Unless your plan to develop shows for our industry involves shooting and editing a terrific piece of video along the way, you risk being thought of as an idea person, someone who doesn’t know how to make yourself valuable.
Since this post we’ve built a submission portal, so you can submit your submission agreement and initial materials together. Learn more in this cheat sheet on pitching to us.
However, the advice in today’s podcast ep still stands and is CRUCIAL…so be sure to listen.
Because, as we know first hand…
It Costs Money, Time, and Resources to Develop Shows With Great Tape
That’s why here in episode 004 of Producing Unscripted we discuss:
- 5 bullet proof steps to develop shows without going broke when pitching to us
- Step-by-step process of connecting with us to take your concept from idea to finished video pitch
- How we used the same process to get our new documentary on the air at MTV
We Constantly Develop Shows…
…but it’s not always easy.
With every idea we come up with on our own, and every pitch we receive, we have to ask ourselves:
- Are there any networks that would make this show right now?
- Do we want to make this show?
- Would it be a good show?
- How hard would it be to make a great tape to sell this show?
- Who’s life will be changed for the better if we got this show on TV?
- Is this show possible to produce, or a pie in the sky idea (i.e. reality show at the White House.)
- Do we want to team up with the people pitching us this show?
- Will we still want to develop shows when this is all over? 🙂
To Develop Shows is to Play a Numbers Game
Simply put, the more shows you develop, the more shows you’ll sell.
However, as we talk about in this week’s Producing Unscripted podcast episode, there has to be a “weed out” process at some point in the development pipeline.
Just because an idea pops into your head doesn’t mean you should rush out and make a tape to try to sell it.
You have to make educated guesses about where to put your money, time, and resources when you develop shows.
How Do We Know When to Further Develop Shows?
After more than a decade in the business, we can tell you the old Hollywood axiom is true: Nobody knows nothin’.
An idea we pass on today might be a smash hit tomorrow. The show we take a chance on that goes against everything our agents tell us should work might end up lighting the world on fire.
That said, we’ve been in unscripted TV for a while. We’re no longer the new kids on the block, begging networks to meet with us.
We’ve been working with some of the network execs for years. Many of them are our friends.
Guess what…they tell us what they’re looking for.
Even more important, often times they tell us what they’re not looking for.
It’s those valuable relationships that allow us to decide which baskets to place our eggs in.
Before we develop shows past the idea stage, we have conversations both internally and often with network execs to figure out what shows have the best chance of selling.
Is that always how we make our decisions? No, but it helps.
Some shows (or films) are passion projects. We often take a chance on a long shot show we feel a connection with. That gives us a personal fulfillment that’s hard to come by if you only try to manufacture hours of sellable television.
Still, we have 7,000 square feet of office space right next to Universal Studios we have to pay the rent on, employees who count on us, and dreams of growing bigger.
So no, not everything can be a pure passion project. That doesn’t mean you can’t choose to develop shows that matter to you in some way.
Choose to Develop Shows that Matter
So for us, we decide to further develop shows based on this criteria:
- We’d love to make the show? There are several networks that might be interested? Make a tape. Pitch it.
- We’d love to make the show? We’re super passionate about it, but it’s a hard sell? Try anyways. Make a tape. Pitch it.
- The show seems like a super easy sell to several networks but we don’t want to make it? No tape. Pass.
- The show seems impossible to sell, and we’re luke-warm to moderately passionate about it? No tape. Pass.
So what does this all mean for you? It’s pretty simple!
When You Develop Shows With Us in Mind…
Bring us in early and often. Get our newsletter, send in the submission agreement, and get a conversation started with us.
Not to toot our own horn, but as far as we know there aren’t any other unscripted television production companies willing to offer this kind of access and feedback.
Take advantage of it.
Make a relationship with us, and don’t go broke when you decide to develop shows with great tape.
Helpful and Related Links
Dying to do Letterman (our passion project.)
Update: Transcript now available!
You now know how much relationships matter. Why not get to know us? Let us make your life easier before you over spend on a tape that has no chance of getting a show to air.
Sign up for our newsletter and you'll learn how to submit your unscripted concepts to us. You'll also learn how to develop, pitch, and sell reality TV shows and documentary series, and improve your filmmaking skills. From time to time we'll even tell you exactly what kind of shows we're looking for: