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How to Pitch a TV Show: The Empire Approach

So you want to know how to pitch a TV show? This article will also provide guidelines on how to pitch a movie idea to a production company.  For the Empire TV series 2014 marks the year that FOX picked up the series for the broadcasting company’s 2014-15 television schedule.

So do you think you have an idea that can be as successful as the Empire TV show? Lee Daniels couldn’t afford film school and worked as a receptionist before beginning his career in entertainment as a casting director.

How to Pitch a TV Show, Empire Television Series
How to Pitch a TV Show, Empire Television Series

Danny Strong, Empire’s co-creator is Jewish yet he has been extremely successful as the voice of black America.  Daniels and Strong prove that it always seems impossible until it is done.

In September 2014, after working together on The Butler Lee Daniels and Danny Strong began to pitch Empire to the Big 4 broadcasters: ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC.

The Empire TV series sparked a heated bidding war that FOX won to the satisfaction of Lee Daniels who explained that most of his relatives could not afford cable yet they can afford Fox.  If you want to make your own TV show you must have patience: Everything is difficult before it is easy.

Danny Strong, Empire’s “Jewish guy” explains that the Empire television series’ success is partially due to the fact that the show serves an audience that has been underrepresented for several years.  Opportunity did not exactly knock yet Daniels and Strong created the Empire television series, ultimately creating their own door.

How to Pitch a TV Show
How to Pitch a TV Show

When you do not have a resume that features content like Lee Daniels’ movies it can be a bit difficult to land a meeting with any of the networks.  But, if your dreams don’t scare you then you are not dreaming big enough! Here is our guide to the process of pitching a new television show:

Prior to pitching your TV show you start with an idea.  Your idea must have a narrative that is clear, a proposal and a pitch tape set.

Concept Development
To make your own TV show you must first develop your concept.  The industry standard for any type of proposal includes the following components:

  • Title
  • Genre
  • Logline
  • Synopsis

After writing your television show your next step is the pitch.  Presenting your script to a television network is called “pitching”.  Pitching a TV show is the most effective way to break into the TV industry.  Once you start pitching a TV show continue to do so as fast as possible so that your name will be linked to your idea.

How to Pitch a Movie Idea to a Production Company

Most people start by pitching their shows to a production company.  If they are successful, a partnership is established between the writer and the production company with the goal of a Network pick up.

Pitch to the Studio
The process begins in June or July for a majority of the broadcast networks.  One of the most appealing parts of Empire’s pitch was its music component.  Although the show was targeted at an underrepresented audience, Fox was confident that the music would be the great equalizer for the Empire TV show. 2014 began with Terrence Howard being named as the show’s lead.  Soon after Taraji P. Henson was selected as the female lead.

How to Create a TV Show Danny Strong Saved by the Bell
How to Create a TV Show Danny Strong Saved by the Bell

Another aspect of Danny Strong and Lee Daniels’ Empire pitch that set it apart was the specificity of its characters and how the characters spoke about the world.  The most important part of the process is development.  You have to be open to constructive criticism about your idea as you continue to develop it.  For Danny Strong and Lee Daniels, Empire required research as well as the confident execution of spontaneous ideas.

Danny Strong’s idea to create a musical movie transformed into the record-breaking Empire TV show. Lee Daniels fell in love with the idea but thought it would be more appealing as a television show.

Lee Daniels movies began with Monster’s Ball and he has worked very hard on numerous award-winning movies since.  For Danny Strong, Saved by the Bell, Boy Meets World and Seinfeld is where he began generating the experience required to create a show as amazing as Empire.

Lee Daniels and Danny Strong were able to cook up Empire because they were in the kitchen, remained in the kitchen and the two do not seem as if they ever plan on leaving the kitchen.  No one is born a great cook, one learns by doing.  To pitch a TV show, get in the kitchen and don’t stop cooking!

Pitching a TV Show
Pitching a TV Show

By Jason John

Jason John is based in Maryland and covers Empire BBK’s News and Entertainment. He was previously a producer for the mobile site, helping to present Empire BBK’s news report to readers. More