Producing Unscripted: Make Reality TV Shows and Documentary Series with Joke and Biagio
Summary: Ready to create, pitch, and sell reality TV shows or documentary series and specials? Get top-industry secrets and even pitch your shows to Award-Winning Documentary Filmmakers and Unscripted Television Producers Joke Fincioen and Biagio Messina. Recently, the duo have helped new producers bring three projects to television on MTV, BIOGRAPHY CHANNEL, and A&E. Your show could be next. Subscribe now. ABOUT JOKE AND BIAGIO: With over a decade of experience in unscripted film and television, this married couple have made TV shows, specials, and pilots for A&E, The CW, Biography Channel, NBC, CBS, Discovery, E!, IFC, Logo, Oxygen, Style Network, VH1 and MTV. Their feature length documentary DYING TO DO LETTERMAN played in theaters across America, was invited by the International Documentary Association to qualify for Academy Award® consideration, and named “New and Noteworthy” on iTunes alongside The Dark Knight Rises, Brave, and Beasts of the Southern Wild. This fall Joke and Biagio have 12 episodes of a new TV series airing on a major cable network. Subscribers to this podcast will be discover what that show is, how it was sold, and how to replicate the success for themselves. Subscribe today.
We're guessing you want to pitch reality tv shows and documentary series. After all, you're here, reading and listening, which already puts you miles ahead of most of the people who pitch reality tv shows to us. Now, we're going to give you five magic words that will make all the difference. Yes, in the past I've teased things wrapped in spoiler tags to encourage you to get the revealing answer from the podcast itself. But if you haven't already hit the big play button floating above this post, too bad. The 5 Magic Words to Pitch Reality TV Shows and Documentary Series Are... Self-Contained Arced Format Docu Hybrid There you go! Oh, wait a minute, would you like to know what those words mean and how to use them when you pitch reality tv shows and documentary series? Of course you would. That's why today, on episode 005 of Producing Unscripted, we break down: The 5 magic words and how to use them when you pitch reality tv shows, doc series, or unscripted television specials The very first question Joke will ask you when you pitch reality tv shows to her (better know how to answer it!) The difference between Self-Contained and Arced shows, with specific examples, and how you can figure it out yourself. Format, Docu, Hybrid -- how these words mix with Self-Contained and Arced to properly present a show concept, and why you need to know. Why success pitching reality tv shows and doc series is giving Biagio separation anxiety. The Words Pros Use to Pitch Reality TV Shows and Doc Series Are these words really magic? Top secret? The amazing tool we're making them out to be? Yes. Like every profession, there's certain ways insiders talk to each other in the unscripted entertainment business. The right words are like a secret hand-shake: they let the person sitting across from you know that you belong. When we pitch reality TV shows, doc series, specials, whatever--we start off our pitches using some combination of the words above. Sound Like a Pro If someone walks in to our offices and says, "This is a self-contained format" or "I see this as an arced hybrid" (or something close to that) we know they've been around the business long enough to know what they're talking about. If, on the other hand, they being with, "I've got a great idea..." well, forget about it. When you use these words correctly it gives us a level of comfort. You've shown us you've either worked in the business or taken the time to educate yourself. After listening to today's podcast, when you set out to pitch reality TV shows or doc series, you're going to sound like a pro. Helpful and Related Links Our show Caged - a docu-leaning hybrid Our show Scream Queens - an arced format Our show Commercial Kings - a self-contained format Our show Ghost Inside My Child - a self-contained format Our show Secrets, Lies, and Sex - a docu Transcript coming soon! Okay, you've taken a big step to sounding like a pro. Now take the next step to becoming one. Sign up for our newsletter and you'll learn how to submit your unscripted concepts to us, as well as how to develop, pitch, and sell reality tv shows and documentary series, and improve your filmmaking skills. From time to time we'll even tell you exactly what we're looking for: “Joke & Biagio met with us when no one else would, developed our show, and sold it to MTV.” – Travis Bible, Co-Executive Producer, Caged
Want to develop shows for unscripted television, whether documentary series, reality TV, or documentary specials? There's one thing you just can't get around. You need great tape. Unless your plan to develop shows for our industry involves shooting and editing a terrific piece of video along the way, you risk being thought of as an idea person, someone who doesn't know how to make yourself valuable. But, as we know first hand... It Costs Money, Time, and Resources to Develop Shows With Great Tape That's why here in episode 004 of Producing Unscripted we discuss: 5 bullet proof steps to develop shows without going broke when pitching to us Step-by-step process of connecting with us to take your concept from idea to finished video pitch How we used the same process to get our new documentary on the air at MTV We Constantly Develop Shows... ...but it's not always easy. With every idea we come up with on our own, and every pitch we receive, we have to ask ourselves: Are there any networks that would make this show right now? Do we want to make this show? Would it be a good show? How hard would it be to make a great tape to sell this show? Who's life will be changed for the better if we got this show on TV? Is this show possible to produce, or a pie in the sky idea (i.e. reality show at the White House.) Do we want to team up with the people pitching us this show? Will we still want to develop shows when this is all over? :-) That's why... To Develop Shows is to Play a Numbers Game Simply put, the more shows you develop, the more shows you'll sell. However, as we talk about in this week's Producing Unscripted podcast episode, there has to be a "weed out" process at some point in the development pipeline. Just because an idea pops into your head doesn't mean you should rush out and make a tape to try to sell it. You have to make educated guesses about where to put your money, time, and resources when you develop shows. How Do We Know When to Further Develop Shows? After more than a decade in the business, we can tell you the old Hollywood axiom is true: Nobody knows nothin'. An idea we pass on today might be a smash hit tomorrow. The show we take a chance on that goes against everything our agents tell us should work might end up lighting the world on fire. That said, we've been in unscripted TV for a while. We're no longer the new kids on the block, begging networks to meet with us. We've been working with some of the network execs for years. Many of them are our friends. Guess what...they tell us what they're looking for. Even more important, often times they tell us what they're not looking for. Relationships Matter It's those valuable relationships that allow us to decide which baskets to place our eggs in. Before we develop shows past the idea stage, we have conversations both internally and often with network execs to figure out what shows have the best chance of selling. Is that always how we make our decisions? No, but it helps. Some shows (or films) are passion projects. We often take a chance on a long shot show we feel a connection with. That gives us a personal fulfillment that's hard to come by if you only try to manufacture hours of sellable television. Still, we have 7,000 square feet of office space right next to Universal Studios we have to pay the rent on, employees who count on us, and dreams of growing bigger. So no, not everything can be a pure passion project. That doesn't mean you can't choose to develop shows that matter to you in some way. Choose to Develop Shows that Matter So for us, we decide to further develop shows based on this criteria: We'd love to make the show? There are several networks that might be interested? Make a tape. Pitch it. We'd love to make the show? We're super passionate about it, but it's a hard sell? Try anyways. Make a tape.
Last episode ended with a cliffhanger: the one thing you could do to instantly increase your odds of unscripted TV success. For that matter, success in any area of Hollywood (and life.) What is the action you can take today that makes all the difference? Here on episode 003 of Producing Unscripted: Top secret tip to instantly protect your creative process, stack the odds of unscripted TV success in your favor, make us want to work with you, and give yourself a career (yes, it's that important--and this applies to more than unscripted TV, it applies to just about anything you do in life.) Four insider secrets to increase your odds of teaming up with us. What I'll be doing for the next 38.4 years Unscripted TV: The One Thing You Must do to Succeed The problem with most unscripted TV pitches (or any pitch for that matter) is that people walk in with their "big idea" and think it's enough. "My unscripted TV show follows homeless people." "It's a reality show where x number of guys/friends/family members travel around and do a/b/c/d... "It's a documentary series about life in the white house." "It's a competition game show that's like Survivor but it's set in the Arctic." These are the kinds of things we hear over and over from newbies. Every single one of those one-liners is useless. What Can You Do Instead? Okay, if you haven't already pressed the giant "Play" button at the top of this post, and want to know the one thing that will make all the difference, not only in unscripted TV, but just about any endeavor you undertake, click the "Show" inside the spoiler below. While we humbly suggest reading it after listening, be sure to read it at some point. The spoiler adds some valuable things not mentioned in the podcast: Be sure to read what's in the spoiler at some point. Helpful and Related Unscripted TV Links: Break into Hollywood with Hands-On Producing Steal this Editing Secret to Edit Film and Video Like a Pro The Secret to Impressing Celebrities Should I Make My Own Reality TV Pilot? Transcript coming soon! To find out how to pitch your shows to us (and not the one-line variety we skewer above), as well as learn to develop, pitch, and sell unscripted TV ideas, and improve your filmmaking skills, make sure to get our Joke and Biagio newsletter: “Joke & Biagio met with us when no one else would, developed our show, and sold it to MTV.” – Travis Bible, Co-Executive Producer, Caged
Submit Ideas to Hollywood? "I want to submit ideas to Hollywood." We hear that a lot. Whether someone wants to break into the movies, make reality tv shows, or create the next Emmy Award® winning primetime drama, everyone seems to have big "ideas." But there is something about "ideas" that no one has ever told you. A secret that can detonate the value you attach to ideas. A change in thinking that can turbo-charge your showbiz success. What is it? Here on Producing Unscripted episode 002, that's the topic of today's podcast. Digest what we have to say, because if you understand the main principle behind today's episode, and start to look at "ideas" in a different light, you'll change your career forever. You'll no longer ask, "How do I submit ideas to Hollywood?" In fact, this one concept can put you on the fast-track to Hollywood success. Pay attention to today's advice, and professionals will pay attention to you. I'll tell you this much -- people who understand what we talk about on this episode are the kind of people we leap to be in business with. Don't Submit Ideas to Hollywood (Or Us) It's time to think about your creative concepts differently. Forget the myth that great one-line ideas can earn big bucks. Whether you want to work with us or anyone else in Hollywood, it's crucial to realize what part of the entertainment industry pyramid a single, solitaire idea fits into (hint: it's not the top.) Stop thinking, "if I could only submit my ideas to Hollywood" and start thinking bigger. On today's episode: We have a new series going to air after teaming up with someone from Cleveland. You could be next. The important step you must take before submitting an "idea" to us. A "must do" before we'll consider teaming up with you. Can your ideas really be stolen by Hollywood? What does an idea actually represent? What does it mean that both "Trading Spouses" and "Wife Swap" could be on the air at the same time on different networks? How to step beyond ideas and into success. Geting from "idea" to "package." NOTE: We're film and TV producers, not lawyers. We're not offering legal advice here. If you decide to submit ideas to Hollywood in any form, things can go wrong. But we believe we're sharing the realities of the industry we work in, and that by shifting your thinking about the worth of an idea you can achieve success much faster. It worked for us. Related links: The Truth About Your Big Idea in Hollywood Our seminal post on Hollywood, ideas, and you. Our New TV Special: The Ghost Inside My Child Includes video trailer of the original special, now ordered to series on Biography Channel. Protecting Ideas: Can Ideas be Protected or Patented? Another industry's take, but many of the concepts apply perfectly. However, most studios or production companies (including us) would never sign a confidentiality agreement for similar reasons to those discussed in the podcast. Could Hollywood Steal Your Idea? Good post looking at the topic from a screenwriter's perspective. Perspective is useful, but registering short paper-pitches with the WGA for unscripted TV show ideas is almost useless. More on that in a future post. Transcript coming soon! Remember, to find out how to pitch to us (and now you now it's about more than ideas!) or to get great, real-world tips on pitching and selling unscripted television and how to make reality tv, as well as improve your overall filmmaking skills, sign up for our newsletter: “Joke & Biagio met with us when no one else would, developed our show, and sold it to MTV.” – Travis Bible, Co-Executive Producer, Caged
Want to make reality TV, documentary series or unscripted specials? So did we. But when you're just starting out, how in the heck do sell documentary series or make reality tv? Seems like it wasn't that long ago we were living in our one bedroom apartment, creating show ideas, editing pitch reels -- and wondering what to do next. We didn't know a single person in Hollywood. It was impossible to get networks or production companies to take our calls. And agents...well, they wanted nothing to do with us. Breaking in seemed impossible. The two of us decided then and there that if we were ever successful, we'd find a way to reach out to aspiring producers and filmmakers. Fast forward to today. We own a successful TV and Film Production Company, we're currently working on three TV series and a handful of television pilots. We produce documentaries, make reality tv shows, and love every minute of it. And we're launching this podcast, Producing Unscripted. In episode 1 we break down: Why we're doing this podcast, and what's in it for you. Who the heck we are, and why that can help you. How to get started pitching your shows to us Joke's advice on the one thing you should do before even thinking about pitching Unscripted Television. What we have in store for you over the course of this series. Related Links Our Shows: http://www.jokeproductions.com/projects/ Pitch us a Show: We Want to Make a Show With You Our doc Dying to do Letterman Makes New and Noteworthy with Brave, Dark Knight Rises, Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Ted Behind the scenes posts on our show Scream Queens If you want to pitch television, you need to do this. Transcript coming soon! Remember, to find out how to pitch to us, or to get great, real-world tips on pitching and selling unscripted television and how to make reality tv, sign up for our newsletter: “Joke & Biagio met with us when no one else would, developed our show, and sold it to MTV.” – Travis Bible, Co-Executive Producer, Caged