How to Sell Your Scripted/Unscripted Show Idea

Selling show ideas in Hollywood is no easy feat. It not only requires the ability to create a great pitch, but also the know-how and willingness to follow established procedures for selling a show.

In order to sell a show idea, it’s necessary to create a great pitch. There are several elements that should be included in a pitch: a logline, a synopsis, and a treatment. A logline is a one-sentence description of the show. A synopsis is a brief summary of the show including information about the main characters and the theme of the show. A treatment is much like a synopsis of a show idea but is a more inclusive document which includes detailed descriptions of the characters and the show’s plot. Writing a treatment is an essential step as it is the primary medium through which show ideas are typically presented to TV producers and executives.

As an artist, you will want to determine which networks to submit your show idea to. You will want to consider the nature of your programming and whether or not it is in alignment with the types of shows each network produces. Once the appropriate networks have been identified, you should learn the submission guidelines for each. Some networks may accept unsolicited treatments and show pitches but, these are of the minority. The majority of networks require artists to have an agent or even an entertainment lawyer acting as his or her representative. Knowing and following the proper procedures for each network is an essential step in increasing an artist’s odds of having their show idea accepted.

Now, it is no secret that securing an agent can be a very challenging task. In order to overcome this challenge, artists must be willing to network; they should consider engaging a credible, proven manager and; they would be wise to also consider developing a more formal, strategic plan for success with their entertainment attorney.

For artists who are able to secure an agent, he or she can help connect them with development executives — individuals who have the power to turn ideas into paychecks. When meeting with a development executive, artists must be able to accurately convey the concept of their show in a manner that is simple yet intriguing. This is where a well-written logline, synopsis, and treatment come into play. If an artist has taken the time to prepare these documents properly, the executive will be able to see the show’s potential.

Once an artist successfully pitches a show idea, it is more likely to be optioned for purchase. At this stage, an artist should utilize the expertise of their entertainment attorney to help negotiate the specific terms of the agreement. Most often, the writer will be paid an option fee up front for the company to have the exclusive rights to sell and/or produce the project with a network or third-party buyer. Once the option is exercised, the writer will then receive the negotiated purchase price and may additionally receive a small percentage of participation in the fees received by the production company for producing the show. Navigating these negotiations can be difficult and an experienced entertainment attorney can offer artists the guidance they need to successfully sell their show ideas.

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