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What Is a Television Show Pitch?
A television show pitch is a comprehensive document that includes a logline (or “elevator pitch”); the “bible,” which provides a rough outline of where your series will go in the first season; and a completed pilot script. Some pitch documents may vary in their contents, but all should give network executives or production companies reviewing the pitch an idea of the show’s core idea, as well as a sense of your writing style.
The 4 Components of a Television Show Pitch
- The logline, also known as the “elevator pitch.” This is a short summary of your TV show idea and needs to be one or two sentences at most. It must clearly demonstrate the core concept of the show. The term “elevator pitch” refers to the idea that it has to be short and snappy enough to pitch to an executive in an elevator. For example, Vince Gilligan’s logline for the AMC hit Breaking Bad may have read something like this: “A terminal diagnosis leads a cash-strapped, loving father to the hostile world of illicit drug manufacture and its deadly associations.” Learn about how to write loglines here.
- One-sheet. This is halfway between a resume and a condensed version of your idea. The purpose of a one-sheet is to give something to the executives after you’ve left the building so they’ll remember you. Executives hear hundreds of pitches per week, so the idea is that you make a good first impression with your actual pitch, but the one-sheet will serve to keep that impression going after you’re not around. A one-sheet should include your name, contact details, essential elements of your pitch such as name, genre, and logline, one to three short paragraphs outlining your idea and what it is trying to say, and any other relevant biographical information—for example, if your show is about working in a mine and your father worked in a mine for 20 years, that is a good relevant detail to include.
- Series bible. This is the most comprehensive part of the pitch. It should include details on your characters, the dramatic arc of the series, and more. Ideally, it should be no less than seven pages. You can start by including the title of the series, followed by the logline. Then, a detailed synopsis covering the broad strokes of the entire series, what it’s about, where it is set and the main point you’re trying to get across. You should then include a section on the key characters in the series—who they are, why they’re important, what drives them. How do they relate to the world of the series, and other characters? Do they have any quirks or personality flaws that make them interesting? Next, include a breakdown of the pilot episode you’re submitting—what happens, where, and why. Finally, don’t forget to include a list of all the episodes in the first season. Two to three sentences for each episode to give those reading your script an idea of what the general arc is (and to show them you’ve thought about the rest of the show in detail).
- Pilot script. You must submit a finished pilot script to give anyone reading your pitch the chance to evaluate your writing style and make it easy for them to visualize what would happen in that first episode. A pilot is crucial because it also gives executives a good idea of how the audience will react to your show.
8 Tips for Pitching a TV Show
- Write a pilot before writing the full pitch. Sometimes, an agent will need to send around the pilot script to networks; networks will then decide who they want to meet with for an in-person pitch based on the strength of the pilot script.
- Practice your pitch. Know that most TV pitching sessions are less than 30 minutes. You’ll have that time to run through the entire pitch.
- Know what happens after the first season. Network executives will want to see that you have the ability to talk through what two or three seasons of the show will look like—this shows them you have faith in your project and are ambitious enough to sustain a long-running show.
- Talk about what your show is really about. Not just what happens, but the larger ideas and concepts at play. What is your show trying to say? What’s the big picture?
- Do research on the networks you’re pitching. Network executives will want to see you’ve done your homework. Be prepared to talk about how your show will fit into an existing network’s current lineup, and why it’s a good fit for that network.
- Bring energy and passion to the pitch meeting. Sometimes, executives will sit through over 50 pitch meetings per day. If they can see how excited you are about your own idea, the energy levels will carry.
- Try not to rely on visual aids. Development executives want to hear from you, not a PowerPoint presentation. Most pitch meetings will require you to speak directly to the network executives for the full 20-minute session.
- Be meticulous in your documentation. If you have a great idea that you want to utilize, register your intellectual property (IP). Keep all records, including time-stamped Google documents, and any emails or correspondence showing your planning and development process. If a network is interested in your idea, they’re going to want to see that it is original—and that no one is going to try and sue you after your show airs.