How To Pitch a TV Show

As I am soon heading off to StoryExpo, a screenwriting conference in New York, I figured I’d detail some of the things that go into preparing for it. This week, I want to share some advice about pitching to production companies.

Picture it:

Tables fill the open room, their polished surfaces cradling cellphones and stacks of paper. Behind them sit producers, ranging from the stylish, put-together woman with the expensive scarf, to the guy in a wrinkled T-shirt that ran in twenty minutes late and left for the day fifteen minutes later.

The writers stand in a line on the opposite side of the room, cradling their portfolios and cups of coffee. Some resemble George R. R. Martin, seated on stools as they regal those around them with tales of their previous pitching experiences. Others could be mistaken for Bambi, stumbling on their spindly baby writer legs as they furiously take notes in a leather-bound notebook, staring with wide eyes. Then you’ve got the guy in the suit (there’s always a guy in a suit), who oozes confidence, coupled with his megawatt smile. These are your peers. Most of them are sources of great knowledge. Speak to as many as you can. 

I don’t think I can stress this enough. The most important thing to do is speak to everyone.

The way pitching works, at least at StoryExpo, is that they have a list of the producers attending for each day, alongside what they’re looking for. Some just want feature films, some just want reality TV, and others only deal with animation. The best piece of advice I could give you is to try and talk to every one of them. Even if you’re not pitching to them, ask if they have advice, or if they have anyone that would be interested in your show. These people make connections for a living. Use them!

Pitching itself seems nerve wracking the first time you do it. You’re shaking as you walk across the room to the table. You want to come off as sophisticated and intelligent, while putting your show in the best light. But you’ve got to realize that these people are just that: people. They’re just looking for you to be passionate about your show. More often than not, even if they don’t want your show, they’ll give you some good advice or a connection, simply for the way you speak about your show.

I had a producer once tell me that I interested him in my show because of my passion. If you can speak well about it, and truly believe in the story you’re telling, nothing will stand in your way. I learned that through my work trying to get my TV show produced. People like your passion. Use it.

As for the pitch, you sit at the table and just start a conversation. You’ll give them your “elevator pitch” which is a two-minute MAXIMUM synopsis of your show. What does it boil down to at its core?

Then, you’ll discuss details. Where do you want the show housed? Which translates to: do you want it on a network, like ABC, or do you prefer streaming, like Netflix. How do you feel about a web series? How much of the show have you written? (Which should always be all of it. Don’t pitch an incomplete show.) Who else have you spoken with about it, do you have partners, etc. It flows like a regular conversation.

Keep a notebook with you. Write down what they say to you. And always, ALWAYS, ask for their contact information. Two weeks or so after pitching, reach out to those people. Refresh them on who you are, and follow up with them about your show. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Other than that, have a good time. Even if you don’t sell your show, you’ll come out with some sort of direction, invaluable pieces of advice, or some awesome contacts. You never know what’ll happen if you don’t try!

The Vine Yard: Chapter 5

The second day of auditions were interesting. The same three actors from day one returned and read for a handful of different parts. At the end of it, Josh and I couldn’t decide how to cast it. There were 3 problems:


Our one female actor has great chemistry with one of our male actors. We wanted to cast them as a pair; they were so good together! However, the male actor was phenomenal. We could cast him as a tree and he’d knock it out of the park.

The female actor’s performances, unfortunately, were 50/50. Sometimes she’d be incredible, making us truly believe she could carry a show, while other times, she'd be lackluster and bland. She was great as Janice, one of the secondary characters, and the male actor was incredible as Roger, Janice’s bestie. But the male actor was so obviously our lead! We just didn’t know if the female actor could handle landing the role of his love interest.


There was another actress who auditioned that was PERFECT for the love interest. If I closed my eyes and listened to her speak, it was like I was standing in a room with the character.

But that was just it. I had to close my eyes. She didn't have the look that fit the role. Plus, she lived out of town. She would've had to fly into Gainesville for filming, which was majorly expensive. Besides, I didn't want her to fly in and then find out she had absolutely no chemistry with our male lead. There were too many what-ifs involved for us to commit to her.


The second male actor had some great lines in all the male roles, but was not 100% in any of them. He had good and bad moments in every role he tried out for, which made it difficult to cut him, but also to cast him. I actually considered making him the lead for one scene, because he was great! But in the next scene when he read for the lead, he was lame. There wasn't a happy medium that we could work with. So, ultimately, we couldn't put him in the lead role.

Overall, auditions were a lot of fun. Unfortunately, all the other auditions we had were via video. Given that Josh and I were graduating in two months, we didn't have the time to schedule chemistry reads for everyone and figure out our film schedule. So we just had to go on our gut instincts.

On the first day of auditions, I looked at Josh and my friend Anna and said, "I know who my lead is." After reviewing the first auditions, and seeing the second ones, however, I felt like I had to retract my casting, simply because there were other factors to consider. We had to think about schedules, availability, and chemistry. It felt like we were going by the seat of our pants, and I didn't like it. But we still had more audition videos to watch before we made our final decision.

Considering filming started the next week, we'd have to work fast! I honestly couldn't believe I was starting filming/directing a short film of mine. It was crazy!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017, The Vine Yard became a reality.

The Vine Yard: Chapter 4

We held auditions for The Vine Yard! (Pause for applause)

That Saturday morning rolled around and I dragged myself out of bed (we’d had a late night the night before), woke up a hungover Josh (who had lost his phone sometime in the night and messaged me from his computer at three in the morning asking for a wake-up call), and made some coffee. I printed out the necessary copies of the script we would need, made sure our moral support friend was ready for me to pick her up, and wrote a note for our friend Jared, who was still fast asleep on our living room floor. After making him some coffee and making sure he had a key to the apartment, Josh and I left.

We arrived at the audition site with twenty minutes to spare. Josh set up the room, moving some chairs out into the hall, while I texted my actors and went upstairs to meet them. Once Century Tower chimed noon on the dot, I took my three actors down into the basement of Turlington Hall to begin.

I felt a little let down, honestly, that only three people showed up (out of the 15 that originally replied). A couple had emailed me to tell me they couldn’t make auditions, and would be emailing me their audition videos. But still. When one of the actors asked if they were the only ones coming, I was really disheartened. I didn’t want this to look like it wasn’t a real production, even though it didn’t feel real to me. I mean, we were filming this thing with our cell phones. These were actors that were going to want to use this footage for their resumes. I didn’t want to let them down! Yet, at the same time, I was proud of this writing, of this show. Either way, I was a little upset.

Auditions, themselves, went well, though. We had each of the actors read their parts, and Josh filmed, while I took notes. At the end of the day, I was pretty sure who I was going to cast as Joshua L. Glass. After reviewing all the video auditions I received, I was also pretty sure of who would be Alexis, the best friend/love interest. But we didn’t have enough actors to fill all the roles. Josh and I even considered changing one of the characters, Roger, from a male to female role, seeing as we had so many women audition.

So, Josh and I took to social media. I posted in my UF Class of 2017 site, the short film group I was a part of, and on the Chabad Board group, while Josh posted in groups he was a part of. (Shout out to Sam Iachello for posting the info in her improv group site, too!)

Within three days, I had seven people email me, interested in the project. I sent them the audition material from the second day of auditions, and gave them a little less than a week to send in their video auditions. A couple people got back with me right away, but, since the internet was out in my apartment, I didn’t have the chance to review them right away.

I was still thrilled, though. These actors were fabulous!

The Vine Yard: Chapter 3

The week of auditions for the teaser trailer of The Vine Yard arrived. It hadn’t hit me or my production partner, Josh, until that week that we were really making a web series. So, we sat down and had a production meeting that Monday.

We decided that we’d like to vlog our escapades, and eked out the details regarding footage, locations, and timing. After realizing that most of our actors would be either unwilling or unable to travel six hours to South Florida for filming, we weighed our options. We needed a place that could double as a club and a movie theater, but also wouldn’t be expensive to use. At that point, we realized we could use our Chabad House for filming. The café would be perfect to film in for the club, and one of the VPs of the student board had an excellent speaker we could use. And if we tweaked the script a little, we could use the parking lot for the movie theater.

After that, we worked on setting up our social media. It took fifteen minutes to pick a handle, seeing as all variations of The Vine Yard had already been used (looking at YOU Vineyard Vines). Thankfully, we settled on one, and proceeded to make a Twitter, Facebook page, and YouTube account. We started following a ton of ex-Viners, and set up our accounts for posting.

Around that time, our friend came to pick up the coffee he left at our apartment after a party we’d hosted. Upon seeing him, we both remembered he wrote music as a hobby. Excitement shot through me when he said he’d be thrilled to help us with music for the show. Not only would we not have to pay for music, but we could also promote his work to all of our followers—once we had some. It felt like everything was finally coming together.

All that was left was to audition our actors, film, and make our budget for our kickstarter!

This was really happening.

We were really making a webseries!