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TV Writing 101: Do you need a pitch or a script?

You have a great idea for a TV show. You know it would make a good series. You even know exactly which streamer it would be perfect for.

So, what's your next step? Do you write your pilot script? Do you develop your pitch?

The Stranger Things bible/pitch deck is one of the more famous ones to be released to the public. (Link below)

The answer really depends on what stage of your career you're in.

Let me explain...

For those at the beginning of their TV writing career...

If you are just getting started, the people you'll be meeting won't necessarily be looking to produce what you've written. (They might, but this is rare.)

It's much more likely that you've met somebody that's recommended you to said agent, manager, executive, writer, etc.

And that person needs to know that they're not wasting their time with you. Therefore, they're going to want to read a script of yours. Specifically, a pilot script.

If you are new to the TV writing game and you show them a pitch deck, they might be confused. They might not even be in a buying position. They were just trying to get an idea of who you are as a writer.

Therefore, write your TV pilot.

In fact, write two of them before you ever consider creating a pitch. Because if this person likes the first thing you wrote, they will almost always ask, "what else you got?"

Now, that being said, there are some additional materials you should have prepared to go along with your pitch.

Create your logline and brief synopsis

Whether you have developed a pitch or not, you're going to want to have your logline and brief synopsis ready.

You may be sending queries to reps, or you may be sending your script to a writer friend you met. Either way, a logline should help entice them to read it.

Because the truth is, nobody, not even writers, like to read. So, hook them with your carefully crafted logline.

I also find it helps to develop the logline before you even write the script. It's sort of a north star that you can come back to while writing in order to make sure you're still on track.

For those who have already written a couple pilots...

It depends on your circumstances. If you're starting to get meetings and you bring up a TV show that you'd love to pitch to somebody, then great! Write and practice that killer pitch.

But if you're not getting meetings or haven't met enough people in the industry to get some momentum going, then it could be a waste of time. Time that would be better spent developing your writing with another TV pilot script.

And if this is an idea you've been thinking about anyway and you do get a meeting, you can create a pitch then. Nobody's expecting to meet you one day and to hear your pitch the next. You will have time.

What does a TV pitch look like anyway?

A pitch is like a marketing presentation. They used to be in person but since the pandemic they've almost all been relegated to Zoom.

You usually create a slide deck and you perform the pitch, which means explaining your TV show idea to the executives. This includes:

  • A summary of the show

  • Who the characters are

  • What the world of the show is

  • What the tone of the series is

  • Describing the pilot

  • Describing season one

  • Potentially describing future seasons

It's pretty extensive. It can be 15-20 minutes for comedies, or much longer for more involved drama or sci-fi/fantasy series.

What's the difference between a pitch and a bible?

A pitch is literally your presentation with potentially a deck (or slides) that accompany it.

A bible is much more extensive.

They are much bigger written documents that outline the TV series. They're not meant to accompany your presentation. Instead, it's material that has been sent before or after the pitch to help entice the buyer.

Here are some examples of famous bibles used to sell TV series:

Now there is a slight distinction between bibles that are made to sell a show, like these, and bibles that are made during a show.

In shows that are already in production, a bible is sometimes kept to keep track of any lore or mythology or character arcs, particularly for shows that have lasted a long time.

Image Source: Wiki


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I'm Anton, a TV writer and author of Breaking Into TV Writing, a book about the business of TV writing and how to get your foot in the door.


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