Finding and working with new people is something we love to do (you know that by now, right?) We have many success stories that came from teaming up in the unscripted TV & Film space.
Those projects came from both brand new and experienced producers and filmmakers.
People just like you.
Many of those collaborations lead to TV and Film projects. The genres include documentary, docu-series, reality TV, true crime, and more.
We made them through our company, Joke Productions. Today, we share their success stories, and show you how to achieve the same.
Table of Contents
Success Stories: Case Studies
What Gets Our Attention?
Why do we choose to team up with certain people? What about a particular project makes us yell, “Heck yeah!” How can you turn your concept into something special? How does your project become one of the success stories?
Today we give you concrete examples of what excites us. Use these success stories as a yardstick to gauge your own projects.
You’ll learn what to start asking yourself:
- Do I have the access I need? Do I have assets attached?
- Can I bring added value to a project?
- Am I pitching a simple idea, or an exciting package?
What’s a Package?
A package is the materials you put together to prove you have a project worth considering. That’s your package.
It’s proof you have access to a real person, place, or thing (or all three) who will let you film with them.
Your package also shows you’ve thought about how your show might work. You’ve written up a paper pitch.
Another big part of your package…are your skills.
Are you a great shooter? Terrific editor? Excellent with scheduling and numbers?
All these things add up to form your pitch package. All of these success stories share these ingredients.
Ideas Aren’t Enough
If someone says, “I want to do a show about witchcraft with real witches” but has no witches to film, it’s an idea.
But if a filmmaker says, “I’ve discovered a family of witches. Here’s some photos. I also have a little footage I shot on my iPhone…” well, that’s a package. See the difference?
We always tell people who pitch us, "Don't pitch ideas. Pitch packages instead." What's a package? It's the materials you put together to prove you have a worthy project.
The real person, place, or thing only you have access to. That's your package. It makes you valuable.
— Joke and Biagio (@JokeAndBiagio) September 20, 2018
These success stories are from people with a wide range of experience. From total newbie, to seasoned pro, they teamed up with us. We went on to make their projects together.
But there’s something more important for you than the success stories themselves. It’s the “why” behind each project. Why did we team up with these people? What was it about their packages that got our attention?
These success stories will answer those questions, and more.
With each of these success stories, we include what made the pitch more than an idea. How was it a package? What assets did the filmmakers bring to the table beyond simple ideas?
Use these success stories to refine your own pitches. Or to decide whether a project is worth developing. Consider whether you’re pitching a true package or a simple idea.
Measure the assets you have access to film against these real-world examples.
Caged with Travis Bible and Steve Harris (MTV)
Travis and Steve were young filmmakers with a few editing and field credits. They pitched us a handful of shows (we actually blogged about Travis and Steve way back when, hoping they’d become success stories.)
Much of what they pitched in that first meeting were simple ideas. We steered them away from those.
However, one concept caught our attention. Travis said that in his hometown, something unique was happening. Amateur MMA Caged Fighting was overtaking high school football as the big sport in town. Everyone came out to the fights. And those competing were hoping for a shot at the pros.
One of them had even made it all the way to the UFC.
If Travis could get the fighters and organization on board, we felt he’d have a package worth pitching. Then, it wouldn’t be just an idea. It would be a true package with access to real people and the MMA world. The kind of project destined to join the ranks of success stories.
Travis set out to get everyone on board. When he went home for Christmas, Travis filmed and edited the initial pitch tape. It was originally called Fight Life.
We helped with the final edit, pitched it, and set it up at MTV as a ten hour documentary series called Caged.
Travis and Steve both worked on the entire production. They filled various roles including editor and field producer. Both earned Co-Executive producer credits.
And it was one of our favorite projects of all time.
Here’s what Travis had to say about the experience:
Throughout the entire process, they were great to work with and we all shared a vision of what the show should be. They saw that I wasn’t just interested in some fancy credits and a little extra cash, but wanted to be involved in all aspects of the show. After proving I could handle it on the pilot, I took on a full Co-Executive Producer role. They always respected my opinion, and it was great being able to collaborate from pre-production through post. In the end, Caged is the most creatively satisfying project I’ve ever worked on and a large part of that is because of Joke and Biagio.
Clip from CAGED
Here’s a clip from the series. It’s one of the best scenes we’ve ever had the privilege of filming:
Caged – The Anniversary
Ghost Inside My Child with Suzanne Stratford (BIO, LMN)
Success stories don’t get much cooler than this one. Suzanne Stratford is an Emmy® Award winning local on-camera reporter in Cleveland, Ohio. And she made an incredible discovery.
In the course of her reporting, she stumbled onto a subculture of people. They were primarily connecting via the web. And all had one shocking thing in common:
Their children remembered dying in a past life.
Honestly, we were skeptical. Could there really be hundreds of people around the world experiencing this? But Suzanne provided story after story of families living through the phenomenon.
Notably, Suzanne had real people ready to tell their stories. She also put some of them on camera. That was plenty for her pitch package.
With that raw footage she gathered, we cut together a pitch tape, originally called Back From The Dead.
Set up at BIO Channel, it was one of our early success stories. The network dubbed it Ghost Inside My Child. The show was an instant success. In fact, one of our episodes was the highest rated in BIO Channel history.
The show returned for multiple seasons on BIO and LMN.
A Big Career Achievement
Suzanne earned her first Producer credit in unscripted television. She worked on research and bookings for the show from Cleveland, and made herself indispensable.
Working with Joke and Biagio changed my life. They believed in my idea, my dream and me: bolstering my vision, creating a riveting program in less than a year, while staying true to the concept. They might be a Hollywood power couple, but they treat you as an equal and always listen to your thoughts and feedback. For that, and so much more I’m eternally grateful and look forward to making many more programs together.
Ghost Inside My Child Promo
Here’s a promo that ran before season 2:
GHOST IN MY CHILD Season 2 Promo.
True Life Presents with TaRodd White (MTV)
When TaRodd and his team reached out to us, they piqued our curiosity. All were big characters, and they had a unique career. They specialized in booking celebrities to appear in Akron, Ohio nightclubs. We thought there might be something in that.
But once we spoke with them, we learned they had a much more amazing story to tell.
Two of the team members, TaRodd and Coke, were living double lives. And it was killing them.
They wanted to tell their story, come clean, and do it in a big way.
What Was the Package?
In this case, TaRodd and his team were the package: on-camera subjects ready to put their lives on screen. Their openness, honesty, and vulnerability made for touching TV. It was a strong package, and one of our most emotional success stories.
MTV True Life Presents picked up a documentary covering their lives. We filmed with them for several months. TaRodd and Coke bravely exposed themselves, and were lauded for doing so.
TaRodd had this to say:
It was a great pleasure to have worked with you both, Joke and Biagio. You made it very comfortable for us to be ourselves throughout the process of the production, despite facing our deepest and darkest secrets for the world to see. Allowing us to share our story with the world has changed my life immensely & many others as well.
It has truly been a blessing being able to meet and work with you two, and I cannot thank you enough for being not just great producers but great mentors & friends as well. I will never forget how Joke & Biagio helped save my life, thank you.
True Life Presents Clip
True LIfe Presents: Secrets, Lies, & Sex – Coming Clean.
Don’t Trust Andrew Mayne
Don’t trust Andrew Mayne was different kind of collaboration for us, and one of our most “magical” success stories.
We were having lunch with an exec from A&E. In the past he’d mentioned that he’d like to do something in the magic space. At lunch, he said he was into the idea of doing a fun, funny revenge show – nothing mean, but very funny.
Joke immediately answered, “How about a Magical Revenge Show?”
The exec’s eyes went wide. He was excited. “Do you have someone in mind?”
Yes we did.
Andrew Mayne and Partner Mary Jaras
Andrew was a legit TV producer, but also an amazing magician. Member of the elite Magic Castle, he’d been praised by people like Chris Angel and David Copperfield.
He was producing partners with Mary Jaras. We’d worked with her on MTV’s Caged and adored her.
So we called the two of them up, and pitched out the idea. They were into it, and we immediately teamed up. After some heavy development, A&E bought the series.
Andrew starred in the show, and both he and Mary earned executive producer credits.
Oh, yeah, at one point, Andrew almost lit Biagio’s face on fire in a trick gone wrong. True story! Hear more in the podcast and blog post with Andrew and Mary. Or listen to the episode below:
It was exciting to be able to work with you because you really take it seriously. And we all knew that we didn’t want to do something that was derivative and had been done before. We wanted to do something that moved to the next level.
Working with people such as yourselves who have great backgrounds in storytelling was just a critical element. I think that’s why A&E loved the idea of the show. Thank you for the great work.
Couple of promos from the series:
Don’t Trust Andrew Mayne Series Promo from Joke Productions
Never Give a Magician Your Watch from Joke Productions.
Unmasking a Killer with Todd Lindsey (CNN, HLN)
Todd Lindsey is an experienced producer, having worked in true crime for years. He came to us with what, at the time, was a little known case: that of The Golden State Killer.
Todd was passionate when he pitched it out to us. And that pitch was nearly three hours long! (That’s way too long, by the way. We shrunk the final pitch down to about twenty minutes, which included a 90 second teaser tape.)
So What was Todd’s package?
He’d spent years building personal relationships with everyone involved with the case. Additionally, his deep understanding of every facet of the story was invaluable. His connections and years of research made him crucial to the project.
That made Todd’s pitch way more than an “idea” – it was a very strong package. And there was no way we could make it without him.
A Major Success
The series went to CNN and HLN. The initial order was five episodes. Todd worked in every aspect of the production. He earned a Supervising Producer credit.
We loved working with him, and it was amazing to see his lifelong passion project come to fruition.
Even more amazing? Shortly thereafter, police caught the Golden State Killer. Just nine days after we finished airing. The series shot to the top of the CNN GO platform. HLN ran clips around the clock. Our TV show became a huge chunk of the news coverage.
That kind of synergy is pretty rare!
Most important, the families of the victims were very pleased with the project:
— Jennifer Carole (@jcarole) April 25, 2018
More to Come with Todd and Us
We are now working on the follow up “episode 6” deep diving into the case from a new perspective: we know who did it.
Together with Todd we’re also developing season two of Unmasking a Killer.
Joke and Biagio will treat your passion project with compassion and respect. Plus the expertise and level of care only they can bring. Unmasking a Killer wouldn’t have happened without them. You’ll not get the same dedication elsewhere that you will from Joke and Biagio and Joke Productions.
They have a dedication to their team that you just don’t get at other companies…trust me on that. If you’re thinking about pitching a project to them through Producing Unscripted, do it. Joke and Biagio are extremely trustworthy, and extremely competent. Take the time to listen to what they have to say on the podcast, and don’t be afraid to pitch to Joke Productions.
Check out this podcast episode and blog post with Todd Lindsey. Or listen here:
Unmasking a Killer Opening Titles
Unmasking A Killer Opening Title Sequence from Joke Productions.
Sister Witches Pilot (Oxygen)
Joey and Natalie were new to producing, but not to the business. They’d worked as casting directors for years, finding real characters for reality TV. And somewhere along the way, they stumbled onto three sisters…who were witches. They trained in witchcraft under their very eccentric and charismatic mother.
When Joey and Natalie approached us, they’d used their resources wisely. The three sisters they’d discovered lived out of state in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. So Joey and Natalie used Skype to interview them. They recorded the Skype call and edited the highlights together.
That’s exactly what we want to see when people pitch us shows starring real people. Their Skype footage was enough for us to know that we wanted to team on this project. We traveled with Joey and Natalie to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. There, we filmed a full pitch tape and edited it back at our offices.
It sold to Oxygen. They announced Sister Witches in the trades. We produced a full pilot. Joey and Natalie were there filming, producing, and coordinating the whole time. Here’s what Joey had to say:
I worked for Joke and Biagio as an employee and later teamed up with them as an independent producer and we quickly sold a pilot. I learned invaluable skills from the experience and there is no duo in the business that I’m more proud to work with/for. Some of my greatest experiences as a producer have been as a part of the Joke family.
Here’s a podcast episode and blog post we did with Joey and Natalie. Or check it out right here:
Unannounced Pilot with Abra Chouinard (Major cable network)
Abra is the epitome of what we look for in new producers and filmmakers…the kind of person we love to meet.
We did not know her. Never met her until she submitted her pitch through our Producing Unscripted portal.
And what a pitch it was.
It had everything we look for in a package. A great, visual world. Real stakes. Big characters. And a real “why now.” She had no experience in the industry, but she had an amazing pitch. Plus, she was valuable because of her cast relationships. (And so many other skills we discovered later.)
Now We’re Working Together
We’re currently filming a pilot with Abra for a major cable network. We can’t say much more than that.
But, you can hear what it was like for Abra to go to her very first pitch meetings.
Here’s a podcast and blog post with Abra Chouinard (recorded before we knew we set up the pilot.)
Or listen right here:
And here’s what Abra has to say about her experience working with us and Producing Unscripted:
Pitching to Producing Unscripted was a really fun and neat experience. When you submit your project, they will read your submission. If your idea is something they are willing to jump on board with, then you have just begun your unscripted filmmaking career with veteran unscripted producers! That is remarkable. You will grow as a producer, as a filmmaker, and you will grow as a creator.
Working with Joke Productions has been a game changer for me. Let me sum it up. No egos, no business politics and no B.S. Joke & Biagio are extremely professional while still being a normal, family oriented couple at their core. I personally witnessed these two drop into a culture they had never visited before and fit right in without disrupting the delicate ecosystem. Even while we were working long hours and hard days in freezing temperatures with snow falling, they were willing to go the extra mile for anyone.
Case in point, a cast member asked Biagio an audio question related to the cast member’s personal camera. Biagio, in between filming, took his free time (what normal people would use for napping while on the road) and fully researched the question and returned a detailed email with pictures! Amazing! I 100% recommend pitching to Joke and Biagio and Joke Productions through Producing Unscripted!
Unannounced Pilot with Marc Jackson (Major cable network)
Some people wonder if it’s possible to start a second career in unscripted television. Mark Jackson is out to prove he can do it. In fact, he just received his first producing credit.
Marc is a retired cop. As such, he knew a lot about law enforcement and had an idea of what would make for great stories.
When Marc pitched us, he had a basic premise. It was just barely more than an idea. But we loved his passion.
So we worked with him for a good while to find a project we could pitch together. Finally, we hit on something we all liked.
Marc Stepped Up
Marc took lead in putting together the package. He found possible characters who would work for this show, and that was all we needed. We filmed a pitch tape with Marc, and sold a pilot to a major cable network. (Stay tuned for more.)
Here’s what Marc had to say:
In 2014 I was introduced to Joke and Biagio. My pitch was all over the place, definitely lacked a clear vision, and needed focus and fleshing out. With this being my first formal pitch, I waited for the laughter and the polite ejection from their conference room. But instead what I received was guidance, professional constructive criticism, and a welcome to the Joke Productions family.
So when J and B called me March of 2017 for a meeting to collaborate on a show, it could have been about Pig Earwax. I was ready to bend over backwards to assist and/or be part of any project they deemed me worthy. During all of 2017, and the numerous tasks, meetings, interviews, and talent vetting, I have grown as a professional in the industry under the watchful eye of Joke and Biagio.
Needless to say, when they called me recently to tell me “congratulations brother, you have your first Producer credit,” after we received a development deal from a major cable network, I was ecstatic and moved to tears. Words absolutely can not describe how I feel. I’m proudly part of the Joke Productions family and I’ll be forever indebted to them.
Check out this exuberant podcast episode and blog post with Marc Jackson. Or listen here:
New Secret TV Series Headed Your Way…
Very exciting – we have a brand new TV series coming to Investigation Discovery in 2019. It, too, is a collaboration with someone who pitched us a great package. Can’t say much more than that right now. Stay tuned!
The point of this page wasn’t simply to share these success stories. In each example, we hope you noticed that:
- Those pitching to us were not pitching ideas. They were pitching projects that came with talent and/or access of some kind.
- The above mentioned people all came with amazing passion. They had a deep understanding of what they were pitching. That made them very valuable to their projects.
- We’ve teamed with a wide range of people. From brand new to experienced pro. People just like you.
We hope these stories inspire you to create your own projects, whether you pitch to us or anyone else. Just remember – think “packages” not “ideas” – it will supercharge your career.
If you like, you can read more about how to pitch to us.
Do you like what we’re doing here?
If you do, it would mean a lot if you would click to tweet this page:
Success Stories: New and Experienced Filmmakers Team Up on TV Projects at Producing Unscripted.Click to tweet
Best of luck in all your endeavors!
Joke and Biagio