PDA

View Full Version : How Can I Sell My Reality Series?


realitygen
09-30-2012, 12:06 PM
I wrote ten episodes of a reality TV series, and can write more; the concept has legs and can keep going indefinitely. I am not experienced in the TV industry and I wrote the episodes in narrative form, without a video or script. I copyrighted them, I also prepared a pitch bible and registered that with the WGAW. I am trying to sell what I have done or make some kind of deal to get it made into a reality series. I don't really know who to contact or how to start. I contacted a couple of TV production companies and one said they would (probably) make a sizzle reel of it if I would pay half of the likely cost of $100k. Is this customary? Or --perhaps I should ask -- is this inevitable? I know it is very difficult to even get the right people to hear your idea/see your pitch if you do not have a connection or advocate in the industry and I don't. Any suggestions as to what I should do would be greatly appreciated. What entities should I be trying to contact? Agents, networks, more production companies? I know they don't take unsolicited pitches; it did not take long to find that out.

emily blake
09-30-2012, 12:25 PM
You may want to read this thread:

http://messageboard.donedealpro.com/boards/showthread.php?t=68521

realitygen
09-30-2012, 12:33 PM
Thank you very much, Emily. That is what I thought. I wouldn't do it.

But what should I do, as I am starting off without contacts in the reality TV industry? Or a video, or sizzle reel?

realitygen
09-30-2012, 02:44 PM
A poster called creativexec had some advice for a person with a somewhat similar inquiry.

I am familiar with hard work and business but lack experience and contacts in the TV industry. This is the first work I have created for TV and I believe it would be the most popular buy-and-sell reality show.

creativexec or someone with similar knowledge, I would be most grateful if I could get some specifics on who I could contact to hopefully get at least the brief audience I need. I know it will be hard but that's OK. Please explain about showrunners, etc.

Done Deal Pro
09-30-2012, 07:51 PM
In no particular order, creativexec is no longer posting here. He is really only posting on Twoadverbs.com.

Second, the vast majority of the people here are focused on writing for film & TV, so you might not get many responses to this.

Third, you might already be aware of this but I'll note it anyway to be safe. It's tough enough to sell a script but selling a reality idea in this climate has got to be equally as brutal if not worse in some ways. For just about anything TV related, networks look to established companies & producers, so if you don't have a track already or agent to get you into a company then you need to focus on contacting reality TV companies all on your own. It will pretty much never happen otherwise. Most probably won't be very open since they either already have hundreds & hundreds of ideas themselves and/or they just won't be open to being overwhelmed by every Tom, Dick & Sally out there with an idea they think is "great."

Until you line up some meetings with actual reality TV show companies, I probably wouldn't worry too much about a sizzle reel unless you just have lots of free time, money and/or know how to do one. A writer/director I do development work for does pitch reels but then he is repped by ICM and meets with studios and big production companies to pitch projects. It makes sense for him to spend the time (and money) to make one, even without a real guarantee. For you, someone without even contacts, it again would probably be better to wait to see if you can get some interest first.

For a regular TV show, showrunners oversee the writing staff and (in very short) guide the season and storyline for the series. A "reality" TV showrunner would really shape the general season, work on the different events or challenges for each week, plan the finale, make sure the show stays on track and so on. They would oversee text/V.O./narration for the series' hosts, research & facts, etc. (I'm no expert on reality TV by any means, though.)

This link might help a little:

http://www.videojug.com/interview/reality-show-pitching-2#do-i-have-to-be-an-established-producer-to-pitch-a-reality-show

Also, here is a collection of links you might find helpful if you are not familiar with the reality TV world:

http://www.videojug.com/search?keywords=reality+tv&x=0&y=0

Overall though, you're just going to have to do the simple but yet tiresome legwork of writing reality companies, seeing what their submission policies are, then trying to see if they will allow a submission. Also, remember of course, you'll need a good lawyer in your corner if interest is shown and things progress.

And in terms of the who to contact, start with the development executives at the different reality companies. I wouldn't spend the time necessarily trying to reach the head producer, since they, like most production companies have a filter system for submissions. I'd suggest researching shows similar to your idea, then contacting the production companies' executives that make them. The companies are listed in the credits and/or on the show's website. I wouldn't suggest wasting your time trying to contact the networks directly, unless you have a personal friend that works at one. They want to hear from actual producers who have made things.

Hope this can help some. Maybe someone who works in reality TV can chime in and offer more or better info.

realitygen
10-01-2012, 05:46 AM
Thanks so much, donedeal.

When you say to contact reality TV show companies,do you mean reality TV production companies, not TV notworks? Or agents? I have already started doing that.

Your suggestion to contact the production companies' executives that make similar shows is an excellent suggestion.

I have seen some of the videojug videos in those links. I will view the ones I haven't seen yet.

Experienced pros may assume when a new person asks how to get started, that person expects results without effort, without paying dues. I don't expect that.

I also don't think writing -- documenting -- or otherwise preparing a reality show requires no creativity. My concept is based on things that really happened, but how you tell the tale and what you edit out matters. At least I believe it does.

I might say Sebastian Junger's "Perfect Storm" is a reality novel. Junger says he didn't even make up any of the dialogue. I have creative background; I'm not just a person who thinks his life is funny.

Thanks again!! I will check similar reality shows for people to contact.

mge457
10-01-2012, 06:49 AM
Quick note, you can shoot a quality 2-3 minute sizzle for pretty cheap. I know two people in the reality TV world (both screenwriters, one a Nicholl winner btw) who shot sizzle reels for under $1,000. One of the writers works at a major reality production co. and has sold 3 shows this year. The other is finishing the sizzle for his 4th 'show' idea and is about to sell his first.

PM me for more info.

realitygen
10-01-2012, 08:14 AM
Hi mge, that's good to know, but I don't think my trying to get an inexpensive sizzle reel done at this point would help much, for a couple of reasons.

I have writing experience but no TV or video experience to bring to the production; also, filming this reality situation would not just be a matter of (expertly) shooting the characters doing their thing.

Most of my characters would not want to be filmed doing what would interest people, so actors would be required. I don't know if this means my series would fit the precise definition of reality TV. But some awfully juicy stuff goes,on, and the best dialogue comes out of real people's mouths.

Done Deal Pro
10-01-2012, 08:54 AM
Experienced pros may assume when a new person asks how to get started, that person expects results without effort, without paying dues. I don't expect that.

I also don't think writing -- documenting -- or otherwise preparing a reality show requires no creativity. My concept is based on things that really happened, but how you tell the tale and what you edit out matters. At least I believe it does.

That's fine and great you are willing to work hard, but that's in some respects the least of the battle. There are tons of people with really bad ideas and no experience who are willing to work hard. It's really more about playing the smart game, relatively speaking. Research the companies. Have a solid pitch ready to go. Have your show well thought out. Be prepared to present it at almost a drop of the hat. And so on. Also, be sure you've tested this idea out on some others first. Try to get some honest feedback on how "great" it really is just as one would with a script idea or even finished script before going out with it.

And I am in no way saying creativity isn't required. Considering how manipulative and controlled reality shows are, they probably require more creativity sometimes than some fictional shows. The whole set up & subject is key. That's what's got to grab people right off the bat. Also, knowing how it will play out in terms of what might happen or could happen is important -- sort of best guesses on what one could expect during a say a 10 episode run, for starters. But it's still a little unclear as to what your show idea is really like if you are talking about having actors involved and you're saying it wouldn't precisely fit the definition of a reality TV show. (Granted actors are used on shows like "What Would You Do?" or "Punk'd." And there are also dramatizations of past events like crimes, murders, etc.)

And in terms of a reel, I wouldn't spend any money. But you could possibly do a rip-o-matic and put together the feel of the show using graphics, images, music and even clips from other shows. This would take some time but should be pretty low cost.

Again, maybe someone who has worked on reality TV shows or their development can chime in. Good luck with all this.

realitygen
10-01-2012, 07:17 PM
Hello donedealpro.

Re your first paragraph in the previous post, I know my idea is good. Everyone I've told about it who is interested in the subject loves it, and the subject interests a huge number of people of all ages and professions. I can keep writing episodes indefinitely, gleaning new material from participation in the activity that is the subject of the show. Or longer, writing from memory.

I have done the things you describe in your first paragraph except researching the reality TV companies in the right way. That is what I am doing now.

Regarding using actors, I have assumed it would be necessary to use actors because the characters may not want to be in the series playing themselves. Maybe that is not the case; maybe they would want to. They would certainly make more money as successful TV actors than doing what they are doing now.

I guess I am not clear on some of the definitions of reality TV, as opposed to scripted TV. I have described events and quoted dialogues that have actually happened, in a narrative style. And are you saying the use of actors would cause it to be categorized as something other than a reality show? Or telling the stories of events that have already happened?

If I understood the definitions better, I would know whether to market it as a reality show or a scripted show.

In order to be a reality show, does it have to be just putting the characters together in the appropriate setting and seeing what happens? That is not what I have in mind.

Thanks again for your input.

Done Deal Pro
10-01-2012, 08:14 PM
I guess I am not clear on some of the definitions of reality TV, as opposed to scripted TV. I have described events and quoted dialogues that have actually happened, in a narrative style. And are you saying the use of actors would cause it to be categorized as something other than a reality show? Or telling the stories of events that have already happened?

If I understood the definitions better, I would know whether to market it as a reality show or a scripted show.

In order to be a reality show, does it have to be just putting the characters together in the appropriate setting and seeing what happens? That is not what I have in mind.

If you are using actors and they are reading lines written from a script and are being directed, it is not reality TV. That's, say, dramatized non-fiction. Or a recreation of a true event. Reality TV can be shaped and staged but it's non-actors and they are reacting within the moment. It's actual events taking place before the camera in a "non staged" way -- documentary style.

So I don't have to type so much just read something like this to get a better idea: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reality_tv

Staircaseghost
10-01-2012, 08:48 PM
Hello donedealpro.

Re your first paragraph in the previous post, I know my idea is good. Everyone I've told about it who is interested in the subject loves it, and the subject interests a huge number of people of all ages and professions. I can keep writing episodes indefinitely, gleaning new material from participation in the activity that is the subject of the show. Or longer, writing from memory.

I have done the things you describe in your first paragraph except researching the reality TV companies in the right way. That is what I am doing now.

Regarding using actors, I have assumed it would be necessary to use actors because the characters may not want to be in the series playing themselves. Maybe that is not the case; maybe they would want to. They would certainly make more money as successful TV actors than doing what they are doing now.

I guess I am not clear on some of the definitions of reality TV, as opposed to scripted TV. I have described events and quoted dialogues that have actually happened, in a narrative style. And are you saying the use of actors would cause it to be categorized as something other than a reality show? Or telling the stories of events that have already happened?

If I understood the definitions better, I would know whether to market it as a reality show or a scripted show.

In order to be a reality show, does it have to be just putting the characters together in the appropriate setting and seeing what happens? That is not what I have in mind.

Thanks again for your input.

Going out on a limb here, but by reality show do you mean something like "stories based on real events that happened to these people I know"?

That is, are your 10 fully-written, 40-page episodes dramatic retellings of stories that happened to your K-9 Cop/ ice cream factory worker/ lumberjack/ inner-city schoolteacher etc. friends? Is the idea that a camera crew would continue to follow these actual people's actual lives as they go about fighting crime with dogs/ fighting ice cream bosses by unionizing/ braving the forests of British Columbia/ teaching minorities the value of the capitalist ethos, or that actors would be on a set reading words that you write describing what happened to actual people?

realitygen
10-02-2012, 04:46 AM
Hi Will, thanks again for clearing that up.

By your definition -and apparently that of the industry --what I have is dramatized non-fiction. I quoted or paraphrased actual dialogue that was spoken. And described events that took place exactly, or approximately, as I narrate.

Now I need to know where to go with it. Who to approach.

But however it is categorized, this show would attract the same people who watch reality TV. Even if people know they are seeing dramatizations of things that happened when the characters thought no one was watching -- that makes it even better. No one in my episodes played to the camera, or to an audience. They thought no one was watching or listening, and in many cases they are behaving badly.

Hi ghost The last line of your post is right. Yes, the characters would be saying -- or paraphrasing -- words that I quoted. Some characters -- or actors -- might improvise and improve on the dialogue I wrote; some couldn't. My series -- which can broadly be described as about competition -- would be funnier and more provocative than a series with any of those themes you mention. I assume you were being humorous.

Perhaps I should start a new thread asking how I can sell my work of dramatized non-fiction.

Done Deal Pro
10-02-2012, 08:26 AM
Hi Will, thanks again for clearing that up.

By your definition -and apparently that of the industry --what I have is dramatized non-fiction. I quoted or paraphrased actual dialogue that was spoken. And described events that took place exactly, or approximately, as I narrate.

Now I need to know where to go with it. Who to approach.

But however it is categorized, this show would attract the same people who watch reality TV. Even if people know they are seeing dramatizations of things that happened when the characters thought no one was watching -- that makes it even better. No one in my episodes played to the camera, or to an audience. They thought no one was watching or listening, and in many cases they are behaving badly.

Perhaps I should start a new thread asking how I can sell my work of dramatized non-fiction.

What you might be looking to do -- and/or possibly a better way of describing it -- could be dramatic recreations or docu drama. Still little hard to say without knowing more. Sounds like it might be similar to shows/docs on the History Channel in which scenes from history are recreated with actors to better visualize what took place and the dialogue is either based on historical documents, recordings, footage or simply made up/paraphrased to dramatize the moment for viewers. Also, certain crime shows do scene recreations to better illustrate the moment.

Maybe the more important thing to do relative to figuring out what "genre" to call it, is actually finding real shows on TV you can compare your idea to. Even if it's not exact, it would almost certainly behoove you to be able to say my show is "Cops" meets "The Shield" or "The Hills" meets "Friends." Check out as many different shows as you can and find a few to compare your show to so an executive can quickly see in their mind what you are talking about and get a feel for what you want to do.

realitygen
10-02-2012, 04:53 PM
Hi Will,

No problem; my show is similar to one particular show in some ways and has the same dynamic. I can easily describe it as similar to that show. That show happens to be a reality show. But the feel of it is similar, though a larger number of people would relate to my show.

I am watching that show to write down the names of the people who produced it. Did you say, though, that it wouldn't work to approach producers at the network? The network is A&E.

I apologize if I'm asking you to repeat yourself, but what kind of company specifically, and what job titles specifically, should I approach for the best chance of getting my pitch listened to? Thanks again.

JeffLowell
10-02-2012, 05:09 PM
My only advice is stop writing episodes. You've got the bible and a pilot - no one is going to want to see ten plus episodes of a show they're thinking of buying.

realitygen
10-02-2012, 07:18 PM
Thank you, Jeff. I have stopped writing episodes though I have ideas for more. Now I am working on finding people to present it to. .

Done Deal Pro
10-02-2012, 07:37 PM
I apologize if I'm asking you to repeat yourself, but what kind of company specifically, and what job titles specifically, should I approach for the best chance of getting my pitch listened to? Thanks again.

Not a problem. Well, you're going to have to do the research. Figure out what shows are similar to your idea/show and start with writing them. And since you are an unknown, then start withe the development executives and see if they will show interest. You'll have to make some judgement calls on who to write based on the company size. If it's a big company then try to pick someone in the mid-range -- a creative executive or possibly a VP. You generally don't want to shoot too low or too high, since there is a process to it all. Mainly you want to target someone who is a step or two away from the final decision maker (producer) since they will be the one to filter all -- especially if you have no track record and/or a rep to get you in.

And keep in mind, unless you live here in LA, you will of course being doing a VERY short pitch over the phone, if you get that lucky, and that's about it. Most people will say no. You just have to keep at it and be prepared for those very few yes responses.

realitygen
10-03-2012, 05:23 AM
HI, Will.
Last night I watched the show it is most similar to. I wrote down a few production people's names from the credits. There were quite a few but I couldn't catch them all. Each name was on the screen for only a second or two. I plan to look the addresses up on the net.

realitygen
10-03-2012, 06:41 AM
The snail mail address of the exec. offices of the network I want to reach is in NYC. Can't find e-mail addresses for the individual producers.
I guess the studio work is done in Calif. but I'm a couple hours from NYC.

emily blake
10-03-2012, 08:30 AM
You can use IMDB pro to find most of the information you need.

But really, spend some time reading through the TV forum here. Read some threads, learn what you can.

realitygen
10-04-2012, 04:00 AM
Hi Emily. Thanks for your advice. This is the first I have heard of IMDB Pro.

Is is a directory of TV show producers? (I imagine it has other info too). Would you say it is necessary to subscribe to to IMDB Pro get e-mail addresses of producers?

realitygen
10-20-2012, 04:06 PM
Would anyone please respond -- is it necessary to subscribe to IMDB Pro to get e-mail addresses of producers of the type of shows that are somewhat similar to mine? Are there other ways to find those addresses?

Thanks for any input on this.

Done Deal Pro
10-20-2012, 04:46 PM
Would anyone please respond -- is it necessary to subscribe to IMDB Pro to get e-mail addresses of producers of the type of shows that are somewhat similar to mine? Are there other ways to find those addresses?

Yes. IMDB Pro is a paid service as noted on their site. Here is the basic breakdown for the site's cost: https://secure.imdb.com/signup/index.html

If you don't want to subscribe then create a list of company names via their free service and look up the companies to see if they have a website with contact info. Some do and some don't. Just depends. And probably any email addresses they offer will be info@ or contact@ in most cases.