Emmy-winning writer Jeffrey Scott gives insight into how to pitch TV series


(Part 1)

I’m asked questions all the time about pitching animated TV series.

Do I need a bible? — Do I need a pilot script? — Do I need artwork? —Do I need a few minutes of animation?

Rather than tell you what I think you need, let me illustrate the reality of pitching with two personal anecdotes.

Years ago, Peter Roth (currently the Chief Executive of Warner Bros. Television) was the president of Stephen J. Cannell Productions. Peter brought me into the studio as an executive producer to create a children’s division for the company. It was before dinosaurs became hugely popular, and I created and developed an animated action-adventure dinosaur series. I wrote a bible. Then I commissioned $13,000 worth of artwork, including an 11x17, 24-page pitch book with illustrations of every character, dinosaur, piece of hardware and primary locations. I had an awesome 15-inch sculpture made of one of the dinosaurs. And to top it off, I commissioned a full-size 30x40 inch one sheet from one of the top graphic design houses in Burbank.

I pitched the series to Jeff Sagansky, who had recently departed NBC where he was Senior Vice President for Series Programming. He was awed by the pitch and agreed to get the series distributed if we could come up with the financing. The following week I found out that one of the networks had bought another dinosaur series and my show suddenly went extinct.

Flash forward 10 years. Peter Roth was President of Production at Twentieth Network Television. I went to his office on the Fox lot to pitch him an animated prime-time series. Peter had just moved into the office so while we were schmoozing we were constantly looking for places to put our water glasses down without making rings on his new wood table. So we put them on magazines and scripts.

I started pitching him my series and halfway through it I could see him losing interest. I stopped and said, “I know you’ve already passed, but so I don’t feel like a total idiot let me finish the pitch.” He did. I did. He passed.

As he was walking me out of his office I gave him a two-sentence pitch for another idea I had been working on. He smiled and the meeting was over.

To thank Peter for taking the pitch I sent him a set of silver coasters for his coffee table. A few days later he called me and said, “Thanks for the lovely coasters. I want to buy your series.” It was such a shock I almost lost my breath. He bought the two-sentence pitch.

The moral of these stories is this: There is no such thing as the perfect pitch. You can have $13,000 worth of bells and whistles and not sell your series. Or you can give two sentences on the fly and sell it. There are no absolutely right or wrong answers. You never know for sure what will work. The bottom line is that you have to have a great concept that fits the buyer’s programming needs.

How do you get a great concept? I’ll explain in Part 2.

©Jeffrey Scott, All Rights Reserved

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