Producing Unscripted – Make Reality TV & Documentary Series with Joke & Biagio – Transcript for Episode 002
You can listen to the episode here:
Biagio: It is episode 2. We have got a new series going to air after teaming up with someone from Cleveland.
They are getting their first producing credit on a television show. You could be next.
We share the important step you must take before we will consider teaming up with you on a show and yes, it does involve following some simple directions.
You will learn the shocking truth about your ideas in Hollywood and we end on a cliffhanger that leaves Joke saying,
Joke: “Oh my goodness.”Announcer: Music courtesy Dave Pelman Music, DavePelman.com
Biagio: Alright thanks for tuning in for our second episode of Producing Unscripted. She is Joke.
Joke: He is Biagio.
Biagio: We are married. We make unscripted film and television and want to help you do the same, hopefully by teaming up with us. It is a busy time right now at our company Joke Productions, isn’t it honey?
Reality TV Shows and Documentary Series We’re Making Now
Joke: Yes we have a very revealing True Life Presents special airing later this month. Our Bio Channel show “Ghost Inside My Child” is returning late summer and then we have a top secret A&E project that will hopefully make air in the fall!
Biagio: It is going to be on A&E… top secret though.
Joke: Top secret.
Biagio: I cannot wait to talk about that one. It is super exciting. We have got other pilots going on right now. We have got…
Joke: Several projects in various stages of development. Isn’t that the line?
Biagio: That is the old Hollywood term. We have got several projects, numerous projects in various stages of development.
We actually do. You know, some of those you will be hearing about soon. Some of those will drag out in negotiations for a good year before we ever get anywhere near shooting them. That is just the business sometimes.
But we have a lot of stuff going on.
Working With One of You
Biagio: And like we mentioned, “Ghost Inside My Child” came from one of you.
Susan Stratford in Cleveland, who was really interested in getting into unscripted television, and through our outreach we met her and now that show is on television.
And she got her first official producing credit in unscripted television on this show.
So why not you? Why not you next? That, is a big part of the reason we are doing this pod cast. It is the main reason we are doing this podcast.
We Came From Nothing
Joke: We know what it is like to live in a one-bedroom apartment, living on ramen noodles, wondering if we really have enough money to even go to the movies.
Joke: We remember the day when pizza was a luxury.
Biagio: Pizza was a luxury and I was a pizza delivery guy.
Joke: Yeah. We got free personal pan-sized pizza.
Joke: Everyday. That was not enough to feed both of us.
Biagio: I do not know if I can ever eat ramen noodles again, I will just tell the truth.
Joke: Are they still 10 cents a pack?
Biagio: They might still be 10 cents a pack. I do not know.
Joke: If not, I just really aged us.
Biagio: Oh my gosh, if they are like a dollar a pack now.
Joke: It would kind of defeat the purpose of ramen.
Biagio: It would defeat the purpose of ramen noodles. But, you know, it is hard when you do not have anyone to talk to.
And so, we always said when we got to a point where we were successful, we would welcome pitches from aspiring producers and film makers.
Who We Want to Work With
Joke: Okay, let us be honest. Really, we just want to find ourselves 10 years ago.
Biagio: Well yes I wish I could find Joke and Biagio 10 years ago, starving in their apartment, but shooting and editing all kinds of video pitches and creating a bunch of ideas and just wanting to find someone to pitch them too.
Joke: Okay, but not that we want you to be starving. No. Please, please.
Biagio: You do not need to be starving.
Joke: Just that we want hardworking, focused, determined, eager, excited, passionate people.
Biagio: Excited, passionate people who are looking for an avenue to break into the business.
Why We Love Unscripted Film and TV
Biagio: For us, that avenue was unscripted television, documentary and I think one of the greatest things about what we do, it has inspired us because we have met so many amazing people all over the world.
Not only for making unscripted television but when the day comes that we do want to do a scripted project, guess what, I have met more real life characters in the last 10 years, than most people meet in a lifetime.
Joke: That is the main reason I love unscripted.
It is the people you meet and places you get to go. The access you get to experience. You get to spend time with someone else’s life for a little bit, which is, very enriching, eye-opening, and fulfilling.
Pitching Us a Show
Carnival Barker: Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, Step right up for your chance to win.
Biagio: Now if you were going to pitch us a show, first step, go to jokeandbiagio.com and click on the giant link that says, “Pitch us a show.” So, pretty easy to get started.
Joke: If you miss it, go to the eye doctor first.
Biagio: Yeah, it is very big. I mean, if you do miss it, you probably shouldn’t be pitching to us anyway.
Once you follow that link, there are few simple hoops that you are going to have to jump through.
If you are unable to follow those simple directions, or if you are too impatient to get through it, you are probably not the kind of person we are going to team up with. Sorry.
Joke: You are probably not the kind of person that should be in this business.
Biagio: Yeah, yeah.
Joke: In other words, it is really simple.
Biagio: It is really simple. So just follow directions and we will get started.
Why a Submission Agreement?
Biagio: Now I do want to talk about something important though. Part of the process of submitting a pitch to us is signing a submission agreement.
Once you sign up for our newsletter, you will have instructions on how to get a submission agreement.
Now, submission agreements are a pretty standard thing in Hollywood, especially for production companies and studios that are willing to hear your ideas if you are not repped by an agent, or a lawyer, or a manager.
We worked with our lawyers on this for several months because they wanted us to do this 7-page “Bible”. Do you remember that Joke?
Joke: Oh, I remember.
Biagio: And Joke just kept going, “Why does it have to be this hard? We just want it to be easy.”
We just want people to sign the simplest submission agreement possible so we can all feel good about it.
And so, after a lot of haggling with our lawyers, we managed to get it down to 1-page that spells out 8 easy to understand points in a fairly large font size.
Why Am I Signing This?
Worried Man: Am I signing my life away here?
Biagio: Okay, so, why do you have to sign the submission agreement?
You know first off, we are a production company. You have to understand we get a hundreds of pitches. The chances that your idea, or that the base of your idea is completely unique, is very slim.
Oh, and by the way, we get pitched the same five or six ideas over and over and over again. So part of this podcast series is to help you find shows we would actually be interested in.
Joke: Things we have never heard of.
Biagio: Yeah. And chances are, no matter what you send to us, some version of it has been pitched to us, or someone else.
I mean, look at Survivor, the granddaddy of reality TV. Survivor came out in 2000. That is 13 years ago. In 13 years, every twist and every idea you can ever imagine has been pitched.
So there is a good chance that we may have already been pitched or even might already been working on something that is similar to the idea that you were pitching.
And that brings us to the main point of this episode. Which is that ideas in and of themselves are not enough.
Can Your Ideas Be Stolen?
Upset Child: But that was my idea!
Biagio: All Hollywood newbies in every area of Hollywood, they seem to ask this question at some point.
What if my idea gets stolen?
Here is the thing, that is kind of one of the biggest myths in Hollywood, that your ideas can get stolen, and here is why.
First of all, legally an idea is not protectable. The only thing that is protectable is the execution of that idea.
Joke: Well, let us just play for a second. If we look up what idea actually means, it is any concept existing in the mind as result of mental understanding; a thought, conception or notion; an impression; an opinion, view or belief; a groundless supposition or fantasy.
So in other words, these are very hard to copyright because everybody has ideas.
It is really in how do you execute an idea. What is the point of view on that idea? Those are the kind of things that start shaping a show pitch.
Biagio: And so, we are going to try and give you some examples to help you understand this.
First of all, I want you to think about this, we live in the world where “Trading Spouses” and “Wife Swap” can both be on the air at the same time at different networks and there is absolutely nothing that can be legally done about it.
Joke: “The Contender.” “The Next Great Champ.”
Biagio: Basically, the same exact show. Two different networks, kind of the same idea, right?
Joke: Well, yes, if you boil it down to what is the idea, it is finding the next boxer. It is a competition-elimination show finding the next boxer, but both are basically the same idea.
So if you come to us and say, “Hey, I have an idea for an elimination show where we find the next great boxer,” already done twice.
Biagio: What is different about it, though…
Biagio & Joke: Is the execution.
Joke: And, the talent attached. One has Sylvester Stallone, the other had Oscar De La Hoya. Different game rules and stuff like that can separate an idea. But again, core ideas is not enough.
Biagio: It is not enough. You know, I want to give you an example here. One of our mentors, a person we’re taking class from a long time ago told us the story about one Survivor hit about a show pitch he went out and pitched everywhere.
Joke, you want to talk about this?
Was “The Apprentice” a Stolen Idea?
Joke: Yeah. He, as many people did, after Survivor hit, he was out pitching “Survivor in the business world.”
And he is everywhere.
All the big networks, you know, sat down with NBC, everybody. Nobody was buying Survivor in the business world. Until Mark Burnett got Donald Trump to sign up and they sold They Apprentice.
Biagio: There you go. Same exact idea, execution a little bit different. You’ve got Mark Burnett who has already done Survivor by the way. You have got Donald Trump who is kind of the ultimate person to offer job on a show like this.
Joke: In the business world.
Biagio: Yeah, in the business world on a show like The Apprentice. So now it is a lot more than an idea. When that pitch went out, that was a pitch. It was an idea plus..
Joke: It was a package.
Biagio: It was a package. An idea plus, it was a package. So you have got Mark Burnett, you have got Donald Trump, and you have got the idea.
Don’t Worry…You Can Do This
Now you might be thinking to yourself, “Oh my gosh, how I am ever going to attach big talent like that?”, and I do not want you to get you too worried or too concerned.
We are going to be talking a lot more about ways you can make your ideas into pitches in future episodes, so just hang tight because once you understand the concept that ideas are not enough, that it is the way that your package up that idea and present it when you go out to sell a show–you are going to be head and shoulders above 99% of the people pitching ideas in Hollywood.
Forget about, “Oh, I have an idea. I have an idea. I have an idea.”
Start thinking about, “I have an idea that I want to mold into a sellable project, into a sellable pitch.”
A HUGE Secret
And the fact that the matter is, there is one thing you can do. Okay, one thing you can do that will instantly take your idea to a whole new level.
One thing you can do that will make us want to work with you, that will..
Joke: Protect it.
Biagio: Protect your idea. It will simultaneously make us want to work with you, protect your idea, and actually give you a much better shot at having a career.
And that one thing is… the topic of our next episode! Oh cliffhanger! Well, listen, we are TV producers. You have to expect cliffhangers now and then, right Joke?
Joke: Oh my goodness.
Biagio: Is it just too mean?
Joke: I live my life in cliffhangers with Biagio.
Biagio: Well, listen, here is the good news. Make sure you subscribe so you do not miss our next episode. You can subscribe over at iTunes. Also, you can keep up with us over at jokeandbiagio.com. So, until next week, hope you are doing great and thanks for tuning in.
Joke: Thank you so much.
Biagio: See you next time.
Joke: Bye bye.
Announcer: Producing Unscripted, with Joke and Biagio.
The Truth About Your Big Idea in Hollywood Our seminal post on Hollywood, ideas, and you.
Our New TV Special: The Ghost Inside My Child Includes video trailer of the original special, now ordered to series on Biography Channel.
Protecting Ideas: Can Ideas be Protected or Patented? Another industry’s take, but many of the concepts apply perfectly. However, most studios or production companies (including us) would never sign a confidentiality agreement for similar reasons to those discussed in the podcast.
Could Hollywood Steal Your Idea? Good post looking at the topic from a screenwriter’s perspective. Perspective is useful, but registering short paper-pitches with the WGA for unscripted TV show ideas is almost useless. More on that in a future post.
Remember, to find out how to pitch to us (and now you now it’s about more than ideas!) or to get great, real-world tips on pitching and selling unscripted television and how to make reality tv, as well as improve your overall filmmaking skills, there’s just one thing you have to do:
Read our in-depth page about how to pitch us a show. It also talks about what it’s really like to work in our business, the unscripted TV and film industry.