Reality TV programs are for the most part
unique stories and stunts reflecting "our world"
Now, with the Internet connecting Producers to the
rest of the world, Reality Television has become the
most viable genre for new Writers, Creators and
everyday people with great ideas to break into the
Industry. Producers look for interesting subjects,
people, professions, and original formats to
purchase and produce as new shows. No longer can
Producers be limited by their own development team.
They must reach out to outsiders who can create and
deliver unique concepts for TV.
At the TV Writers Vault we've witnessed this
renaissance of the Hollywood system
producing deals landed by new concept creators, and
several projects produced and broadcast globally on
major networks. TVWritersVault.com is the television
industry's first website to bring "ideas" from
people outside the Hollywood system to production
and global broadcast, and we welcome anyone with a
unique idea for a television show to register and
submit a new project in our marketplace.
you first set out to create a reality TV show idea
to pitch, you're going to propose either a formatted
concept, or a documentary style concept.
format has a specific structure that takes place in
each episode that provokes dramatic or compelling
competition, typically resulting in one person
winning. "Survivor", "Top Chef", "Wipe Out", and
"The Bachelor" are all competition formats, each
with a different structure and premise. One is about
survival, another is about cooking, another is about
stunts, and the other is about romance and
relationships. "Survivor" pits all contestants
against each other, with one person voted off each
week by the group as a whole. "The Bachelor" has
contestants competing for a relationship with one or
more voted off each week by the star of the show.
"Top Chef" has contestants competing each week, with
judging and eliminations done by "Experts". Each of
those series evolves and progresses over the course
of a season, with a limited number of episodes (an
Arc). "Wipe Out" is a straight competition series
with the fastest finisher winning the show in each
episode. Each episode is a "stand alone", with new
contestants and challenges each show. This is
similar to "Fear Factor", with both shows
translating well for syndication because viewers
don't have to follow the progression of a story and
competition over multiple episodes.
reality series are finding unmatched success with
Networks right now
, and this is perhaps the
most viable sub-genre for new Creators to pitch and
sell as a reality TV series. Producers look for
unique "worlds" and "characters" in real life that
are entertaining and interesting to watch. This can
be a unique profession or business, an odd or funny
family, a certain lifestyle, a social club, real
people on an adventure, or any area of our lives
that may be interesting to watch. And they can be
pitched by anyone. At the TV Writers Vault, we've
had reality docu-style series ideas sold by
Housewives/Mothers, Car Salesmen, Plumbers, Tire
Salesman, Magicians, Doctors, Lawyers, Air Traffic
Controllers, Performers, Process Servers, and other
"real" people from outside the Hollywood system.
They were either the subject for the show, or they
had access to a subject for a show. None of them had
any formal training or experience as a creative
writer. They simply pitched the unique aspects and
scenarios of their proposed idea, and Producers were
able to see the entertainment value. Given the right
subject, people, and approach, the Production
Company knew they could sell a Network.
Here's one trick in helping identify potential
subjects for docu-style series- They are essentially
Sitcoms and Drama Series'. Regardless of the genre,
it is always and only about "Story". "Duck Dynasty"
could also be a great premise for a sitcom.
"Deadliest Catch" could be the premise of a great
drama series. So when you look at your world, and
the world around you, look for areas of activity and
people that generate incredible moments and stories.
And remember, its not all about drama. Humor goes a
long way in any pitch, and we've all seen the
success that an odd or funny family can find on
a reality TV idea is as simple as communicating a
Title, Logline, and Synopsis
. This applies
to all formats of reality-based ideas. The title
should hit on what we're seeing, but may be a play
on words. It can be as simple as "The Restaurant",
or clever as "Around The World In Eighty Dates". It
needs to give a direct clue as to the subject we're
watching. Movies can have obscure or ambiguous
titles, but television is an advertisers medium that
demands quick capture of attention, so the viewer
knows generally what the show may be about. Loglines
are perhaps the most important aspect of pitching. A
logline is the short pitch that communicates the
high-concept of the show in one or two sentences.
Any Producer reading a pitch for a reality TV series
needs the logline to tell the unique premise and
agenda of the concept. Too often new writers will
create a logline that reads more like a movie
tagline, hitting on themes or general ideas. For a
TV Logline, the writer needs to be more specific
about communicating what we're actually watching.
What is the premise, and what is the plight? Keep it
simple and clear. Once you establish that your
logline tells what what the show is, then you can
refine it to read in a more clever style.
Writing a Synopsis for a reality TV show
pitch is all about communicating the unique and
important moments in the show, in a very efficient
and original manner
. This is where you
establish your originality of the format and content
proposed. Communicate what we're potentially
watching, detailing the progression of story or
format beat for beat. A Reality TV Show Pitch may be
1 to 4 pages long, depending on the concept. In a
docu-style series pitch, you're pitching that
specific world, and the unique people involved. The
first paragraph should be about the main character,
their situation, and what they do. Then expand into
the details of their daily challenges, and the most
interesting events or circumstances they may
encounter. Remember, what is filmed in the series
hasn't happened yet, so you need to first talk about
what makes the subject interesting, but quickly get
into proposed scenarios and events that are likely
to unfold. You're pitching "proposed content", based
on the real activities and lives of those involved.
If you're writing a pitch for a reality TV format
(competition, elimination, or other variation), then
you're writing a very clear step-by-step overview of
how the series progresses. Often new writers will
get bogged down with paragraphs and pages of writing
that is "justifying" or "educating" the reader on
why the idea works, but in fact isn't telling us
specifically what we're seeing unfold in the show.
Example; Don't spend a page telling us about the
chemistry or conflict that contestants will face in
the relationship series you're pitching. Instead,
describe the specific moments of decision and
ultimatums that create that chemistry and conflict.
Those are the moments that captivate us, and propel
the show. Those are the moments that Producers
create and control to deliver that end result of
"chemistry" and "conflict".
Another important technical skill to keep in
mind when creating your pitch for a reality show is
to be efficient in your writing
writers may also get caught up in writing too many
descriptive passages or expository writing simply
because they're good at writing, and they feel they
have to hammer a point home by describing it in more
detail and length. Here's the golden rule; If it
takes a page to describe, cut it down to a long
paragraph. If it takes a long paragraph to make the
point, cut it down to one or two sentences. When you
hit it hard and efficient, you make impact, and then
you move to the next beat in the show. This keeps
the reader engaged. Especially if a Producer reading
your pitch is already sold on the concept, they
don't want to be turned off by having to read a
lengthy section that isn't moving the story or
a Production Company wants to buy your idea for a
new reality series, know what you can ask for
We always recommend having an experienced
entertainment attorney negotiate any deal on your
behalf, but its also very important to know what to
expect, and what Production Companies may be willing
to give. Assuming you're a new Writer/Creator, and
your concept is being "Optioned" by a Production
Company who will then sell the show to a Network,
here's what to look for. You should expect some form
of Producer credit. This may be Consulting Producer,
Co-Producer, or similar. A "Created by" credit is
also appropriate as you are the original creator of
the unique concept. Often a creator will also share
such credit with certain parties at the Production
Company since they're the entity physically creating
the show. So be open to a "Co-Creator" or shared
"Created by" credit. As such, you should require a
"Per Episode Fee". This may be a percentage of the
per episode budget, or it may be a flat fee. How
much financial success you'll gain from selling a tv
show idea, depends on the success of the show.
Production Companies always hope for additional
seasons ordered, and successful ratings will equate
to bumps in fees and residual income. Another thing
to keep in mind is that a Production Company may be
successful in selling the project to multiple
countries and varying networks. Make sure your deal
applies to any network or third party broadcaster
sale, and that a different network equals a
different run of fees.
Often we're asked, "When is pitching season
for new reality shows?
" The great news is
that there is no specific or limited period when
Producers secure new TV show ideas for development.
They scout year-round, every day of the week, and
even on vacations when they still have time to
review new projects. Of course there are specific
events in the industry that take place annually,
where Production Companies debut their new projects
for sale to broadcasters, but at the point of
creating and selling a reality show idea to
Producers, it is a process and period that doesn't
end. They buy projects all the time. We appreciate
the dedication and creative drive that so many of
our members have, and we look forward to assisting
all new writers in the process of creating and
pitching new reality TV shows to top Producers in
the television industry.
THE FUTURE OF REALITY TELEVISION
Anything that makes a splash like the "Reality TV"
boom is bound to bring out the skeptics. What's most
interesting about this hot genre in programming is
that the skeptics are both the buyer and the seller.
The viewing audience and the Networks both ask the
fearful question, "How long can this last?"
The truth is that both continue to tune in, as well
as produce and promote new shows.
The creators and producers of these shows are people
that think "outside the box" to begin with, and many
have been vocal in explaining that the format of
reality programming only broadens the possibilities
of various forms of hybrid shows. It's the same
thing we've witnessed with scripted shows over the
past decade- Rules are broken and new forms are
There has always been an appetite for event-type
programming. And when real people are involved,
viewers will watch with the same addictive appetite
as those who are hooked on soap operas. What's more
powerful in even the highly formatted reality-based
programming is that even though the situations are
set up and driven to deliver a result for content,
we are watching people with real emotions in
circumstances that create real drama.
As long as we continue to be fascinated with the
human condition, and have an appetite for
entertainment, there will always be some evolving
format of a reality show. We've also seen the
evolution of documentary-style programming with hit
cable shows becoming extremely popular. The viewing
audiences' appetite for experiencing lives and
worlds they'd otherwise never know or see in their
own reality is what pulls them to these programs.
Producers are reaching out to discover real people
with fascinating lives, businesses, and families to
create and produce as new shows, and many of them
were discovered right here at the TV Writers Vault.
People are now pitching their own lives as
reality-based programs, and many are succeeding. We
feel that as long as people have passion, and a
drive to create, prosper, and pursue adventure,
there will always be original reality TV
Read our founder Scott Manville's blog article on "What
New Producers & Creators Need To Know About Pitching
Reality TV Show Ideas
from the TV Writers Vault.
Click below to register your television show
idea/proposal for review by our Industry Members...