Unscripted Television: reality TV shows, documentary series, feature length docs — that’s what we make at our Film and Television Production Company Joke Productions, Inc.
And if you’re passionate about making unscripted film and TV, creative, and fun to work with, maybe we’ll team up someday. That’s one part of what the Producing Unscripted podcast is all about.
*Note – the free information on this site will help you work and succeed in unscripted TV and film even if you never pitch us anything. There’s info on this site about pitching shows, but also about working your way up in the industry, finding jobs, how the business works, and more. It’s all yours for the taking. Enjoy!
This page will answer your questions about pitching show concepts to us, how it works, and what to expect. It aims to be honest and direct. We believe the success we’ve had is due to our optimism, but please know that the entertainment business takes hard work and dedication. Breaking in is not easy, but it is possible.
Please note, if you do want to pitch to us, you’ll have to carefully follow the directions and understand the information on this page.
*HINT: We receive many pitches from people who read this page and follow the outlined steps. They are able to complete the pitch process without any issues. You don’t want to be one of those people who reach out on social media and says, “I’m confused.”
A big part of producing is paying attention to detail and following directions.
If that doesn’t scare you, read on.
Table of Contents
Click link to jump to section:
- Make Reality TV Shows and Documentary Series: Where to Start?
- Come Make Unscripted Television With Us
- STOP: A Dose of Reality
- What’s The Catch?
- What Are People Saying?
- Do We Provide Long, Detailed Responses and Phone Calls to Everyone Who Pitches Us?
- Can We Guarantee You A TV Show?
- Will You Get Rich? Is This A Lottery Ticket? What’s realistic?
- Will We Work With Someone Like You?
- How to Pitch Shows to Us
- Wait — Who the Heck are Joke and Biagio again?
Make Reality TV Shows and Documentary Series: Where to Start?
We created this blog and podcast for you – based on what we wished existed when we first starting chasing our dreams of working in unscripted film and TV. Our hope is to answer all your questions about working in the unscripted world, from reality TV, to documentaries and docu-series, to true crime, and more. Every two weeks or so we’ll deliver episodes to help you:
- Understand unscripted television and how to work in it
- Find great potential reality tv shows and documentary series
- Develop your ideas into viable TV show pitches
- Potentially team up with us
Come Make Unscripted Television With Us
Maybe you want to make reality TV shows, or bring your passion for documentaries to larger audiences through the medium of television. If you’re creative, hard-working, and want to contribute in a positive way to the unscripted film and TV industry, we will do our best to consider your pitches.
*NOTE: We do this when we can, between producing, shooting, and editing projects. We do this for free, and hope doing so provides value even if we never work together. Because of the sheer number of pitches we receive, and our desire to provide at least a short response to every single one, we have to kindly ask for your patience.
If we feel a connection to your material, and you’re excited about working with us, we’ll develop the idea with you into a viable pitch, do our best to set it up at a TV network or streaming platform, and get you a legitimate producing credit and paycheck in the process.
If we can’t be helpful, or don’t think a project can be set up, we’ll tell you that, too.
And no, we don’t charge a fee for this. We’re film and TV producers, not consultants or a paid service.
Just two people who love what we do, looking for great projects from talented people like you.
STOP: A Dose of Reality
The film and TV industry can be challenging (that’s putting it mildly.) It is not our intention to imply that setting up a show is easy. It isn’t. We know – we started out with no connections to Hollywood, and no credits. We’ve been on this journey for nearly two decades now.
Over 100 hours of television later, every day is still challenging.
So it’s not wise, healthy, or smart to think of “pitching ideas to Hollywood” (whether to us or anyone else) as a quick road to success and steady income. If you love shooting, editing, or making stuff in general, the fulfillment you get from the journey will carry you through the hard times (it did for us.)
Also, we receive far more pitches than we’d ever be able to (or would want to) team up on.
We make a few TV series and unscripted projects every year, put our heart and soul into them, and only put our final cuts we’re truly proud of. We can’t make ALL the TV shows. No one can.
You’re best bet is to use this site as a tool to help shape your career, learn the business, and decide if working in it would actually make you happy. (For the record, we love it.)
The point of this site isn’t just to get you to pitch to us. It’s to provide you information about how the industry works and prepare you for a career in it, whatever form that takes. If we end up working together, that’ll be wonderful. If you go on and have tons of success without us, we’ll be delighted.
Let’s all work together to make the unscripted film and TV world a better place.
What’s The Catch?
Like most production companies, unless you already have an agent or manager, to pitch to us you’ll have to sign a submission agreement (part of the submission process…see below.)
The submission agreement acknowledges that we develop many shows, are pitched many more, and it’s possible or likely we’ve heard or are working on a similar concept to what you are pitching.
While pretty standard in the entertainment industry, we know not everyone likes these, and we understand if you choose not to submit your concepts to us. However, per our lawyers, we simply cannot accept show concepts without a submission agreement.
That said, all the info on this site is freely available to you, and we hope you’ll use it to find success in your endeavors even if we never work together.
What Are People Saying?
We wanted to share some quotes from folks we’ve met through this podcast, our blog, and other outreach.
Some People We’ve Set Up Shows With
Travis Bible was an editor and aspiring producer who pitched us the concept that became MTV’s CAGED. Here’s what he had to say:
One of the biggest obstacles when you’re starting out trying to get a show made is getting production companies to actually listen to the pitch. Joke and Biagio took time out of their schedule multiple times to meet with my producing partner, Steve Harris, and me, listen to our pitches and provided constructive feedback on what was working and what wasn’t. We took their suggestion of producing and editing our own pitch reel for one of our concepts, Caged. We showed it to them and they liked it enough to team up with us on the project and develop the tape and project further. They were able to sell it to MTV.Throughout the entire process, they were great to work with and we all shared a vision of what the show should be. They saw that I wasn’t just interested in some fancy credits and a little extra cash, but wanted to be involved in all aspects of the show. After proving I could handle it on the pilot, I took on a full Co-Executive Producer role. They always respected my opinion, and it was great being able to collaborate from pre-production through post. In the end, Caged is the most creatively satisfying project I’ve ever worked on and a large part of that is because of Joke and Biagio.
Suzanne Stratford is a newscaster in Cleveland who pitched us her initial concept for what became Ghost Inside My Child on BIO and LMN:
Working with Joke and Biagio changed my life. They believed in my idea, my dream and me: bolstering my vision, creating a riveting program in less than a year, while staying true to the concept. They might be a Hollywood power couple, but they treat you as an equal and always listen to your thoughts and feedback. For that, and so much more I’m eternally grateful and look forward to making many more programs together.
Some Good People We’ve Met And Hope to Set Up Shows With
Brian Speciale is a talented filmmaker we’ve met through our podcast. We’ve teamed up on several of his concepts and while we haven’t set one up YET…we hope to soon:
I’ve been fortunate enough to team up with Joke & Biagio, and can tell you from experience that everything you hear in their podcasts is true: you can pitch directly to them (through their website), they’ll personally review your pitch, and if they like it, they’ll team up with you. Dealing with them is exactly as you’d expect after listening to their podcast – they’re attentive, incredibly smart, and very inclusive of you in the process of pitching your dream to their network partners. Before pitching to Joke & Biagio, I made the mistake of thinking I could break into this world by myself. It’s just not that easy, and you’ll likely waste a lot of time (and $$) doing it that way. These two are the way to go. They’re established, they have the connections, and above all they’re fun & genuine people; I can’t recommend them enough!
Ben Grynol is new to filmmaking and producing. But he listened very carefully to our podcast and sent over a very worthwhile submission. While it wasn’t right for us, we were very impressed and are keeping in touch. Here’s what Ben had to say:
In the fall of 2016, I decided that I wanted to cut my teeth in the film game. I knew nothing – and I mean nothing – about what it would take to pitch and produce a TV show.
I started Googling “how to make a TV show” and read as much as I could from many different resources about the process of pitching and producing film. Eventually, I came across the Producing Unscripted website, and I can honestly say that Joke and Biagio have the most insightful, helpful and digestible material to help people learn more about producing unscripted film. Without their great blog posts, e-book, and podcast, I would still be at square one.
To learn as much as I could, and eliminate as many rookie mistakes as possible before pitching to Joke and Biagio, I listened to every single episode of their podcast. I took notes and referenced their e-book – many times. After finishing the podcast (all 88 episodes, at the time), I put together a pitch tape and document, and I submitted everything through their online portal. About four weeks later, I got an email back from the studio saying that Joke and Biagio had reviewed the package, and although they weren’t sure my show concept was the right fit for the current TV landscape, they wanted to have a follow up conversation about everything.
Despite their busy schedules, they graciously took over half an hour out of their day to provide me with feedback about the pitch package. Their feedback was very honest, and it helped me understand how to improve my pitch. Although we won’t be moving forward with the project that I pitched them, Joke and Biagio kindly offered an open door so that I can keep soft pitching them ideas. Even if we don’t end up getting to work on a project together down the road, I can’t thank Joke and Biagio enough for making themselves so accessible to the general public – through the podcast and online resources. They are as authentic and genuine as they come. They are the real deal.
— Ben Grynol (@bgrynol) November 7, 2016
Do We Provide Long, Detailed Responses and Phone Calls to Everyone Who Pitches Us?
Unfortunately, no, we do not. However, we try to email a personalized response to every pitch we receive. It usually takes 6-8 weeks, but can take longer if we’re in production (which is often.)
Can We Guarantee You A TV Show?
No, we can’t do that. In fact, like most producers and creatives, the vast majority of shows we pitch, whether we develop them ourselves or team up with others, do not make it to air. The entertainment business is is a numbers game, and you always pitch more projects than you actually set up.
Will You Get Rich? Is This A Lottery Ticket? What’s realistic?
This is not a “get rich quick” scheme. Like any career, working in unscripted television, whether pitching shows, or making them, is hard work. That goes double if you’re going to be “on camera.”
In the unscripted TV industry everyone (us included) gets paid for the work they do on projects. Depending on your experience and what you want to (and are qualified to do) on a show, that could mean “nice vacation money” to “great full time pay” money and a new career in unscripted TV.
Salary or salaries in this business, like any other, are dependent on experience and services provided. Every item in a budget (including salaries) is approved by the network funding the show.
And no, in unscripted television, reality TV, and documentary series there are almost never “created by” credits or large fees for the person who came up with an idea. Unless you’re a Hollywood A-Lister or have a crazy-successful track record in unscripted, it’s not even a point of discussion.
Now that you know that…what is it you want, and are your expectations realistic?
We’ve spent hours and hours answering those questions on this site and on our podcast, so please have a look around and get to know a bit about the business before pitching us – or anyone – anything.
Will We Work With Someone Like You?
Whether you want to work full-time in unscripted film and television, or just want to be a “part-time” player, there are paths for you to explore. That’s true whether you want to work with us or anyone else.
Here is a post and podcast ep that will help you think about how you might like to work on shows you pitch:
How to Pitch Shows to Us
Two steps to get started:
Step 1: Get the Joke and Biagio Newsletter
- turn your ideas into unscripted films and television shows
- improve your filmmaking skills
- give you confidence to do well in hollywood meetings
Step 2: Listen to Producing Unscripted and Read this Blog
Not only is our newsletter packed with real-world secrets to help you quickly:
You’ll also receive instructions on how to download a submission agreement and pitch your shows to us:
We’ll update this blog and put out new podcasts as often as we can. Yes, we’re off making TV shows and films, and sometimes it may take us a bit longer to release the new content, tips, and insights we want to share. So make sure you’re getting the newsletter, and we’ll make sure you have all the latest.
Wait — Who the Heck are Joke and Biagio again?
Glad you asked. We make film and television, specializing in unscripted projects like documentary series and reality TV shows, and we’ve been at this for over a decade.
We started out shooting, editing, creating graphics, and onlining our own projects — a crew of two — and eventually made our way into the world of unscripted TV and Film.
We’ve now produced and delivered TV series, specials, and pilots for just about every TV network out there. You can see a list of some of our shows and promos on our Joke Productions Projects page, and read the shocking true story of how we got together by visiting this blog post entitled Joke and Biagio: The Shocking True Story.
Because we’re “third party approved” (networks trust us to deliver TV shows) we have a 7000 square foot facility located near Universal Studios in Los Angeles. All of our TV shows are edited, on-lined, and delivered from there (you can see a few shots of our office in the video on the front page of Producing Unscripted.)
Is This Legit?
For those among you who would like some external sources that verify what we do, feel free to check out any of the articles on the Joke Productions Press Page, from places like The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. Check the press releases for our names, Joke Fincioen, Biagio Messina, and our company, Joke Productions, Inc.
Or check out this very nice article in MovieMaker Magazine from Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn, who talks about working with us on our show Scream Queens.
– James Gunn, directorGuardians of the Galaxy, Super, Slither
You can read more testimonials on our Joke Productions Reviews page.
Yes, Joke’s name is really Joke. Blame it on her parents. And for those the right age to remember, Biagio played “Marc Cram” on Nickelodeon’s Kenan and Kel.
We love what we do — travelling the world capturing real stories from incredible people. And we’re always looking for talented individuals who love to tell real stories, that’s why we’re reaching out to you through this podcast and blog!
Hope this site helps you in your career, and maybe we’ll even get to work together soon. Start here.
Joke and Biagio
PS — Oh, yeah, we’re married — to each other. Biagio knows he lucked out.