THE DEADLY DOZEN:
How to Get a Green Light (Part 1)
Have you ever wondered how a Broadcaster decides to commission a new program? Every project must pass the following twelve hurdles before it gets a coveted green light. Twelve questions that I call “The Deadly Dozen” because a single negative response gets your project tossed into the rejection pile.
So, put on your flak jacket and let’s face the first obstacle:
QUESTION #1: Do we love it?
Such a simple, yet mysterious question. Commissioning Executives (“CE”) see so many scripts and concepts that if they don’t fall in love with your project right away, it won’t be around to be tested by Question #2.
You might object that this is subjective. Yes-it-is. But remember: to that CE, commissioning a project is like getting married. They will be involved with this project for months from development, production, post-production to launch. And if it’s a successful series, potentially for a second, third and fourth season. They’ll be reading many drafts of many scripts, screening many rough cuts, many fine cuts. The only thing that allows them to survive that grind is their passion and love for the project.
You may think that the first question should be “Is it any good?”. But the reality is that every professional pitch is going to be good. The CE knows that, with careful development, every project will get better. The key question is whether your project sparks something inside their soul. If it doesn’t, life’s too short. Next.
Your best bet is to make sure that you are truly passionate about the material and that it is original and exciting.
Question #2: What’s it about?
Your project has to have a strong central premise. You should be able to distill it down to one or two sentences that capture the gist of the concept. If you can’t, you’ve got a problem. Remember, the CE has to sell this concept internally: to their boss, to Marketing, Communications, On-Air Promotions, etc. If they think they can’t sell it easily, it’s toast.
There used to be a print magazine that came out every week with TV listings (quaint idea, no?). Under every title was a one sentence log-line describing that program. Write the log-line for your project. Try it out on family, friends, strangers. If you get blank or puzzled looks, go back to the drawing board.
Question #3: Who’s going to watch this?
Take a hard look at your project: has it been crafted for a well-defined target audience? Don’t say: “it’s for everyone”. Start with a single target demographic. It’s possible your program may ultimately attract a secondary and tertiary audience, or, to borrow a musical term: it may have “audience harmonics”. But, ideally, the project should be sculpted from the ground up for that bull’s eye viewer. An ill-defined audience is hard to find and attract.
Question #4: Who cares?
The project must be unique and marketable. If your project is similar to an existing program or is derivative, why make it? It must stand out amongst all the noise and hype of other entertainment choices. What’s the billboard going to look like? What’s the hook?
Believe it or not, there are actually Broadcasters that want to start trends, not follow them. You’ll notice that sometimes there’s a creative zeitgeist in the air and everyone is pitching a variation on the same theme. Chances are the CE has seen them all (twice). Your project must be a beacon of freshness and originality. Don’t be afraid to be bold.
7 January 2014