6 Secrets to the Perfect Reality Pitch

9:00 AM PST 04/03/2014 by As told to Stacey Wilson
Lifetime; Courtesy of Subject
"Dance Moms" (Inset: Paul Buccieri)

ITV's Paul Buccieri shares his trade secrets for a successful sale.

This story first appeared in the April 11 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

DO YOUR HOMEWORK: Really know the network, its demos and what it has in development. You do not want to waste an executive's time. Even if they say no, you want them to appreciate the idea even though it may not be for them. You want them to say, "I definitely want to hear your next idea."

MAKE YOUR REFERENCES CAREFULLY: There's a tendency to relate a pitch to an existing hit show, aka "This could be your network's Dance Moms." If you know there's a hot show a network wants to emulate, you might bring it up. But bring your vision and bring your take to it. Subtlety is key.

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LET YOUR SIZZLE DO THE TALKING: A promo reel isn't just seen by the executives you're pitching anymore. It's going to marketing, advertising, research and promotions, so make sure it really cuts through. Also, one sizzle-size doesn't fit all. If it's a character-based docuseries, you may want a longer sizzle that fully fleshes out the characters. If it's a high-concept idea, it may need to be shorter so you can use your time to talk them through it.

TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER: Pitch with passion and conviction -- but not to your detriment. If they say no, don't keep pitching a show they don't want. You have to read the room. Remember: These are long-term relationships.

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DON'T SELL PAST THE CLOSE: If a buyer says he's interested, immediately turn the pitch into a dialogue and leave the room as soon as you can! It's possible to talk yourself out of a sale, so get out while the getting's good.

TRY TO GET IN BEFORE LUNCH: Pitch in the morning around 10 or 11 a.m. if at all possible. By then, they've had time to get settled and aren't thinking about lunch. You definitely don't want to pitch a hungry room.

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