There are lots of different ways to pitch a web series to a network or production company. I’ve covered the good stuff in “How to Pitch a Web Series”. Now let’s talk about the Cardinal Sins: The things you shouldn’t do if you want to sell your Web Series.
Make sure you have fully developed your concept. Think the whole thing through. Know how many episodes you’d like to produce in your “season” and have an opinion on how you would cast it. Understand your own story arc and narrative – and be able to talk it through the whole season. You’d be surprised at how many people (unsuccessfully) pitch ideas that are only half-baked.
If you are new to the business, don’t assume one call will get you in the door. You might want to pitch a production company – if you really do have a great idea, you will want their clout and expertise behind you. Most successful production companies already have relationships with financiers and network execs – it depends on how collaborative you want to be. You may be one of the small percentage who gets lucky and gets a meeting on your first call. Generally speaking, the best time to try to get an appointment is between 8:30 am and 9:00 am or after 5 pm.
Don’t be defensive about rejection. Most networks are good about giving you feedback if your idea is rejected. Take it as a learning experience. Hey – it’s one persons/groups opinion. If you have that much heart for your idea keep going. The next one just might say yes.
Don’t promise anything related to production that you can’t deliver 100%: that goes for actors, locations, equipment, crew etc. Nothing will make you look more amateur hour – it’s unprofessional.
This seems kind of 101, but you shouldn’t pitch an adult series to a public broadcaster, or a female talk format to testosterone-heavy Spike TV. By the same token, do a little research before you pick up the phone. Don’t pitch your single Dad comedy series to a network that already has a single Dad comedy series unless yours is really different.
Networks know their own business, so don’t go into the pitch telling them what you would do if you were in charge. Believe it or not, they do this for a living. Showing off your superior broadcast or marketing skills is just a bad idea. They will be impressed however by an open, collaborative attitude. That doesn’t mean you become a pushover. This is a first date. Make them LOVE you.
Never, ever diss another network, production company, director or show. It’s bad form and no one loves a loud mouth asshole, no matter how right you may think you might be. The business is much smaller than you’d ever think and you could be dissing someone’s best friend, husband etc.
Don’t assume words are enough to convey your concept. Use visuals where appropriate. Don’t scribble a few presentation images on a cocktail napkin under the mistaken assumption that they’ll think you’re being “creative” – impressions are everything and you want to come across as professional AND creative. There are lots of ways to do this without spending a ton of dough at the local printers. I’m not big on the dressing up thing for pitches – I think it’s better to be comfortable and relaxed. But don’t look like you just crawled out of a dumpster … the execs will assume how you look is how you run a crew.
Nobody is going to expect you to know a ton about production costs, but it’s helpful to have done your research and have a working knowledge of what things cost … it’s reasonable to expect that anyone with their hand out asking for money should be accountable for how that money is going to be spent. By and large the entertainment industry is there to MAKE MONEY … you’re not asking for charity, you are asking for someone to invest in your ideas – and your future money-making potential.
If you are pitching a network it’s really bad form to pitch more than one at a time. Some ask for right of refusals which means you are giving them first dibs by pitching them … be respectful of the process. If you were in their shoes, you’d want to know that you were the only date they were interested in going out with too.