If you think being an outsider from Hollywood makes it impossible to see firsthand is not it. In my first year as a development executive Merv Griffin Entertainment, I brought in a concept created by a journalist in Florida. The idea was written in a two-page outline, and explored the simple idea; “To what extent an ordinary person go to help a stranger in need?” The idea could have also been pitched as “candid camera complies pay it forward.” Our producers immediately saw the potential for comedy and entertainment value, and Merv signed the new writer to an option contract. The project was sold on our first pitch to Disney, and eventually packaged for production where it is still located.
Recently, an aspiring writer from Alabama, Timothy Center, sold 3 projects (all ideas for reality-based programming) a producer who uses The Vault of television writers to find new projects. Before that, Jon Stewart of Illinois sold his idea for a reality based around his own life for a head executive for Fox Television Studios program.
You can have more inspiring story or script that can read any producer, but unless you can boil that story or concept into a brief synopsis with a highly marketable “long line”, a producer will never invest the time in reading the script full or treatment, leaving no possibility of any agreement to be offered.
“Logline” is a description of one or two phrase that basic idea and purpose of a show. Loglines for the sake of launching a project are similar to TV Guide description, but more specific in describing the idea of the show. This is the catalyst for increasing the odds of selling any script or idea to Hollywood.
A large long line should provoke interest and inspire the TV producer to see it’s potential. The following are examples of could-be loglines for television today:
– “Citizens face their fears by competing against each other in outrageously designed acrobatics” – Fear Factor
– “A nice husband marriage and tolerance is tested by the constant intrusion of his parents and brother arrogant” – Everybody Loves Raymond
– “Twenty women will court and compete to win the affections of a man who limit the selection until he must decide on his one true love.” – The Bachelor
– “General knowledge of participants will be tested when given the answers to the questions they should then form.” – Danger
Another important facet of marketing your projects to the entertainment industry is the protection and “proof of creation” as the author. An aspiring writer need not be a member of any union to get protection for their writing. The creators vault is an online archive where writers may receive electronic proof of creation for their projects. The Writers Guild of America also provides a registry service to writers online.
When finally offered an “option agreement” by a producer who wants to buy your project, then you want to look to the Council an entertainment attorney to help negotiate the specific terms of any agreement. More often, the writer is paid token money upfront for the company to have exclusive rights to sell and produce the project with any buyer or third party network. Once a project reaches production, the writer receives the negotiated “purchase price” (usually a much larger sum than the option monies) and receive a small percentage of participation in the fees received by the production company to produce the show.
Keep inspired. Look at your life and the world to find fresh and compelling stories and subjects. If you roll up your sleeves and dedicate the necessary work, you could just sell the next groundbreaking idea for a show to Hollywood.
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