How To Pitch A TV Show

Let’s talk about how to pitch a TV show so you can become a TV writer.

We’ll compare how to pitch a TV show to how to pitch a movie and look at TV pitch examples.

We’ll also consider the “problem of originality” and learn a process for developing a TV pitch.

How To Pitch A TV Show – Overview

The key to learning how to pitch a TV show is the same as learning how to pitch a feature film.

You need to have a strong core concept.

That’s no surprise, but I want to be clear about this before we move on to the granular details of how to pitch a TV show.

How To Know If Your Core Concept Is Strong

In my experience, the best way to assess the strength of your core concept is to look for patterns in the feedback from potential audience members and at least one Hollywood pro.

In other words, your concept is strong when:

  • You have given the verbal pitch for your TV show to at least ten people in your target audience and they respond positively to your pitch.
  • You have submitted your one-sheet for coverage from a professional reader and received a Recommend.

Does Your Core Concept Resonate With The Audience?

To me, learning how to pitch a TV show requires actually pitching your TV show and finding out if it resonates with your audience (and with at least one pro reader).

Don’t worry about the pilot episode, casting, locations, or even future seasons.

Get the concept right first.

What Is A TV Concept?

Learning how to pitch a TV show means understanding what makes a TV concept different from a movie concept.

Here’s a short pitch template for a movie:

“My story is a (genre) called (title) about (hero) who wants (goal) despite (obstacle).”

I like this formula because it forces clarification of the central conflict. Typically, a story that is clear can be framed in terms of an entity (the hero) that is seeking something (the goal) despite some significant problem (the obstacle).

For a TV pitch, however, you need to add four elements – three are visible and one is invisible.

The Three Visible Elements Your TV Show Pitch Must Have

Your TV pitch must specify the:

  1. Distribution channel
  2. Length of the show
  3. Time slot

This is because TV is actually a much larger medium than film, and the different segments of the world of TV are mediums unto themselves.

This means literally saying whether your TV show is:

  • Cable vs. Network (the channel)
  • Prime time vs. Morning (the slot)
  • Half-hour vs. Hour-long (the length)

Thus, this TV pitch structure:

“My show is a (channel) (slot) (length) (genre) called (title) about (hero) who wants (goal) despite (obstacle).”

Example:

“My show is a cable prime-time hour-long action-drama called Privateers about a group of hackers trying to level the playing field in American politics despite powerful government forces.”

Film pitches don’t need to do this. When pitching a film you don’t need to specify that your film is intended to be a studio project or an independent project, and you don’t need to say whether it’s 90 minutes or 120 minutes.

For TV, in many circumstances, you do.

When Are These Elements Implied?

Often when you say “drama” it implies an hour, and “comedy” implies a half-hour.

But as TV adapts to new distribution channels (Netflix, Amazon, Hulu), more types of shows are evolving, and it can be easy for listeners – especially if they are not Hollywood insiders – to get confused about your core concept.

You’ll want to customize your pitch to the listener when you’re in any kind of pitch meeting.

The Invisible Element Your TV Show Pitch Needs

The one additional element that must be present in your TV pitch isn’t something you say out loud, but it has to be there.

You need to demonstrate the source material for future episodes.

Typically, a deep vein of future source material comes from:

  • Current events (legal issues, police stories – e.g.: The Good Wife, CSI)
  • Historical events (fall of empire, inventions – e.g.: Rome, Halt And Catch Fire)
  • Personal issues (love, growing up, race – e.g.: Friends, Freaks And Geeks, Blackish)
  • Workplace environments (security services, a TV set – e.g.: Homeland, 30 Rock)

Of course, most of these sources can be mixed and matched.

How To Pitch A TV Show – The Problem Of Originality

When you’re learning how to pitch a TV show, you need to consider how original your idea is and adjust your pitch accordingly.

The fact is that your pitch can fail if it’s not original enough – but more often, it fails because you’re pitching it as something which is too original.

The Right Amount Of Originality

Creative professionals (like you and me) tend to value uniqueness and originality.

The desire to do something original stimulates others to innovate, entertains audiences in new and challenging ways, and holds a mirror up to new aspects of our culture.

However, originality scares decision-makers.

To a decision-maker, words like these…

  • revolutionary
  • unique
  • unprecedented
  • breaking new ground
  • completely original

…are code for: “so far, projects like this have never been successful.”

The lesson is this:

The more original your idea, the tougher it is to sell.

The Wire Poster How to Pitch a TV show

How To Pitch A TV Show – The Wire

The Wire is considered by many to be not only the best show in the history of television, but also one of the most original.

Let’s look at how David Simon pitched The Wire and see what we can learn about how to present our most original ideas in a way that doesn’t scare decision-makers.

Lead With a Familiar Context

From David Simon’s original pitch for The Wire:

The Wire is a drama that… will be, in the strictest sense, a police procedural set in the drug culture of an American rust-belt city, a cops-and-players story that exists within the same vernacular as other television fare.

Now, Simon knows how to pitch a TV show. He also knows that he has a new and ambitious take on the genre of police procedural. However, he doesn’t lead with his complex, intellectual ideas about writing a Greek tragedy.

He leads with what is familiar.

Use Comparisons to Give a Sense of Precedent

After Simon establishes the familiar context for The Wire:

…The Sopranos becomes art when it stands as more than a mob story, but as a treatise on the American family. Oz is at its best when it rises beyond the framework of a prison story and finds commonalities between that environment and our own, external world. So, too, should The Wire be judged not merely as a descendant of Homicide or NYPD Blue, but as a vehicle for making statements about the American city and even the American experiment.

This part of Simon’s pitch (clearly customized to HBO), demonstrates that there is precedent for a show like The Wire.

End With What’s Original About Your Project

Only after a familiar context and precedents are established does Simon segue into discussing originality:

…In the end, the cost to all sides begins to suggest not so much the dogged police pursuit of the bad guys, but rather a Greek tragedy. At the end of thirteen episodes, the reward for the viewer—who has been lured all this way by a well constructed police show—is not the simple gratification of hearing handcuffs click. Instead, the conclusion is something that Euripides or O’Neill might recognize: an America, at every level at war with itself.

Note that even when Simon finally says the words “Greek tragedy,” he still gives the context of the familiar “well constructed police show.”

Battlestar Galactica How to Pitch a TV Show

How To Pitch A TV Show – Grey’s Anatomy

If you’d like to see the story bible, original pitch, and pilot of Grey’s Anatomy that Shonda Rhimes used to sell the show, I highly recommend Shonda Rhimes’s MasterClass in Television Writing.

Shonda Rhimes MasterClass Review HeadShot“I feel like I’m at the stage in my career, where honestly, I’m interested in building the next group of showrunners and the next group of writers and really make it possible for people to have better careers and know more and learn from any mistakes I’ve already made.”- Shonda Rhimes

I took the class and here’s my detailed review.

How To Pitch A TV Show – Battlestar Galactica

On the other hand, sometimes the problem is a lack of originality.

For example, when Ron Moore and David Eick went to pitch the reboot of Battlestar Galactica, Eick received a suggestion from Bonnie Hammer, Chairman of NBCUniversal:

‘You’re going to have to explain to me again when you come in to pitch this why the world needs another space opera.’

In other words, the space opera genre had become boring (at least to Hammer) and so what was needed was to emphasize originality.

Moore obliged and instead of leading with a familiar context, led with the way in which his project was original.

Here’s an excerpt from his written TV pitch, titled: “Taking the Opera out of Space Opera”

Our goal is nothing less than the reinvention of the science fiction television series. We take as a given the idea that the traditional space opera, with its stock characters, techno-double-talk, bumpy-headed aliens, thespian histrionics, and empty heroics has run its course and a new approach is required. That approach is to introduce realism into what has heretofore been an aggressively unrealistic genre. Call it “Naturalistic Science Fiction.” This idea, the presentation of a fantastical situation in naturalistic terms, will permeate every aspect of our series.

Star Trek How to Pitch a TV Show

How To Pitch A TV Show – Star Trek

Often the issue of originality is especially difficult for science fiction projects because their nature is already to be so different.

The key to learning how to pitch a TV show in the genre of science fiction is to be able to answer this question:

“What are the rules?”

What The Rules Are

The rules are the laws of your milieu, and the basis for why your alternate universe is realistic and believable.

If you know the rules and can explain them clearly to decision-makers, it becomes easier to suspend disbelief and share your vision of a different world.

Different Versions of “What Are The Rules?”

You might be asked questions like:

  • “What are the rules?”
  • “How is this world different from Earth?”
  • “What are the uses of this (device name)?”
  • “How does the (device name) work?
  • “What are the consequences of this technology?”
  • “Where do the aliens come from?”

How Star Trek Did The Rules

Here’s an excerpt from Gene Roddenberry’s original pitch for Star Trek:

Star Trek offers an almost infinite number of exciting Science Fiction stories…. How?

Astronomers express it this way: Ff2 (MgE) – C1R11 x M = L/So

Or to put it in simpler terms, by multiplying the 400,000,000,000 galaxies (star clusters) in the heavens by an estimation of average stars per galaxy (7,700,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000), we have the approximate number of stars in the universe….

So… …if only one in a billion of these stars is a “sun” with a planet… …and only one in a billion of these is of earth size and composition… …there would still be something near 2,800,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 worlds with a potential of oxygen-carbon life…

… or (by the most conservative estimates of chemical and organic probability), something like three million worlds with a chance of intelligent life and social evolution similar to our own.

Or, to put it in the language of television… Star Trek is a ‘Wagon Train’ concept—built around characters who travel to worlds ‘similar’ to our own, and meet the action-adventure-drama which becomes our stories….

Make Complex Scientific Ideas Accessible

Roddenberry needs to demonstrate a deep vein of future source material.

But he doesn’t just say “a new world each week.”

That doesn’t explain the rules of the Star Trek universe.

Instead, he explains the equation so that his concept seems like a logical extension of the scientific truths of our own world.

In other words, Star Trek can find a new world each week because based on the rules of our world, alien life must (mathematically) exist.

Now, to be fair, the incredibly successful Star Trek franchise has been called out for it’s share of scientific mistakes (as has Star Wars, Dr. Who, and more).

My point is that Roddenberry uses the known astronomical data at the time to make the case for his concept – not only for the future source material, but to place the original nature of the series in the familiar context of Earth’s scientific laws.

Get The Details Right

In my experience, sci-fi fans are smart, knowledgeable about the genre, and care about details.

I believe this is one reason, for example, why Ron Moore took such care with the realism of Battlestar Galactica, and why James Cameron hired a professor of botany and plant science to help design the lush world of Pandora in Avatar.

Respect the sci-fi audiences (and the decision-makers who can greenlight your project) by making your complex scientific ideas accessible and getting the details right in your pitch.

How To Pitch A TV Show – Structure

Let’s go back to the difference between how to pitch a TV show and how to pitch a movie.

Typically, a movie pitch starts with a short pitch (1-3 sentences), then goes into the complete pitch (5-10 minutes) of the three-act structure.

In contrast, most written TV pitches are structured like this:

  • Core concept pitch
  • Show summary
  • Character descriptions
  • Pilot episode story
  • Future season short pitches
  • Future episode short pitches

While each of these aspects is important, as I said, the most important aspect is the core concept.

How To Pitch A TV Show – Process

You may have read my post about how to pitch a movie.

Let’s take the concept from that post and develop it for TV. That way we can illustrate the research aspect of the process which is so crucial to developing the core concept.

Step 1: Draft The Initial Short Pitch

Here’s the initial pitch for the original film idea:

It’s a comedy called Nerd Ops about the National Security Administration’s nerdiest technical people who must become field operatives to save the world from a terrorist hacker organization.

The essence of this pitch is that nerdy technical people become field operatives. Let’s explore how to pitch a TV show with that as the DNA.

Step 2: Identify Possible Genres

Here’s a way to generate ideas for genre descriptions:

  • Go to IMDb.com/tv/
  • Look for produced projects that are the most like your idea
  • See how they are classified

Here are some TV shows with brainy people and field operatives:

  • Burn Notice
  • Covert Affairs
  • MI-5
  • Intelligence
  • MacGyver
  • Nikita
  • The Unit
  • 24
  • Alias
  • NCIS
  • Chuck
  • The Big Bang Theory

Here’s how to note the genre classification:

Suppose I picked the show Burn Notice as an initial point of comparison. On IMDb, just under the title where it says “Burn Notice (2007-)” it says, “TV series – 44 min – Action | Crime | Drama.”

After looking up all of the above projects and noting their genres, it looks like Nerd Ops could be classified as:

  • Action crime drama
  • Action adventure crime
  • Action comedy

Step 3: Identify Length, Time Slot, And Channel

All of the projects we’ve researched so far are prime-time and hour-long except Big Bang Theory. This argues for specifying that this is a prime-time hour-long show.

As for whether it’s more cable or more network, at this point it’s not clear, but there’s nothing so far that seems too edgy for a network to consider, so I would provisionally go the network route.

Step 4: Identify Themes

While I do believe that it’s important for a finished project to have one core thematic premise, at this stage we’re interested in looking at themes more broadly.

Here are some themes that I could see being relevant:

  • Weaknesses can be strengths (and strengths weaknesses)
  • Warriors for the 21st century
  • The brotherhood (and sisterhood) of geekdom
  • Humans vs. machines

Step 5: Identify Structural Elements

Structural elements are aspects of the project which are obvious and relevant but which you don’t want to classify as themes.

Some structural elements of this story could be:

  • The culture of elite hackers
  • The NSA recruiting process
  • “Hell Week” training
  • Powerful supercomputers

Step 6: Build A Table To Hold Comparison Data

What we’re going to do now is build a table full of data.

Set up a table with five columns: Title, Genre, Length, Date, and Pitch.

You can do this in a word processor or use a spreadsheet such as Excel or Numbers.

Step 7: Fill In The Table

First, I’ll search IMDb.com for Burn Notice. I’ll enter the genre and length in my table.

Second, I’ll look for the project summary. I’ll highlight it, paste into a text file to remove the formatting, edit if needed, then cut and paste into my table.

My table looks like this: GIAR Research Nerd Ops for TV Example

Step 8: Look For Patterns

These are some of the patterns I see:

  • Almost all projects are hour-long action, thriller, adventure, drama, and generally “shoot-em-ups.”
  • The only material that is comedic is Chuck and The Big Bang Theory.
  • While most of the comparison pitches hint at the future source material, the pitch for Nerd Ops does not.

Step 9: Develop A New Version Of The Core Concept

This is the part of the process where you, the writer, go into a room by yourself and figure out something amazing.

When you go into the room you have:

  • DNA of nerds becoming operatives
  • Antagonist of a terrorist hacker organization
  • Themes and structural elements (see above)
  • Research on comparable projects

Then, you emerge from the room with a new concept:

Virtuality is a network prime-time hour-long (genre) about an elite group of MIT students who have to save the world by defeating a terrorist hacker organization in a terrifyingly real Virtual Universe containing an infinite number of virtual worlds.

Step 10: Add More Comparison Projects

Now that we’ve got a revised concept, we need to redo our research to help clarify the genre.

We’ve added new elements: virtual reality and multiple worlds.

Based on this, new possible comparisons include:

  • Sliders
  • Quantum Leap
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation
  • VR.5
  • Virtuality (a TV movie with the same title)
  • Disclosure
  • Inception
  • The Matrix
  • The 13th Floor

You can see the full table here: GIAR Research VR for TV Example.

Step 11: Look For New Patterns

Based on the new comparison projects, a common genre is sci-fi action adventure, and common thread is that there is a secret hidden in the virtual world that would have consequences if discovered/let out into the real world.

Step 12: Adapt The Core Concept

After the writer goes and does more creative work:

Virtuality is a network prime-time hour-long sci-fi action-adventure about an elite group of MIT students who have to save the world from a terrorist hacker organization by finding the ultimate codebreaking program hidden in a terrifyingly real Virtual Universe containing an infinite number of virtual worlds.

I grant you, this is clunky, but now we at least have a core concept that works for TV and describes the project accurately.

Step 13: Expand The Core Concept Into A Summary

Again, the writer goes into a room and comes out with:

When MIT Professor MacGivens invents “The Skeleton Key,” a code-breaking program which can penetrate any encryption, before he can find sanctuary with the authorities, he is murdered by the terrorist hacker organization, “The Ten Thousand Suns” (TTS), who promise to release the Key and render all banking firewalls useless.

There’s only one problem – Professor MacGivens hid the Key in pieces inside an immense, multi-dimensional, Virtual Reality (much like the Triforce in the video game, The Legend of Zelda).

The operational division of the National Security Administration, called “The Department,” recruits Professor MacGivens’ five graduate students to help them find the Key before the terrorists do.

Soon, the students realize that they are in over their heads. The terrorists are smart and deadly, and if they die in the virtual world, they go into a coma in the real world.

Luckily, MacGivens stored a copy of his mind inside the VR world, where it functions as a “Hari Seldon” (from Asimov’s Foundation novels) kind of advisor.

Unfortunately, it’s not long before operatives from TTS discover who the students are. TTS attempt tracks and attempts to kill the students in both the virtual and the real world. The students must learn how to protect themselves in both worlds while seeking the Key and outwitting their highly intelligent, sociopathic adversaries.

Step 14: Get Feedback

You may remember that the first point I made was about the importance of pitching and developing your core concept.

Now is when you do that:

  • Take your short pitch and your summary and email it to a few friends who like this kind of TV show.
  • Meet with more friends one-on-one and deliver the pitch and summary verbally.
  • Submit your work in writing to a professional reader and see what he or she thinks. (You can find the consultants I recommend on my Resources page).

Step 15: Draft The “Bible”

Once you have tested your core concept, you’re ready to expand things into a “Bible.”

A Bible includes material such as:

  • Detailed character descriptions
  • Pilot episode story
  • Backstory
  • Future season summaries
  • Future episode short pitches

I hope this post helps you learn how to pitch a TV show.

Any thoughts on the process I’ve described? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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Discussion About How To Pitch A TV Show

  1. sifiso jona

    good day i would like to pitch a reality tv show but im not sure whether a drama/comedy tv show and a reality tv show pitch are the same cause my template is not about a reality tv show.

  2. John hall

    Working on a TV pilot about two outlaws amid the unrest in Texas after the passing of the Compromise of 1850. Its titled Death & Compromise and has met with good feedback. Just don’t know how to get it in front of people to get in on air!!

    • Stephanie Palmer

      I like the title, John. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but in most cases, the writers who get the opportunity to pitch original TV shows are experienced TV writers. Typically, TV writers work on other shows first, build a strong reputation and connections, and then have the chance to pitch their original ideas.

      • KT

        Then how did Sam Esmail get in the room? He never wrote for TV in his life and only had one short and one independent film before he got Mr Robot on the air.

      • Stephanie Palmer

        He wrote and directed Comet which got a lot of notice and a lot of decision-makers are fans. While most TV writers work their way up through the chain of command by working on other shows first, there are examples of writers who have excelled in another medium (eg. playwrights, film writer-directors) and are able to get to pitch original ideas.

  3. Mary Margaret Moton

    We have a TV show and I sell 30-minute segments to small businesses. Do you have any ideas besides the title, genre, core elements, and price? I am looking for venues to market to.

  4. Cecile B.

    I am an established tv showrunner pitching an original TV series (for the first time) to several networks and this is helping me further develop the verbal pitch. So thank you! I have also put together an exciting 3 minute sizzle reel. I was wondering if you have an example on how to write the one-pager? Is it a variation of the verbal pitch? Thanks again!

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Sorry that I don’t have a sample to share, Cecile. Yes, it usually is a version of the verbal pitch. Think of it like a selling document. What information would need to included so someone could pass this document up the chain of command (without you there to pitch it) and understand and be interested in the show?

  5. David Nelsen

    Stephanie: I really like your “How to Pitch a T.V. Show” Article. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and experience! I am in the middle of writing what my Partner and I believe will one of the Best T.V. Shows of 2017! I know you hear that often but we have been working on this project for the last 27 years and the timing and technology are now perfect. Love to share it with you and see if there was any way we could help each other. Let me know if you would be interested. Thanks

  6. Michael Hudon

    I am a US Army Veteran who has written a novel loosely based on my life and background – coupled along side real life issues at the US Mexico border – here in San Diego, CA.

    Tecate Peak traces the ebb and flow, the frenzy and the calm that is the day to day life of Harry Dugan,
    a cop from a family of cops who proves to be the epitome of the old adage,
    “no good deed goes unpunished”.

    I have started the adaptation – but time and money has always been my worst enemy.

    Please visit the Amazon site to read the entire synopsis.
    https://www.amazon.com/Tecate-Peak-Michael-Joseph-Hudon/dp/0578127652

    I really need help.

    God Wiling

    Michael Hudon

  7. Mathew Taylor

    I have a show like American idol and the voice only better. Can’t even get an agent to hear it, just need to get in front of the right person.

  8. Boikai O. Hill

    I am from Liberia, West Africa. I want to pitch a show called “Coming To America” about an African who travels to the United States to attend college. since I am a novice, is it possible to collaborate with more experience and/or accomplished writers to pitch my ideas?

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Yes, collaboration does happen. The challenge will be attracting interest from high-level writers as they have lots of projects to choose from, but it is worth pursuing.

  9. SHELL WALKER-COOK

    PUBLISHED AUTHOR, LICENSED ATTORNEY, LIFETIME VIDEOGRAPHER NOW WRITING SCREENPLAYS AND TV PILOTS-SERIES SEEKS MENTOR SCRIPT-STORY EDITOR AND ETC. TO BRING MY WRITING STRUCTURE UP TO NEXT LEVEL. IN RESIDENCE AT UCLA EXT. BUT NEED MORE ONE ON ONE.

  10. Bradley Olson

    I have gone on several websites like yours looking for advice on how to sell a tv show idea and always run into the same problem;every one thinks you want to be a screenwriter.I’m not sure I have what it takes to commit myself to learning the craft of writing for film or tv or whether I’d be any good at it.What I’m interested in is finding out if any of the eight stories that I’ve created over the last 20 years would make for good movies or tv shows.Is the advice you would give to someone like me a lot different than someone who wants to be a screenwriter too?

    • Stephanie Palmer

      One option is to pay for script coverage to get a sense for how your ideas rank amongst the competition. I will caution you though, that screenwriting is a profession and highly competitive. Just like other professions, it takes years of work and practice to be at a professional level. Just like there isn’t the chance to just play quarterback for one professional football game, there isn’t a way to just casually be a professional screenwriter. If you have stories to tell Bradley, I recommend considering writing them as short stories, articles, novels, or other written work that you can control and get out into the world without the barrier of having to pursue a new career.

      • Bradley Olson

        I think I gave you the wrong impression of what I’m trying to accomplish with my first email. I am getting ready to pay a writing consultant an hourly fee not to help me start a new career but first,just to tell me his opinion on whether the only one of my stories that could be a tv show is actually good enough to merit him working with me on it to come up with a compelling logline and a detailed synopsis that might stand a chance at being sold to someone who would find their own writers to move it forward.If my idea,which I’ve been working on since September 2002 ended up just being good enough for him to say it’s good but needs a,b,and c then I would work to make it better so that maybe at sometime in the future I could say to myself that my stories had value to people with informed opinions rather than just me. I have spent 20 years driving 2.5 million miles hauling cars all over the country with no need for music or a CB radio because the 8 stories I’ve kept out of the 100 that I’ve created keep me living in my imagination and except when I get tired I never get bored.I’m 58 years old and I’m not sure that trying to become a screenwriter now is a wise choice.

      • Stephanie Palmer

        That makes sense, Bradley. While I do consult, I don’t do the kind of consulting that you are looking for. Here are some consultants I recommend.

  11. Linda

    Your how to pitch a TV show was very helpful, but I still have a burning question. How do I get the chance to give my pitch to a production company or producer?

    Thank you

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Good question, Linda. TV is developed internally and by established TV writers. There is so much money involved in producing a TV show, that TV producers want to work with experienced writers. Typically, after working your way up on other shows, then you’d have the chance to pitch original ideas.

  12. A.T.

    Hey there,
    Thanks for this. I currently have a project into a production team/acency which has several established shows. They’ve sent my pitch into 2 networks and 2 other larger production companies. They are waiting for feedback to find out how to move forward. How long does it take to receive feedback typically?
    Thank you for your time 🙂

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Congrats, A.T.! This varies, but generally one week to one month is a normal timeframe to hear a response. Fingers crossed for you.

  13. Marlena Arguello

    I have an idea for a TV show drama about social work. Social workers are typically shown in a negative light. I am a social worker and believe it would be great to see a TV show about every day social workers doing their jobs. I don’t just mean DCFS social workers. But also hospital social workers, social workers in police stations, social workers in shelters, clinical social workers, etc… It would be a great drama and I believe a successful show. I am not a TV writer but I do believe this would be a popular show.

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Social workers do such important work and are often unappreciated. Thanks for all that you do, Marlena.

  14. Jackson

    Thank you so much, Stephanie. Very good information and very needed as we form our pitch to a major group! Really appreciate what you shared here.

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Glad this was helpful, Jackson.

  15. George Maxwell Hayford

    please could you send me a sample or format of an already written tv show so that i can edit to ssuit what i want to develop? thank you

    • Stephanie Palmer

      While I do not host screenplays on my site, you can find lots of TV show scripts online. I recommend checking out this site which hosts lots of TV scripts.

  16. Inigo Laugermann

    This is great information! Thank you for sharing!

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Welcome!

  17. Damarco

    I would kill for a few pages of actual treatments. I have Googled this subject to death, and all I am finding is the same lecture repeated differently. Don’t get me wrong. This is all solid advice. But just as we had to learn screenplay structure largely by reading other screenplays, we can’t have any idea how a treatment works until we see a bunch of them, and lotsa luck finding them.

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Hi Damarco,

      It’s true that there are a lot fewer treatments that are shared publicly, however, there are excellent treatment examples on Wordplayer and John August.

  18. Andrew Bryan

    This is beyond helpful. I’ve done a wealth of research online over the past year on this topic and this is by far the best and most detailed instruction I’ve come across.

    I am not a seasoned TV writer nor do I live in LA, but I do have a finished pilot for an hour-long drama series called “Shepherd” about a Catholic priest who turns vigilante after becoming fed up with the crime and murder plaguing his inner-city New Orleans community. Two years ago, I made a 10-minute concept short that caught the eye of an investor who approached me about shooting a full-length pilot. The hope is that a proof of concept may overcome the hurdle of there being no established names or recognizable faces attached to the project. I never expected to end up on primetime cable or anything, but with there being so many SVOD platforms available now, I thought there may be a chance to land a deal somewhere that would allow further production of the series (maybe not Netflix but one of the lower tier distributors).

    The pilot is currently in consideration at several festivals and we have begun to “shop it around” through various connections. Unfortunately, we just received our first rejection from (don’t want to name anyone) an agency director who asserted that the concept was not original enough for him to set up a meeting with a particular executive we were hoping to pitch to. He watched the entire pilot and though he was very impressed by the writing, acting, and overall production quality, he specifically referenced AMC’s “Preacher” (which will soon air its second season) and said that the vigilante clergyman narrative is overdone.

    I told him how I was aware of Preacher before we shot the pilot and tried to stress its differences, in that Shepherd was more serious, true-to-life, urban, gritty, and featured a black male lead and predominantly black cast whereas Preacher has a more rural setting and is largely a dark comedy set in a supernatural, over-the-top comic book world. In fact, my high concept explanation was that it is Preacher meets The Wire (a huge influence and one of my all-time favorites). However, he simply reiterated that it is still not original enough.

    It was refreshing, to say the least, to read your section about using a familiar context because I feel like that is what I at least tried to do. But where do you draw the line? Is my concept too familiar? I certainly don’t plan on giving up after one rejection, but I know I am in uncharted territory here and I don’t want to keep driving towards a dead end. Do you think there is any hope for Shepherd? If so, do you have any advice on how I should revise my particular pitch going forward?

  19. Marylyn Brooks

    Hello! Thank you soooo much for providing this great info!
    My company started out as a publishing company- printing and distributing books that I had written and illustrated, then I moved into creating , designing and manufacturing products based on the characters in my my books. I began writing a treatment, script and story boards for a television show based on the same brand of characters. I am currently still very heavily involved in the apparel retail side, however, I have interest from a network associate who is pressuring me to send her my pitch deck. So I am rushing to complete it today, even though I know nothing about pitch decks 🙁 my question is; should I include the books and retail products in the pitch ?
    Thank you so much for your time and wisdom ! You are a truly amazing individual and I respect you so much for the work you do ! <3
    Warmest wishes and respect,
    Marylyn

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Hi Marylyn, Congrats! It sounds like you have some fun projects in the hopper. Is the pitch deck to use to try and get financing? If yes, then assuming there is potential financial upside with the books and retail products, I would include them. If you are just pitching the story, I don’t recommend using a pitch deck and I wouldn’t include the retail aspects– just focus on the story.

  20. Squeaky moore-white

    Great information regarding the invisible elements to a pitch. Thanks

  21. Braydon Jones

    How old do you have to be to pitch a tv show? Is there an age limit at all?

    • Stephanie Palmer

      No age limit, however most people who sell TV shows have experience as TV writers or producers on other shows first.

  22. Musto Pelinkovicci

    I have actually shot the Boris Comedy Pilot and am now editing a trailer to submit to TV Networks and Cable. Boris is about an old fashioned Eastern European single dad who denies his teenage son and daughter every freedom that their American friends take for granted. It’s hilarious comedy. Would like to find someone who can get it in the right hands for it to be seen and hopefully get picked up for a regular half our series.

  23. Daniel Santana

    Hi Stephanie,

    I found your document very useful and insightful.

    I did have a few questions in regards to structure for pitching an animated series.
    I wrote a script with a colleague a while ago and had the opportunity to pitch it to a couple of studios here in Canada. The script was for an animated feature film and in the pitch a lot of the elements you mentioned were included. Both studios showed interest however, the first one ended up passing because they had three films already slated for the next few years and the other one had a project in development that would have been somewhat in competition with our proposal.

    The head of stories for one of the studios recomendad that the universe we had created for our film proposal was vast and interesting enough that would be served better as a serial and that maybe we should take this approach. We are currently developing a new pitch document for a tv show based on these recommendations and so far most of the elements you recommend here have been addressed. I have also been able to attach a director and a production designer to the project who have a very strong reputation in the TV animation industry both in Canada and the US.

    So the question is how far should I go in terms of my pitch document. We are drawing concept art and sketching some preliminary character design to include in the Bible to help ilustrate both the nature of our world and the look of the show. Is this something that could work against my pitch? Is there more to the bible on an animated show based on the fact that the style of animation, look development, etc, would affect the final product?

    I know this is not the usual way projects are pitched but based on the directors connections and some connections of my own we are actually getting some traction for future pitching opportunities and I want to have a documents that exedes expectations while staying within format.

    Sincerely,

    Daniel

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Hi Daniel,

      Congrats on the progress you’ve been making! That’s terrific. There isn’t a specific requirement when it comes to animated pitches so you have some leeway. I have seen a number of different kinds of presentations work based on the creator and the type of show being pitched. A word of caution is that any visual pieces that you include should be absolutely top-notch as decision-makers are generally used to professional calibre (expensive) work and anything that isn’t at that level can be dinged for being “amateurish.” Sometimes, it is more effective to describe the look but let the decision-maker imagine the best representation of the idea in their head.

  24. Assistant

    I am currently an assistant in Hollywood (hoping to someday be an executive), and would love to hear more about what types of questions you (or any executive) might be asking in a pitch room or if there is a general “guideline” on how to analyze or listen to pitches?

  25. Christina Martinez

    I just have an idea for a show I don’t want to necessarily be the writer I just know it would make for great tv. It is like a “Last Man on Earth” type of comedy show, but for the audience of “Superstore.” I just want to pitch the show is that something that is done in this industry.

  26. Jacob Bowen

    Hello, I’m aspiring to be a show writer in animation for teens and young adults. I wanted to know how exactly I’d be able to apply to certain tv networks in order to later make my own pitch. I aim to make a darker more violent action show that dwells on self identity and discussions of mental disorders and don’t think that cn, disney, or nick would want to endeavor in something of that sort. I was thinking possibly adult swim, but still don’t know how to apply.

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Hi Jacob. TV shows are generally developed internally and they don’t accept pitches from writers without established credits. After you have experience writing on other people’s shows, then you would have an opportunity to pitch original ideas.

  27. ANTHONY HALL

    i OWN NINE SCREENPLAYS (6 MOVIE, 3 COMEDY SITCOM EPISODE SCREENPLAYS) AND OVER 50 TELEVISION AND MOVIE PITCH CONCEPTS. i’M LOOKING TO PITCH THEM TO FILM AND TELEVISION EXECUTIVES. MY ASKING PRICE FOR EACH IS LISTED BELOW ATTACHED TO THIS EMAIL. i KNOW EVERY ARTIST FEEL THEY HAVE THE NEXT BIG HIT, BUT i’M SURE THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY WILL BE MORE THAN IMPRESSED WITH MY SKILLS AS A WRITER AND PRODUCER ONCE THEY HAVE REVIEWED THE GENIUS OF MY TALENT. i JUST NEED THE OPPORTUNITY TO SHOWCASE THEM.
    ANTHONY HALLS’
    SCREENPLAY CONTRACT REQUEST

    COMPENSATION PAYMENT
    – Anthony Hall (Screenwriter) is seeking $100,000.00 for each of his 9 screenplays: (6) Movie Screenplays, (3) Comedy sitcom episode screenplays and for his 50 movie and television pitch concepts as well.
    – 2% of all profit royalties after the initial purchase, with no cap on royalty payments.
    – 8% of net profit of the initial purchase of the picture’s revenue.
    CREDIT
    – Anthony Hall (Screenwriter) must be granted credit to movie masters.
    – Anthony Hall (Screenwriter) must be granted right to retain promotional copies of picture.
    – Anthony Hall seeks full / partial creative control.
    – Anthony Hall seeks Executive Producer / Producer credit.