Pitching TV Producers and Executives can be either thrilling or unfulfilling. Its not personal…and its not always business. It’s more often about connecting with a like-minded person that gets excited about how you view the subject or story you’re pitching. When we see Journalists cover news subjects and stories, not all take the same angle. It’s the one who finds the more compelling facet and view of the story that triggers curiosity and resonates with viewers, just as your unique approach with any idea you have would connect with producers above others pitching the same subject. Having a clever sensibility with ideas and subjects you pitch makes your pitch more compelling. Check out some of the inspiring stories of new writers landing deals and selling pitches here at tvwritersvault.com.


WHAT MAKES A GREAT MOVIE IDEA? Some ideas when pitched are very clear in entertainment value, with such a clever premise and plot that the idea itself is marketable. This is “High Concept”. The Producer can see the potential for entertainment value based on the set-up, and unique twist in the plot. What the new writer has to be careful of, especially when trying to sell a pitch, is pitching an idea that is very subtle and relies heavily on the execution of the screenplay and actual film-making. Both are good things, but assuming you’re not already a bankable screenwriter, they need to fall in love with the highly unique idea and story you’ve constructed for a pitch- enough to want to then develop and produce it as a feature film. The goal is to create a pitch that holds the most compelling components (Premise, and Character’s plight) that together fuel the story, and from that they can see the entertaining results.


If you’re going to sell a movie idea, that idea has to be extremely original, with a premise, plot and resolution that makes us want to see that film. Often, when a concept works, you’ll easily see how the story can play out, and a Producer will have confidence that it can grab an audience as a film. Gravitate toward subjects and premises that haven’t been explored yet. Too often a pitch may be clever, but the content is too familiar. That being a fact, there’s still an exception to the rule. If you can find a new angle on a subject audiences are familiar with, that surprising and fresh approach to the subject can work well. Also keep in mind that Comedy plays very well in selling pitches. While dramas often pull us into subtle details and nuance that is heavily reliant on the execution of a great script, comedy is more about the big ingredients that are set against each other to create ironic, unexpected, funny moments and episodes in the journey of our characters. Then, even with that, keep in mind that the best comedy often results from dramatic conflict. So again, its all about making strong contrasting choices.

WHAT MAKES A GREAT TELEVISION SERIES IDEA? When pitching a dramatic scripted series, you’ll need to convince Producers that there’s an appetite for the subject, the premise, and circumstances of the characters that will drive a storyline in multiple directions that dramatically and ironically collide, and that your main protagonist has the type of dimension and character traits (with flaws) that viewers will become emotionally vested in. A great dramatic series is most often a study of the human condition in a unique world built around a character struggling to survive.


Reality TV has also given the creator and producer a huge spectrum of opportunities in factual-based programming, with outlets for subjects and stories that would never have found a home on TV in decades past. Viewer appetites for documentary style programming is very high, and reality TV (for the most part) is no longer just a stunt for ratings. At its best, its brain candy that takes us into a world or experience we’d never find in our own lives.  Its truly a genre where anyone from any corner of the country may have an idea that can translate into a series. Look at your life and world, and you may just find a great premise for a docu-style series. Unique lifestyles, professions, families, and other adventures can all translate into entertaining content for reality TV.

IN THE ROOM: Pitching in person isn’t about memorizing a script. Its about memorizing key points and carrying the executive listening through the clever and compelling flow of the show, telling them what we’re watching in both broad and specific beats.  The “specific beats” are the most important. That’s where you describe a specific moment in detail. It must be a turning point, and ultimatum, or any moment that defines the main character or propels the plot. The most important thing is to get the critical details of your pitch across, and not get bogged down by fumbling for details under unusual pressure. Do your homework, and know your pitch inside and out. If you rehearse enough with friends, and by yourself, you should be able to sit down with anyone and take them through the story with ease.


When you’re under a bit of pressure, and feeling the anxiety, use that energy to focus yourself and express your passion with a subtle urgency. Come from that place of excitement you had when you first conceived of the story, as if you’re telling your best friend about the most amazing thing that happened. Not overselling it, but simply communicating with urgency and focus. It relaxes the executives mind, allowing them to SEE your story.

If you’re pitching without referencing a page, that means you know your story and concept inside and out. But don’t obsess over reciting word for word the pitch you had developed. Often with the bit of adrenaline you’ll have, you may race over a few details, but what your mind is actually doing is filtering out the less important fodder, and focusing only on the most critical aspect of the story you’re telling. This is why doing cold pitches for practice with your project is the best way to refine and understand what really works.

In the end, we’re all wanting the same thing; to discover fun, entertaining, inspiring stories. Our business is a contact sport, so take advantage of it and make connecting creatively with anyone you meet the priority.

Learn more about creating and pitching TV show ideas at the TV Writers Vault.

Feel free to post your questions below. I look forward to sharing more with you – Scott

13 thoughts on “Why Your TV or Movie Pitch Will Sell to Producers

  1. Tami says:

    If your idea centers around current events and you create from that twists, turns and new story directions, do you still consider it an original idea?


    1. scott manville says:

      Hi Tami-
      There’s a lot of ways to approach answering that question. When you’re writing about a current event or story in the public eye, anyone can write on the subject or story, but the question first is, what story within that are you telling, and do you need the rights of the person(s) involved. If you can get that, it helps in selling it. Your interpretation of the story and your unique crafting of storyline, scenes and characters is what is an original work. But others may be able to write on the same subject and event as well. You may also be writing a script or treatment that is based on a current social issue, or related to current events, and it is possible that you write a completely original script. Many TV Drama Series do that every episode. I hope that helps you understand how to approach it. Best of luck with the story.


    1. scott manville says:

      Hi Ray- Yes, it’s a roadmap for the proposed series. There’s a whole process of development that evolved in the process of a production company and network bringing it to market, but yes, a pitch treatment is both the intellectual property that establishes what you’re pitching, and it should help them see what the potential content is (what we’re actually watching). They’d then have a clear opinion on whether or not it’s worth their time to develop it, create a proof of concept pitch reel (“sizzle reel”), and if it fits the mandate of the network executives they work with.


    1. scott manville says:

      Hello Ray-
      Anyone who has a connection within the pipeline of pitching and selling TV shows can be beneficial.
      If you’re asking which is more ideal, I would say a Producer. The only way they’re going to engage is if they believe they have a path to getting it sold to a TV network or studio. If an Agent says they can get it packaged and set up at Network…well… they’re operating as a producer. We’re all producers in the end 🙂


  2. Edward Cipriani says:

    Hi Scott.. I was an early subscriber to your site, the TV Writers Vault. I found it helpful and productive. I was connected with Fremantle Media, and put into early development! Although it was not picked up by a network. I look forward to my show living again! Thanks Ed Cipriani (Newcastle, PA)


    1. scott manville says:

      Hi Ed! Nice to hear from you.
      I do remember. That exciting seeing you with Fremantle. You have a great pitch, and I’m sure there’s another home for it when the timing is right.
      Stay creative, and feel free to reach out any time.


  3. Maria says:

    How often do ideas get reviewed by producers? I have two concepts ready to upload- a game show and a film. Do producers scout weekly, monthly or annually? Are there busier times of the year- say after a film festival? What I guess I’m asking is how long is too long to wait for someone to snap up your ideas?


    1. scott manville says:

      Hi Maria-
      It would be misleading to try and pinpoint specifics, because every producer and executive scouting has their own pace and pattern of viewing new projects. We’ve had people sell their concept on the first day it was posted, and others who had listings up for two years before getting connected for an option deal. It’s a subjective process, and it’s all about the right pitch connecting with the right producer at the right time. We have producers scouting weekly, some pop in for heavy scouting monthly, and others not so often. Since our service and the marketplace is all about the development stage, it’s a year-round process. Especially with unscripted TV. Best of luck to you!


  4. Jascinth says:

    I love the instant notification when someone reviews my pitches listed…just waiting on a break here! But, thanks for your efforts, Scott. I’ll be submitting other “ideas” soon.


    1. scott manville says:

      I’m very pleased you’re getting some positive activity.
      It only takes one right pitch and one right producer to go the distance.
      Best of success with your projects!


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