July 24, 2011

Pitching a TV show: TV Writer Chat nom-noms with Mike Alber

Well, hello sailor. Welcome to the port of knowledge. Today you get to read the hot moments from the TV Writer Chat starring the brain of Mike Alber. He's done a lot of pitching and had a lot of success with it, and is currently working on DEATH VALLEY which is premiering on MTV this year. You can find him on Twitter: Mike Alber

TV WRITER CHAT Sunday 10th July 
Guest: Mike Alber, screenwriter

* First step: getting the meeting. This is where your agent or manager comes in. It's hard to get a meeting on your own.
* It is possible to sell a pitch to a network without a manager or agent, but you really need to use your contacts.
* Major elements to include in your pitch: logline, tone, major character/s, pilot, a taste/teaser, and future episode ideas.
* Have about 6 future episodes plotted out, but know what drives your story forward. You won't need a whole heap of ep ideas if it's clear what kinds of stories can be generated by your concept and story arc.
* You may start by pitching to creative executives, and they'll in turn go pitch your idea to the head of development.
* Winning/placing in a screenwriting competition can open doors for you. 

* Mike won the Trackingboard.com screenwriting competition, which got him attention.
* If someone doesn't dig your ideas but likes you, ask them for a referral. "Who else may be into my idea?" This can be your launchpad.
* Showrunners like more writers for less (like writing partners) and can be happy to get two brains for the price of one.
* After you sell your pilot, your contract dictates your involvement on the show.
* If you work in a team and have success, once the two of you split you're kinda screwed - no-one sees you as a solo writer.
* Agents want clients who can sell themselves, and are proven entities.
* Look at what shows a chosen network has bought in the last two years before pitching.
* Don't look for a buy in the first meeting. Look to develop process further.
* Agents may ask how many Facebook friends/Twitter followers you have. They want to know your clout.
* Read The Hollywood Reporter and Variety.
* A showrunner is only attached after a network buys and makes the pilot.
* Pitch meetings get rescheduled A LOT. Bear this in mind if you fly in to pitch and only allot a finite amount of days to be in town.
* The best part of writing for TV now is this: SO many channels are doing original content. And they all need good stuff.
* Pitch a little scene from the show. A taste. Do actual dialogue if called for.
* Don't leave a one-sheet. They make everything black & white.
* (As usual the big advice is:) Move to L.A. Until then? Use social media. Networking is not optional in this industry.
* Read tonnes of pilots, especially from the network you're interested in selling to.
* WB is a pussycat compared to Fox.

Thanks to all who contributed to the chat. I'm tellin' ya, you won't learn this stuff at film school.

I'm wondering... Those of you who started a new script excitedly at the start of this year and swore to finish it, are you still working on it? Did you finish it, or is it sitting as a skeleton in a desktop folder, waiting for you to come back and slather your meaty words all over it?
New year's resolutions are always hard to keep. Sometimes you just need a reminder that you forgot to kick your ass back into gear. Just think about how happy you'll be if you end this year knowing you finished something. Use that for motivation.

And if the thought of going back through and reading all your notes and bits of script feels too exhausting, just start again. Use the kernels of your idea, all you remember and loved, and write that. You can always check back with the old material later to see if there's anything you can salvage for the new version.
Just write. Because I need to be jealous of you to get back to writing obsessively myself.

Screenwriters Anonymous - the support group that guilt-trips you into greatness.

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