It is pitching season, and the opportunity arose for me to pitch a new project, but I have to get the pitch packet together in the next few days. There is no time for bells and whistles (not that I’m a big believer in those anyway), there is only room for clarity.
So, what do they need to see in a TV series pitch packet?
A Tagline. Non-negotiable. It’s how I’ll start the pitch, and it’s how the execs I pitch to will start *their* pitch to the Powers That Be. It’s like a super-short logline, evocative and memorable.
Genre. Some people put the Genre (like RomCom or Sci-Fi) separate from the length of show (one-hour drama or half-hour, single-camera sitcom, for instance), but I like to put them together. “One hour action adventure dramedy.” That kind of thing.
Developed By. You want to put the major players attached to the project. I will copyright it under my own name, because I wrote it, but I’m going in to pitch with a producer, so both my name and the name of the production company will go here. Both my e-mail address and the producer’s will appear in the footer as well.
This is important: Never release a piece of work into the world that doesn’t have a way to contact you *directly* on it. Never.
All of the above took three or four lines, tops. The rest of the page is devoted to:
Series Overview. Which is exactly what it sounds like. Just under a page, it should give an idea of what the series (not the pilot) will be: main characters, plot strands, what the show looks like each week. It’s important to give them a sense of the series’ franchise, which is a fancy word to mean what will the show look like every week. There’s a reason lawyers, cops and monster-hunters are the staples of hour-long television: it’s clear with each how, every week, there’s a new problem to solve — similar to last week’s problem, but not quite the same.
Pages Two – Three: Pilot Synopsis.
Ideally, this takes about a page and a half and launches them squarely into the best the series will offer.
Pages Four – Five: Character Bios.
List the characters in order of importance. This isn’t just an opportunity to give backstory (although do that, too), but a chance to show how characters relate to others – private feuds, grating personalities, forbidden lust. This is where you lay in possible storylines as well, as they work out their baggage and hidden agendas.
Page Six: Upcoming Episodes.
Title and a single paragraph for half a dozen future stories, roughly in order. If you have big reveals or a season finale that will deepen the show’s mythology, throw them in here.
Page Seven: Optional Additional Info.
This is where you put any kicker that you think helps you sell the show. Historical references, cool photos or concept drawings. When we pitched a time travel show, my partner and I culled old photos from the web that purported to show anachronisms, such as people with cell phones in a pic from 1887. DO NOT PUT A PHOTO OF YOURSELF AS THE MAIN CHARACTER. Even if that’s the ultimate plan, nothing scares execs more.
Note what isn’t here: a full pilot script. If you write the script, you don’t need a leave-behind for the series. Execs read the script and bring you in to talk about it (maybe) or to talk about working with you on one of their own projects (much more likely.) A script is a calling card for you; a pitch packet is a bid to see if they’ll pay you to write it for them.