters! As mentioned above, nobody cares about duck whistles. It’s the characters who sell duck whistles that sold the hit show Duck Dynasty.
TIP # 3 – PREPARE A PRESENTATION
CREATE A SLICK COVER
Think movie poster! When presenting screenplays and TV pilots, writers can’t add anything but words. This isn’t true for the reality-TV pitch. It’s all about the visual presentation. The cover should be slick, highly commercial and look professional. Don’t worry if you lack the skills to put together a cover, use templates from sites like http://www.canva.com (free with a few $1 exceptions). It’s easy to use and you can create glossy, high-quality covers. Recommend using the Facebook template. It has easy to create, cover styles that can be used on the presentation and easily uploaded to social media for promotional purposes.
LIMIT TO 1-10 PAGES
Keep the presentation brief. Less is more. Include an overview, introduce the creator (that’s you!), the cast (if only an idea, use a mock-up cast), use a tagline (short, pithy selling points), and close by offering an in-person pitch.
CREATE A VIDEO TEASER
Most writers balk at this point because they think it’ll cost thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars to create a video teaser. While it’s true that many presentations use what’s called a sizzle reel, which runs 5-10 minutes to present their reality-TV show, this really isn’t necessary and here’s why.
Any video can be used to create a viral audience via social media. If a video has an audience, it doesn’t matter if it’s 30 seconds long or if it’s a 10 minute long sizzle reel, it will attract a producer! ANYTHING WITH A BUILT-IN AUDIENCE will attract a producer; videos, sizzle reels, YouTube series, & books.
Extra tidbit: Extreme Screenwriting offers a Video Teaser service for a couple hundred bucks! Check it out http://www.extremescreenwriting.com
TIP #4 – MARKET
Once an audience has been created, now it’s time to send out queries to producers. It’s recommended the creator (that’s you) build a significant social media audience that’s verifiable, like video views on YouTube, of around 10K or more to attract a producer.
Do NOT send an ordinary email query. These are a dime-a-dozen and are often ignored by producers. Put a HEADLINE in the email’s subject line: REALITY-TV CONCEPT WITH 15K VIDEO VIEWING AUDIENCE. Producers are looking for projects that can attract an audience. Approaching a producer with a built-in audience is a great way to get ahead of the competition and possibly land a reality-TV show of your own!