Want to get a reality TV concept or documentary series on Television? Here are three real-world examples from people just like you who teamed up with us to make it happen. Plus take-aways you can steal to bring your ideas to television.Listen to the episode here:
From Concept to TV: 3 Examples From People Just Like You – Transcript
Announcer: Welcome to Producing Unscripted with Joke and Biagio.
Angry Man: Is this some kind of joke?
Confused Woman: Biagee-who?
Announcer: This episode…
Biagio: It’s episode 9. How do you get from initial concept to TV airwaves? We’ll give you three examples of people just like you who we teamed up with to get their ideas out of their heads and on television each with specific takeaways that you can use to do the same.
The answer to your questions about production companies. You’ll hear the new tweet of the week. And find out why me and Joke are creating chaos at gas stations across America.
Reality TV Shows Aren’t Easy to Make…
Biagio: Hey! Welcome to episode nine of Producing Unscripted. She’s Joke.
Joke: And he’s Biagio.
Biagio: We’re married, we make unscripted film and television, and we want to help you do the same hopefully by teaming up with us!
Well, we are continuing in last week’s tradition of trying to bring you good information from crappy microphones.
We are once again hidden away on the set of our new top secret series, we’re not going to say what it is yet, but we are finding time during our lunch break to bring you episode nine of this podcast and we hope that you’re finding this information useful.
A lot of you reached out last week and said you really appreciate it that we were still putting it out even we’re in production and so we’re going to keep doing this, right Joke?
Joke: We sure are.
Biagio: There you have it! Listen, we have a lot of ground to cover this week. We have to get back before lunch is over.
That said, we may actually run a couple minutes long so I apologize ahead of time, you may be stuck with us for an extra four or five minutes this week because we do have a lot of things we want to touch on.
Tweet of the Week
Let me just kick right in, the first thing I want to do is I want to mention what we’re calling, “The Tweet of The Week”. I have no idea if we’ll ever do this again.
Joke: I was just going to say, this is a whole new trend?
Biagio: We’ll find out. It depends if we get more good tweets.
Joke: Shouldn’t it be, “The Tweet of the Two Weeks”?
Biagio: “The Tweet of the Bi-Week”? I have no idea. You know what; it’s a really good tweet. Here’s what we have to say, this tweet comes from Kelly Anelons and I’m going to go ahead and embed this on the blog post for the episode this week which you’ll be able to find at producingunscripted.com/009.
Played @jokeandbiagio podcast at full blast for everyone at the gas station b/c obviously I don't understand how Bluetooth thingys work.
— Kelly Anelons (@kellyanelons) August 3, 2013
And Kelly tweets, “Played Joke and Biagio’s podcast at full blast for everyone at the gas station because obviously I don’t understand how the Bluetooth thingies work.”
Well, that is awesome. Joke people are blasting our podcast at gas stations across the nation, isn’t that the coolest thing ever?
Joke: You say people, I know of one person.
Biagio: That we know of. Anyways, Kelly, that tweet just made our whole week. Thanks for listening and thanks for tweeting us. Everybody should follow Kelly by the way, she is a hilarious tweeter and we love following her.
So thanks Kelly for that tweet.
What’s A Production Company, and Do We Know Any?
Next up, I want to talk about a very nice e-mail that we got, asking a question and I would like clear this up because I understand that we throw a lot of information at you guys.
I know a lot of you are just getting started in the industry and it might not always make sense exactly what we’re talking about.
This e-mail, basically, is someone who’s finding their way in the industry, they’re just getting started and they had a media outlet interested in their project and they wanted to know if we knew of any production companies. Well honey, what do you think, do we know any?
Joke: I know a few!
Biagio: I know a few. In fact, us.
Joke Productions, Inc. Third Party Production Company. That’s Us.
Now I know this point may be lost on some of you as we talk about producers and selling shows and what we do.
But we’re a pretty good sized production company in our industry; we have about 7,000 sq. ft. close to 20 edit bays, about 25 cameras, we have an online suite and all that stuff is great but that’s not really what makes us a production company in our industry.
I mean, we have all the gear, we have the office space but what really makes us a production company is that television networks trust us to make TV shows and that’s something that’s earned by experience, by making a lot of shows with other production companies, by proving yourself over the years, it doesn’t happen overnight but we actually are a legitimate, third-party approved production company.
We sell shows to networks; networks also bring us ideas and ask us to turn them into television shows for them.
Becoming a Network Approved Reality Television Production Company Doesn’t Happen Over Night…
Joke: It did take us awhile to get here and I remember clearly when we were just starting out and I was going to some kind of seminar of a big producer and we were just getting into pitching game.
And we had just teamed up with a production company and I was like, “I don’t understand why networks don’t let us just make it. We know how to make it! We made a pilot in my parents’ kitchen. We could do this too!”
And the producer very calmly informed me that, “Listen, you have to understand networks have to play a little game of CYA, right? They are putting their name and their reputation on the line, this network executive, and signing over sometimes a million dollars or more to a production company and trust that company to return the product that is of a certain quality on time and on budget.”
Networks Have to Trust You with Millions of Dollars to Make a Reality Television Show or Documentary Series
No matter how good you are or how trustworthy you look, it’s just not something that they feel comfortable doing until you really earn the reputation in the business.
And so to become a third-party approved production company is usually a long road and that has nothing to do really with your skill, obviously, you end up having proved your skill to get that but it just takes time and it takes people getting to know you and it takes you being around for a while before someone is going to take a chance on you.
The Best Way for YOU to Break In to Showbiz
So the best way to break in into the business is to make these connections with various production companies and get some of your shows on air so that the networks start getting to know you and you can start building that reputation.
But we were in the business for quite a few years before we got to be our own third-party approved production company that can sell now directly to network.
Biagio: It was about five years and that was actually pretty fast. Five years was actually very fast compared to some other companies that we know about, that have come up over the years.
Quickest Way to Become a Production Company
Biagio: But that said, the quickest way to become a production company is to do what we did; we had great ideas, we teamed with existing production companies, got those shows on the air and then eventually were able to launch our own company. How do you team up with production companies?
How Do You Get Production Companies to Hear your Reality TV pitches?
Biagio: Well I can’t speak to other production companies, but I know of ONE who has a podcast and makes it very easy to pitch to and that would be us.
Joke: I was just going to ask you, “Which one?”
Biagio: Which one? Well, that would be Joke Productions. You can always check out, by the way, our official company site. Our sort of client facing site is jokeproductions.com and you can see a list of our shows and a little bit of our history, it’s a little bit more of our corporate website.
And of course, we’ve got our blog, jokeandbiagio.com; and the site for this podcast, producingunscripted.com as you know we make it pretty easy to reach out and pitch to us. I can’t speak to other companies but I can certainly speak to us.
Joke: Where do you find the time, honey, to take care of all these websites?
Biagio: Well, they don’t always get updated right away, put it that way. But they’re there and I do it often on lunch break, kind of like how we’re recording this podcast right now.
Do We Really Help People Get Shows on Television?
Now, the last one thing that I want to bring up was someone left us a wonderful review on iTunes but brought up a point that I thought was really important for us to clear up.
First of all I want to say thank you so much to whoever is going by the iTunes handle of Twin Tattoo, they left there a really nice message on July 25th and I’m so just go ahead and read it and then explain why this is really becoming the basis of the episode this week.
They write for the title, “A Good Cheerleading Program for Wanna-be TV Producers”.
They gave us five stars, thank you very much.
“This show is new so there are not many episodes to give an in-depth review but aside from that, this is an upbeat show that has a little train that could feel to it. They say they are open to cold call pitches. That is great but they have yet to show they have acquired shows in this way. It will, thus, be a major positive for the show when they have, as guests, people that pitched them in this way and they are now getting their shows produced for some cable TV network. Nevertheless, the show is entertaining and informational. I have subscribed and recommend you do too.”
Well, first off, thank you so much Twin Tattoo for leaving a rating and review. We really appreciate it. But I do want to clear something up; we actually have put shows on the air that we’ve received through cold call pitches.
A Show from One of You is on TV Right Now!
In fact, one of them is on TV right now. An episode aired last night as a matter of fact. I want to explain a little bit more and we’re going to give three examples. Let me clear something up, we’ve been receiving cold call pitches for several years through our blog, right Joke?
Joke: Yeah. To be fair, we have not gotten a show on the air based on this podcast also because this podcast has only been out for a month and a half.
But in terms of taking cold call type pitches, we’ve been teaching seminars and we’ve been traveling the country meeting people and have gotten shows on the air that way.
Biagio: Yes, and so the reason we started this podcast is what we realized is people are always making the same mistakes when they would pitch a show.
We thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if we had a podcast where people could just go and listen to the episodes and understand how to give themselves a leg up when it came to pitching us shows.” So that’s the purpose of this podcast.
Joke: But let’s be frank, it was also for selfish reasons.
Biagio: Well sure! We want to get more TV shows on the air.
Joke: And we didn’t want to repeat the same thing a hundred times.
Biagio: And we didn’t want to have to say the same thing over and over, and keep passing on the same shows again and again.
And I have to say, we have teamed up with a few of you since we started this podcast and I’m so impressed with the way pitches have been coming in because people are using the pitch formats we’ve taught in previous episodes, they’re avoiding the kinds of shows that we would normally hear newbies pitching.
Overall, the quality of the pitches has been much better and that makes me so happy because it lets us know that those of you who are pitching to us are taking the time to listen to the podcast and actually take our advice which is just fantastic.
This week, we’re going to give you three examples of people who we helped take their show from idea to TV airwaves and with each example we’re going to give you some takeaways that we hope will help you when pitching your shows.
Joke: One more thing, we would totally have them on as guests except that we’re recording this in our car on set and so it’s been a little hard with our schedule trying to figure this out. Also, a lot of these people are across the country. When our schedules align and we can have these people on, we would like to have them on.
Biagio: We actually haven’t had any guest yet and that’s mainly because it’s usually us running around like chickens with our heads cut off trying to record a podcast episode in between producing and editing shows.
That said, you can go to the testimonials page over at producingunscripted.com and we do have testimonials there from at least two of the people we’re talking about today and I don’t think I have put up the third testimonial yet but we have it.
If you’d like to at least hear in their own words what it’s been like to work with us, head on over to producingunscripted.com and click on testimonials.
Example 1: Ghost Inside My Child
Okay first up, number one, “Ghost inside My Child”. This show, a new episode just aired last night on Biography Channel and this was a show that came to us from Suzanne Stratford in Cleveland. Joke, you want to talk a little bit about how this came about?
Joke: Yes, we we’re teaching a seminar at University of Akron. Go Zippies? Is that what they are?
Biagio: Go Zips, the Akron Zips.
Joke: Akron Zips? Yeah. Kangaroos go figure, in Akron, Ohio. But anyway, we we’re teaching a seminar there and Suzanne came in and we listened to her whole spiel and at the end of the seminar we had people pitch and as a local news reporter, she had done a story on a little boy who believed he was reincarnated from a World War 2 soldier.
So she showed us her 6-minute news piece and explained to us that she has done more research in this area, and that they were a lot of cases, that this was a phenomenon, so that this wasn’t just a news segment, that she really felt that there were lots of stories for us to tell in terms of a series.
So, we talked to her about the show and what we thought it would work best as. So our point of view on this show was to tell these stories from the parents’ perspective.
From a parent who — lots of them were not believers when it started happening — and what do you do as a parent when your child start saying things and doing things that they would have absolutely no way of knowing or no way of saying and the kind of panic that creates and how do you deal with it?
The constant night terrors for years of a certain specific memory, constantly dying of a horrible terrific death?
We took her footage and kind of re-edited it to have it be more from the parents’ type of perspective.
And we ended up teaming up with her, and we ended up selling it to Biography Channel and that was last year. And then last year, we made a special, usually the networks would do their presentation or a pilot.
BIO decided to do a for-air pilot that they could air as a special. That aired last Thanksgiving, it did really well and then they gave us a series pick-up.
So from the beginning of the year until now, we’ve been producing, we’ve been casting, producing, editing, and last night was the first episode in the series.
Biagio: All right, so now this was Suzanne’s first foray into unscripted television, right Joke?
Joke: Yes, she has a full time job as a local news reporter on camera as well as a local news producer and so this is her way of getting producer credit on a bigger show.
Biagio: Yeah and in case, for those of you who’ve asked, everybody who’s become a producer on these shows we welcome you to work on these shows. And for everyone it’s a little different.
In Suzanne’s case, since she had a full time job in Cleveland, she wasn’t going to come out and shoot the show and leave her entire life behind but she did earn a producer credit. She also earned a producer fee and on top of that, she worked discovering other families.
She did a lot of field research and helped out on the casting department so she was able to work on the show at that capacity and earned a little extra money doing that as well. For her, this was a great first credit in unscripted television and a great way to earn some extra money and sort of experience the entire producing process.
So a couple of things that I really want you to take away from Suzanne’s story, number one: maybe you’re not interested in working full time in unscripted television. No problem. Stay where you are, work part time on the show; still earn a producer credit.
Another take away, when Suzanne sent us the footage for this tape, it was about eight minutes. It was a little long, the music wasn’t perfect but it was everything that we needed to take it and cut it down into a sellable tape.
I literally spent one day on the tape, cut it from eight minutes down to a minute and a half, we sold it the next day.
Take away here? Make the best tape you can, if it’s not perfect don’t worry, we’re going to invest the time and resources to make it perfect if we think we can sell it.
Okay, that’s the first one we’re going to talk about. Next up, number two, MTV’s Caged.
Example 2: MTV’s CAGED
Joke: That’s our baby. That was one of our babies.
Biagio: Love that show.
Joke: Love that show, love the cast. Miss you guys all in Minden, Bosier, and Shreveport, and wherever you are these days. We were approached by Travis Bible and Steve Harris. They were young guys in the business.
Biagio: Knew about us from our blog.
Joke: Knew about us from our blog and came in, asked for a meeting and we obviously met with them.
Travis did mention that, “I’m from Shreveport, Louisiana. My old high school buddy runs an amateur MMA League there. I think that there’s definitely a show there, there’s a lot of young guys who are in it and again they don’t get paid as amateurs. There might be something there.”
So we said, “Okay, well next time you go home for the holidays just put some guys on tape. Doesn’t matter; just get some of these guys on tape so that we get a sense of who the characters will be.” Because what he was pitching was a docu-based series which is character based and therefore you kind of need to see these guys on tape.
He went home at Christmas. Put a bunch of guys on tape because he’s an editor he brought us an edited tape and there were about four or five guys on there but it was very clear right off the bat; two of them were superstars.
There was enough of format there with the fact that they could fight every week that it just felt structured which was good. And then, obviously he had his high school buddy, Will Broyles, who runs the amateur league there as a kind of more of a mentor type, coach type, promoter type.
So we were like, “Okay, all the elements are here for a great MTV show.” Biagio gave some editing notes so they took a pass at an edit. I think that Biagio may have ended up doing another pass edit but it was clear that there was only one place to sell this which was MTV so we did everything we could in that sales tape to make it just right for MTV.
Walked it in MTV News and Docs in New York and we knew right off that bat they were like, “Oh my God, this is something we want to do.”
We ended up getting an offer from them and teaming up with the guys. We actually helped the guys make a deal directly with MTV. We had our deal with MTV; they had their deal with MTV.
And then we went and made first a presentation which was about 25 minutes that tested really well and the number one thing that came back from that test was that the audience felt it could be an hour show.
So MTV gave us a little bit more money to go shoot some more stuff and then we made a full blown pilot. So we turned in about, I don’t know, 42 or 43 minutes of stuff. They tested it again and it came back very positive and so that’s when we went to series and we made about ten one- hour shows that aired in 2012, last year.
Biagio: So now, once the show was picked up, Travis and Steve, they earned a standard producing fee because they had worked in the industry.
Before we were able to get help them a co-executive producer credit which is something you have to have existing credits in the industry to get a credit that big but we were able to get that for them and we were so happy.
However, while they earned a standard producer fee, in their case they earned a lot more money actually working on the show. Both of them had edited, both had worked in the field before and so by coming out and filling different positions on the show, they were able to earn a lot more money over the course of the show as well as sort of get their hands dirty and a lot of different positions in production.
As far as me and Joke were concerned, anything that they wanted to know we were happy to teach them. And I think they learned a lot on this show, right Joke?
Joke: Yeah, it was a great experience. We were working together for more than a year and they went through the entire process with us, were involved in every step, knew all the steps that were going on, met with the network, and all that good stuff.
So I think, for them, they walked away having learned a lot about the process of delivering a television show for a network.
Biagio: Okay, number three, our true life special, “Secrets, Lies, and Sex”.
Example 3: MTV True Life Presents: Secrets, Lies, and Sex
Biagio:This was actually a very different kind of situation we want to talk about, right Joke?
Joke: This one is different because the people who came to us want to be on camera and that’s a very different situation.
They pitched us kind of a show with a whole group of people and on the surface there wasn’t a whole lot there. But when these guys put themselves on tape for us, a little bit of a casting thing, they really showed a lot of depth, and a lot of layers, and there are great stories there and so we decided to invest more time and money in building a bigger casting tape.
Then, we ended up showing it to MTV and while MTV wasn’t quite sure if there was a show there yet, they were offering either for air pilot or a true life special.
Since their stories were so profound and the main reason why they came to us was because they wanted to tell their stories because they wanted other people like them to learn from this, we decided to go with the true life special which became, Secrets, Lies, and Sex and really focused on two members of the group that were living their life on the down-low meaning, they had both girlfriends and boyfriends and neither worlds necessary and intermingle or knew too much of each other.
Those guys came through that experience getting a lot of positive feedback saying how brave they were, how courageous they were, and how much it helped other young folks like them who would’ve otherwise felt maybe alone or not quite so understood.
Biagio: I think the take away here is that, first of all if you’re going to be on camera, unless you’re world famous or you’ve produced a whole lot of television shows, if you’re going to be on camera, there’s no way you’re going to be a producer on this show. Networks just won’t allow it.
The other take-away here is, sometimes people want to do these kinds of shows, not for the fame, not for the money but really for other reasons.
In the case of TaRodd and Coke and Marvin, they just really wanted to tell their story. They wanted other people who were going through the same situation they were to be able to relate and to know that they weren’t alone and I commend these guys for telling their story as bravely as they did. But again, the take away here if you’re going to be on camera, you’re not going to be a producer.
Sometimes Your Reality TV Show is Really a Documentary Special
Biagio: The other take away is even though we always aim for a series and I wish we had done a bigger series with them and who knows what the future holds? Sometimes you’re going to end up with a television special or putting the show out in some other way. Just because we all go out shooting for series doesn’t mean it’ll always happen that way.
Sometimes we get a special, sometimes that special leads to other things, you just never know.
We Team Up With People Like You
Biagio: So there you have it, three examples of people that we’ve teamed up with, off of cold calls that we took from concept to television airwaves.
I want to thank you again for listening. This was a long episode this week. It will likely stay on the longer side because we’re in production right and I don’t know that I’ll have time to edit this shorter so; thank you for giving us a little bit of extra time.
Joke: I hope you can edit it shorter.
Biagio: I will try to edit it down a little bit but mainly, I want to thank you so much.
Obviously, if you would like to join the ranks of these people mentioned today and team up with us on a show it couldn’t be easier to get started.
Just head on over to producing unscripted.com/newsletter, sign-up and then the very first e-mail you get from us, you’ll receive the information on how you can go and download the application to pitch a show to us.
Hopefully, a whole bunch of you will be bringing us shows.
Obviously, not everyone who pitches us a show will end up on television or end up with their show on TV but if you follow the things we talk about in this podcast, not just today’s episode but all the episodes we’ve done so far, you’re going to give yourself a much better shot.
And I promise you that if you’re persistent and if you stick with it you will eventually get something on television, I really do believe that.
So that’s it! Joke any wise words from you to wrap things up?
Joke: No, I’m all wised out.
Biagio: I’m all wised out too, people. We got to get back to making the show we’re currently making. We’ll see you in a couple of weeks!
Announcer: Producing Unscripted with Joke and Biagio.
Let’s Make Some TV Together!
Read our in-depth page about how to pitch us a show. It also talks about what it’s really like to work in our business, the unscripted TV and film industry.