Many people visit this site to learn how to pitch their own TV shows. Today, we give you an inside look at what happens when our production company teams up with an aspiring producer. We met Abra Chouinard through this very podcast and our newsletter. We did not know her before she submitted her concept and package to us. Now, she’s joining us for pitch meetings at major TV networks (and getting great response!) Abra shares the whole process, from pitching to us, to teaming up, making a tape, and meeting network execs. Plus, she shares actionable tips to help you stand out when pitching your first concepts…whether to us or anyone else.
A Work Ethic to Admire
Abra is one of the hardest workers we’ve had the pleasure of teaming with. She credits this to growing up on farms and mountains, where everyday was tough. Says Abra:
I just grew up in the mountains where you got up before it was light out, you put your boots on, and you got to work. So that work ethic just carries through and in any industry, including this industry, you just get up and you work hard. There’s no room for crying. It’s “buck up buttercup.”
With that attitude, it’s no wonder she did everything right when pitching to us.
Abra Chouinard – Getting Everything Right and Standing Out
We receive many, many submisions (and are truly grateful to everyone who trusts us with their pitch materials). However, like we say here, we can’t make “all the shows.” No one can. We have to be very selective with which concepts we put our resources into. So what is it that made Abra’s pitch rise above? Why did we immediately want to meet with her?
Off the bat, she did a few things right:
1. She was pitching a package and not an idea.
3. The pitch she sent included cast bios and a potential story engine.
4. She included short videos she’d put together without spending too many resources. (Smart!)
Long time listeners to this podcast will recognize these as “good things.”
(Not sure why that is? Check out our two free ebooks. How to Pitch a Reality Show, and our newest – Unscripted Televsion: 100 Tips for Breaking in and Career Success).
But Abra had one other thing going for her that made all the difference.
The Secret Sauce in Abra’s Pitch
Abra watched television and analyzed what is currently on air. That taught her where her show might work. No matter how much we love a project, if we can’t set it up at a network, we can’t be helpful. The fact that Abra developed with a target in mind meant we could not ignore her pitch. She understood the tone, style, and content that appeals to her key potential networks. Every aspect of her pitch package reflected that.
Some Amazing Farm Analogies
Abra uses farming analogies to showcase her approach to TV and film. There are several really good ones in today’s episode. Here’s one of our favorites, Abra’s thoughts on coping with the Hollywood Waiting Game:
The little farmer who’s pulling on those seedlings is not gonna make the seedlings grow any faster. All you’re gonna do is kill your crop.
A Jam-Packed Episode
From seed idea to TV network pitches, and everything in between, this episode has it all. Abra’s story provides an inside look we don’t think you’ll find anywhere else. It’s the truth about what happens if a production company (ours or any other) wants your project.
Just some of what we discuss today:
- How Abra started down her path to pitching networks
- Paying your dues
- An idea’s shelf life
- Knowing when you’re ready to pitch your idea
- The package Abra put together before she pitched
- Putting yourself in the shoes of those you’re pitching
- The right thing to say when you don’t have all the answers
- Looking at pitches from many angles and why that step is crucial
- The process of earning a cast’s trust
- The conundrum production companies face when it comes to accepting pitches from new producers
- The difference between submission agreements and collaboration agreements, and how both fit in
- Trusting “up and down the ladder”
- Why cast members may be nervous about trusting the process and how to handle it
- Wearing different hats at different stages of development
- Why it took a full year to prepare the pitch for networks
- The wisdom of finding TV shows in your own backyard
- Managing cast members expectations while keeping them engaged and excited
- Warming cast members up for authentic interviews
- Why new producers might or might not join us at network pitches
- Your first network pitch
- How we prepped Abra before her first network meeting
- Getting what you want out of every project
- What one exec knew that changed the whole meeting, and why being 100% honest was key
- Why fudging can get you called out at a pitch
- Why we don’t “shape” or “re-edit” people to make “better” TV
- Key takeaways Abra learned in the year we’ve been working together
- How new producers can stand out
- The cross examination that is a network meeting
- Facing fears about “big Hollywood.” Plus, how Abra sees the meaning of “fear”
- And…the old, “pretend you’re playing with the batteries” trick
Quite a list! And there’s so much more to pick up from Abra’s story. If you are aiming to pitch your unscripted TV projects – to us or anyone else – today’s episode is a must listen. Start prepping for your next successful pitch – hit that play button above now!
Helpful and Related Links
Joey and Natalie discuss teaming up with us to make the TV pilot Sister Witches for Oxygen – Step by Step: TV Idea to TV Show
Andrew and Mary discuss teaming up with us on a magic series for a huge network – Don’t Trust Andrew Mayne – Make TV for A&E
Chad Gervich discusses teaming on Foody Call, one of our very first shows – How to Turn a Book – Or Any Property – Into a TV Show
Abra brought in great characters. Why did they pop? Your Characters: 6 Must-Have Traits of Reality TV Characters and Documentary Subjects
The world Abra pitched was very TV friendly. Especially for some specific TV networks – Great Reality TV Worlds Have These 4 Qualities
The package Abra brought included a potential Story Engine – What is a Story Engine? Why Do You Need One?
You have to manage you resources when you’re developing projects. Do NOT go broke creating a pitch – 5 Steps to Develop Shows Without Going Broke
Let’s Make Some TV Together
Are you like Abra? Hard working, creative, open to collaboration? Think you might want to pitch to us? Possibly take a similar journey? Here’s what’s next:
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.