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Old March 24th, 2009, 11:04 AM   #1
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pitching a reality series to a network

I'm a one-man-band video/editor that's been following around family band of ten (8 kids, mom & dad + occasional grandma) in their gospel/bluegrass fiddling escapades for over a year now shooting footage. They'd originally hired me to put together a concert DVD, but that idea soon fizzled when I explained to them the vagaries of synchronization rights, etc. with their set list of covers of gospel, bluegrass, and country songs. Now, it looks like we'll be producing a “behind-the-scenes” DVD with lots of interviews and “slices of life” and maybe a music video of one of their few original songs.

I find the family fascinating and I think the viewers will, too. As I watch the footage, I'm also thinking that this family might be a good fit for a network show. If you've ever seen the TLC series, “Jon and Kate Plus Eight” I think you'll see where I'm heading with this... to potentially bring this family's travels and travails into an episodic format.

Does anyone have any specific advice on pitching a concept to a TV network? Should I edit up a potential pilot episode and send it in unsolicited or should I somehow approach an executive first? Is there any merit to creating webisodes of content to build up a fan base first?

And assuming there's any “nibble” of interest (I think CMT would be the best candidate), how would I fit into the big picture of a series as a “creator” credit? Ideally, I'd also want to help produce the ongoing shoots, since the family is obviously comfortable with my presence by now (plus, I've know them for over a decade)... but am not naive and assume that the network would bring out their own producer and crew(s).

While it might seem like a "shot in the dark", and probably indeed is, know that this family has been approached several times to do the show “Wife Swap”, but they've always turned them down after seeing how the producers of the show always want to show conflict and “fish out of water” drama. Sooo... no matter what I do, the family would have to be convinced that they would be shown in a positive light with a series and not be derided as backwards, self-righteous or even goofy.

Lots of questions here, I know, but would welcome any and all advice, esp. from anyone “in the biz” familiar with these things.

Regards,
Brian Brown
BrownCow Productions
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Old March 24th, 2009, 12:56 PM   #2
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These threads covered some of the same material:

http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/taking-ca...roduction.html

http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/totem-pol...ing-pilot.html
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Old March 26th, 2009, 05:04 PM   #3
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You've got a documentary, not a reality show. Reality TV is scripted. Really. Can't rely on chance to provide conflict and complications on cue, you have to "help" it along.


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Old March 26th, 2009, 06:49 PM   #4
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@ Adam: Thanks much for the links. Extremely helpful!

@ Jacques: Have you seen "Jon & Kate Plus 8"? It's definitely not scripted, but "day in the life" footage coupled with sit-down interviews of the parents. Each episode has an "arc", but it's definitely found in post, not pre... just like "Cops", "Beach Patrol" and all of those other TruTV/CourtTV series. Each has a super-high shooting ratio, no doubt.

Maybe I'm mis-using the term, but IMHO "Reality TV" that's scripted is not reality TV to me.
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Old March 26th, 2009, 07:35 PM   #5
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Maybe I'm mis-using the term, but IMHO "Reality TV" that's scripted is not reality TV to me.
Brian that's why Reality TV is such a big scam. Having shot for reality shows I can tell you that the producers are manipulating the people and situations in each and every episode. They are busy putting people in situations that will cause some sort of conflict or emotion or will help explain or push a storyline that the viewers will like. I can't think of any reality TV show that is "real."
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Old March 26th, 2009, 07:42 PM   #6
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I can't think of any reality TV show that is "real."
Fair enough... so what do we call those series that I mention... "J&K+8", "Cops", "Beach Patrol", etc. where they actually do let the cameras roll and find the story arcs in post?

I know TruTV hypes theirs as "not reality... ACTuality" but I don't think that's a term I would use.
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Old March 29th, 2009, 11:49 PM   #7
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Fair enough... so what do we call those series that I mention... "J&K+8", "Cops", "Beach Patrol", etc. where they actually do let the cameras roll and find the story arcs in post?

I know TruTV hypes theirs as "not reality... ACTuality" but I don't think that's a term I would use.
They don't "let" anything happen. I can guarantee you that the producers plan the events in which the family takes part. You don't invest millions of dollars in making a series without knowing ahead of time what will (or at least CAN) happen. It's just not smart business.

When you pitch a show, the producers want to know exactly what will happen over a couple of seasons (maybe more). It's the same with "reality" TV. Rollign a camera and hoping for something to happen not only makes for a quick cancellation, but at best you end up with lukewarm drama. Look at your life and think of the last time you had a day that was worthy of keeping an audience tuned in.


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Old March 31st, 2009, 04:10 PM   #8
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Actually most of the cop show aren't staged however, cameras do affect behavior. It's the flashlight in a dark room factor.
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Old April 1st, 2009, 12:08 PM   #9
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Back in 2004 I had an enjoyable and enlightening conversation with a veteran shooter for "Cops."

"Cops" and similar programs are not staged, but there have been notable exceptions such as "Rescue 911" and "True Stories of the Highway Patrol," sub-sets of that genre which relied heavily on reenactments and training video. "World's Wildest..." in particular uses a lot of training video, and 100% of their supposed helicopter pilot voice-overs ("He's now turning north! This guy is out of control!") are created in post after the fact... always the same voice, no matter what city the video came from.

However, "Cops" and other shows that emulate it actually are using cinema-verite material which really is unscripted, and influenced only to the degree that is triggered by the presence of the camera crew. Despite the OB lights, they really do try to stay as unobtrusive as they can.

How "Cops" is molded by its producers is through highly selective editing; out of all of the footage accumulated, the viewer ultimately sees only what the producers choose to show. There's a lot of material shot for "Cops" that never makes it to air.

So-called "Reality TV" is a very broad term that many people apply to what is really a diverse set of sub-genres, some of which is real, like "Cops," and much of which is fake. It's a serious mistake to categorize it as "all fake" or "all real" because that's simply not the case -- it depends entirely upon which particular program. Even within one "reality" show, you can have a mix of fake and real which varies from one episode to the next.
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Old April 10th, 2009, 09:37 AM   #10
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"World's Wildest..." in particular uses a lot of training video, and 100% of their supposed helicopter pilot voice-overs ("He's now turning north! This guy is out of control!") are created in post after the fact... always the same voice, no matter what city the video came from.
If the idiot dialogue isn't enough to give it away (why is the pilot doing a play-by-play, and for who?), then the sounds of screeching tires and crashing metal heard from 100 feet below (or more) OVER the sound of the rotor should be enough to tip off any reasonably-intelligent person. Which rules out 85% of the reality-TV viewership. ;-)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Hurd View Post
So-called "Reality TV" is a very broad term that many people apply to what is really a diverse set of sub-genres, some of which is real, like "Cops," and much of which is fake. It's a serious mistake to categorize it as "all fake" or "all real" because that's simply not the case -- it depends entirely upon which particular program. Even within one "reality" show, you can have a mix of fake and real which varies from one episode to the next.
But you have to admit, the premise of "Cops" is especially well-suited to the genre. You answer calls to the police, it's steeped in drama. Not so for most other premises.


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