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SQUAWK box: Pitch pitfalls

The 2007 Realscreen Summit - the ninth of its kind - is upon us, so it's the perfect time to get input from some of those on the advisory panel about a topic to be covered at the event.
January 1, 2007

The 2007 Realscreen Summit – the ninth of its kind – is upon us, so it’s the perfect time to get input from some of those on the advisory panel about a topic to be covered at the event.

We were curious about the common mistakes producers make that cause these insiders to reject a pitch. ‘Doc producers often tell us too much about the topic and not enough about the TV show they want to make,’ says Michael Cascio, SVP of special programming at National Geographic Channel. ‘They get caught up in the subject matter, which is nice, but ultimately not helpful. And when they do discuss visuals, they use generalities like ‘state-of-the-art CGI’ without showing how they’d be used. We need answers to basic questions: What will the payoff of the program be? Are there any exclusive elements? Proposals need to answer these and other questions, showing precisely how the story will unfold in the program itself, not just the sizzle of the subject being pitched.’

Trying to cast a wide net during a pitch with Susan Werbe, VP of programming at The History Channel, won’t work either. ‘The scatter-shot, grab bag of goodies doesn’t work for me,’ she says. Or a vague pitch on ‘the history of (could be anything).’ The producer need only have one proposal he or she is passionate about. A crucial component is to come up with a creative, new way to look at and present history.’

Originality is also important to Jo Clinton-Davis, head of commissioning at UKTV. ‘If the idea is a complete rip-off of something else without finding a point of difference’ you likely don’t have a chance. Second-guessing the commissioner ‘without any clarity of vision or commitment behind the idea’ is also a no-no, cautions Clinton-Davis.

Nick Fraser, series editor of BBC’s ‘Storyville’ strand, gives final caution. What’s the easiest way to blow a shot during a pitch to Fraser? ‘Not looking at what we do show,’ he states.

About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news editor at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joined the RS team in 2015 with experience in journalism following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and with communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.

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