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How to Work the Room During Your TV Pitch and Secure a Commission

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Everyone has their own pitching style and every commissioning editor will prefer a certain kind of pitch – which is why it helps to know your enemy.

In the UK, commissioners at all levels tend to prefer an informal ‘creative conversation’ in which you both collaborate.

In the US, you  might have a one-to-one pitch with a development executive, or you could face a room full of senior executives who sit back and listen to your pitch. If it’s the former, you’re likely to be grilled about the details of your proposal, as they have sell it up the chain of command when you’ve gone. If you manage to secure a meeting with senior executives, you”ll need to make a more formal presentation, before moving on to deal manage a discussion and field questions.

  • Whichever kind of pitch you face, there are a number of principles you can apply to make things run smoothly and move you closer to a commission:

  • Know who will be in the room – do some research on them. It will help with small talk at the beginning of the meeting if you can find some common ground.
  • Give them an ‘elevator’ or brief overview pitch – explain your idea in a sentence or two. If they show interest, move on to:
  • Show your pitch tape if you have one, and if it’s positively received, move on to:
  • Full pitch – expand on the format, the characters, the setting, the narrative arc. Use descriptive language and be enthusiastic.
  • Pitch to everyone in the room and read their body language – stop if they’re getting restless or appear distracted.
  • Roll with the punches – answer questions honestly. If you don’t know the answer say so and tell them you will get back to them. Don’t bullshit.
  • Work in collaboration with the commissioner – respect their ideas and incorporate them if possible and appropriate.
  • Don’t undermine your colleagues when they’re pitching by fidgeting, sighing, looking skywards or disagreeing with something they say.
  • Know what you’re looking for and be prepared to ask for it – full commission, development money or a pilot?
  • Know when to shut up – you can win a commission and lose it if you carry on talking.
  • Agree on what the next steps should be and set deadlines.
  • Follow up  promptly with a full proposal, budget or answers to their questions as soon as you can.
  • Keep talking – book in your next meeting to discuss the idea and keep it moving towards commission. It’s said that an idea needs to be pitched three times to the same person before they feel comfortable enough to buy it (but not on the same day, obviously).
  • If your idea is rejected, take it to another channel – after tweaking it fit their brief. And finally…
  • But if you’ve exhausted all avenues, kill it and move on to another idea.


Get more pitching tips in Greenlit: Developing Factual/Reality TV Ideas From Concept to Pitch

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