Whether you are just starting out on your idea or you already have been living in the world of your series for years, there is no time like now to simplify the pitch process and get onto your ‘cheat sheet’ the information the studios will be looking for in that first meeting.
This is a work in progress.
Pamela Douglas and her book, ‘Writing the TV Drama‘, got me going in the right direction and with some consolidation for Robert McKee‘s, ‘Story’, guided by Joseph Campbell’s, ‘The Hero’s Journey’, and years of always looking for a compass, here’s where we are now:
If you missed The TV Series Format Pitch : Energy and Ideas, give it a quick read now, then jump right back here.
The TV Series Format basics:
- Cover Page
- Stories and Structure
- Supporting Materials
The Cover Page
This is what goes on the first page – nothing more, nothing less:
TITLE: your title here (tips to title your project).
GENRE: your genre here (tips to figure out the genre).
BASED ON: if it is based on other work (tips to get the rights).
WRITTEN or CREATED BY: your name here.
CONTACT: your agent or your info here
LOGLINE: your series longline here.
This is tricky. It is not your typical longline for an audience, it is a tool to hook the network exec or the producer when you pitch it to them.
- Pitch them something that has already been successful and…
- Deliver a unique and new story.
What? Yes. In one sentence, get them hooked. Format Longline examples:
- “MTV cops.” (Miami vice).
- “90210 on the beach in Orange County.” (The OC).
The Trojan Horse Set Up
Termed ‘the Trojan Horse’ set up, use what is known and proven to twist us quickly and hook us into an unknown world. Then, lead us to a far more ’nuanced’ and original story.
Next 2-3 Pages
OVERVIEW: not a summary, this is a 2 page introduction to the world of the series and a taste of the journey ahead.
Include the setting, contact, style and tone. Include teasers or tags of characters, locations and the dangers they present; work these into simple sentences to hook the listener, intrigue them, take them on a journey where they will have both curiosity and questions that will drive them to want to know more. (ex. each week, a rogue ghost operative must locate and ‘kill’ or ‘capture’ someone off her ‘blacklist’ before The Echelon beats her to it.)
Suggest future story events that spin off future episodes (note I wrote ’suggest’, which very much comes in your tone, delivery and response to feedback during the pitch meeting).
Really go for it. You have nothing to lose. Remember, energy and ideas over ego and pages.
Next 1-3 Pages
MAIN CHARACTERS: choose 1 to 3 characters to feature, one page for each, and engage us in their spirit and goals.
Again, ‘energy and ideas’, but get into their world and get us under their stakes. Make us engage, care and prepare us for what the journey with them as our guides. How will we come to know them and how will they surprise us with what is hidden deep underneath.Choose the characters that grip us, and the ones who relationships test each others to reveal their true natures at the highest stakes possible. What could they lose? Who are they really?
Next 1/2 Page
SECONDARY CHARACTERS : choose only a handful that create the most intriguing foils to our main characters and summarize each in 1 to 3 short sentences or a tagline. Their parts may grow later, and definitely elude to that, but that’s enough of a tease for now.
THE STORIES and STRUCTURE: this is where you hit it home. Communicate the potential, the possibilities and scalability of your vision. Write one paragraph, a touch point, for each / any of the following:
- describe the long series arc, the hero’s journey from the inciting incident to the end of series.
- tell the arc or plot of a mid-season episode, to show the typical structure of how the show functions each week.
- engage them in a potential pilot, what launches our hero into the series world
- give loglines for potential episodes for your first season.
- give the hook for a 3 season arc that propel our hero deeper into his quest and the audience further into the world.
SUPPORTING MATERIALS: anything to help excite them about this story.
Images, art, endorsements, bios, something they will remember but watch the swag…let your story and energy win them over, not a coffee mug.
Final Parting Words
Of course, do trust your instincts on putting this together. In the end it is your tool and you will craft your own unique way to organize your ideas, thoughts and deliver the message.
I am currently experimenting with an Online Blog Version of my Series Format for my next Pitch. Here is a FREE Blog Template : Online TV Format to help you structure your own! Stay tuned to see how I built the site and developed the series story with an Online Focus Group to get it and me ready for my first pitch with Netflix.
This is just a starting point for me as well, and I am always looking for advice and feedback and tweaking and hiding pages where no one will see them.