Here’s part one of my top 10 tips to pitch scripts to a producer or channel commissioner. From staying positive to being choosy about what you send in, these pointers are aimed to help you in what is a highly competitive and, sometimes, challenging market place.
If you are thinking of sending a script to someone, bear in mind that trying to sell your work can be a bit like inviting a total stranger to rummage through your laundry: it can feel exposing and personal and make you question why you did it. Rejection at some point is not only likely but entirely inevitable. It happens to everyone, don’t take it personally and try not to be disheartened.
Luckily, it’s not always a one way ticket to the Heartbreak Hotel, sometimes a green light is lit, the man from Del Monte says yes and before you know it, your producer is planning a production schedule on a budget that’s two sizes too small. Happy days! It’s the hit we’re all after, in both senses of the word. My top 10 tips for pitching I’ve learned by trial and error – a fair amount of error – mostly so you don’t have to. You never know, they might just help you get that little bit closer to a yes from the commissioning gods – and that can’t be bad.
- Be specific. What is it you are selling? Rigorously test your format – both in terms of how it works and in relation to what is out there already. And by “out there” I don’t just mean across all channels generally but specifically the company you are pitching to.
- What is your USP? So you’ve worked out your format, the structure, the backdrop and characters. Now, what makes your show a cut above its rivals?
- Packaging can help. Going through a well-respected production company or producer whose output you admire (and, this cannot be stressed enough: one who totally gets your work) can really help. In reality, brilliantly executed scripts are rare enough to warrant attention without the additional packaging – really – but teaming up a great script with a known producer is going to take some of the risk out of the decision for a broadcaster.
- Be positive! Don’t take offence if a producer or commissioner doesn’t think your baby is as beautiful as you do. Be gracious and appreciative of all feedback you receive however much you might disagree with it. Nobody likes to feel they are being unheard or disrespected – and in an industry run purely on creative collaboration (and caffeine), it’s doubly true. Look at seemingly negative feedback this way: it might well give you an insight into the project’s Achilles heel. It will almost certainly give you an insight into the tastes of that particular producer/commissioner – making your job a little easier, and your judgement a little sharper, the next time you have something you think they might like.
- Pay attention to commissioning briefs. These are a bit like shopping lists for broadcasters given mostly to producers and, occasionally, directly to writers. Listen carefully to where the opportunities lie (slots and genres) and the direction a channel is going in but be wary of prescribing whole-heartedly into a too-specific wish-list – unless you (a) already have a project that already ticks those boxes or (b) are really excited/inspired by the territory they are after. It can take a long time to get a scripted project ready for market and let’s face it, projects dreamt up by committee are unlikely to feel authored or special – so be sure it’s what you want to do before you start that process from scratch.
More tomorrow, stay tuned!