3 Things You Must Not Do When Pitching A TV Show

14 09 2015

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It’s been a busy 2 years! I moved to NYC, got married, had a baby and I didn’t get on a show in NYC… so close. That story is in a different post below!

Anyway, now it’s go time, and I’ve been working on my pitch to take out this development season. As you all know, late summer/early fall is when the TV networks hear the pitches that comedy writers are looking to sell.  The first step is pitching to production companies.  So that’s where I am.  I’ve pitched it my show a few times, made adjustments (certain areas felt far too long) and this week I continue to pitch.  If one of the production companies want to take it to network, then that’s where we head next in the next few weeks. Its really crunch time!

But what’s interesting is that I’ve made some basic mistakes that I tell my clients not to do… and here I was doing them.Do as I say not as I do?! I couldn’t believe it!  But I didn’t panic, I didn’t freak out and I just left the pitch, addressed my concerns and kept on going. The truth is everyone will tell you “this is your only shot, so don’t screw it up!” But it’s simply not the truth and if you’re a real writer you have to adjust and re-write and adjust and rewrite. So even if one doesn’t go smoothly, you can take steps to ensure the next one does. And this is never your only shot. Even the losers from American Idol are still working!

So here are the 3 mistakes I’ve made, mistakes most writers make and what you can do to course correct when you find yourself doing them!

1. Too many characters – If you’re one of my clients, you know that when i read your pilot, I will call you out if you have too many characters.  Sure the final season of The Office had 20 characters, but the first season there was only 5.  Lost had a million people around but they focused on 5-7 in the pilot. Do not overwhelm your reader with a ton of characters, introducing a new one every page!  There is only so many people the audience can take.  Imagine walking into a room and meeting 25 people all at once.  Can you remember anything about any of them? of course not.  So don’t think the same wont be true when you’re introducing your characters. So I just went in and cut a character – RIP Lindsay.

2. Don’t include too many details, twists and turns of the pilot episode – Have you ever had a friend who tells you a story and includes everything, you zone out and say “uh huh, uh huh..” And then they ask you “I told you that story right?” And you say right, just so you don’t have to hear another story…  So remember this when telling your pilot story. Do not include every single detail. You might think its important, but it might not be. Do you need this to understand what happens at the end? Include it. Does that audience need to know that the 5th guy on the call sheet is going to wear a blue bowtie in the third scene in the pilot – lose it.  So I had to trim out a lot of the fat of the pilot story and keep it more high level so people weren’t getting lost.

3. Pick a lane – I love shows that shoot like my old show, That 70s show. You have a pre-shoot day where we shot all the flashbacks and the 360 circle scenes. We would have no audience. Then on Friday night we would have an audience come in and watch the taping as well as the bits we did on Thursday.  That is a multi cam show, but it had some single camera elements. How I met Your Mother is the same way… but now executives want you to say if its a multi camera or a single cam and here I was pitching a sort of hybrid.  I realized that confused some people and that is NEVER going to help you.  So I cut the confusion and made it a clear cut single camera.  But you never want to be backtracking mid pitch it makes you look like you’re not confident in your idea and vision.#PitchFail

So those are the 3 mistakes I’ve noticed I’ve made thus far!  Does your pitch (or your pilot) have any of these?  Let me know and comment below.

I’ll keep you updated on what happens next!

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