How I Sold My Show

Television's annual pitch season is in full swing. By December, hundreds of potential shows will  have been bought and put in development by networks and studios. To help the next Shonda Rhimes or Josh Schwartz, THR reached out to nine of television's hottest producers -- many of whom  have sold multiple projects this development season -- for their advice on how to shill.


"Pitch the series; don't pitch the pilot. When we pitched Beverly Hills Cop [bought by CBS this season], I probably spent 10 seconds talking about the pilot and the rest on what the series would be on a weekly basis." -- Shawn Ryan, ABC's Last Resort

"Try to keep it to 12 to 14 minutes. I can't imagine anyone has ever sold a show in the 16th minute." -- Jon Steinberg, Starz's Black Sails

"I try to go to the gym the day that I'm pitching so that I actually have more energy. It sounds bizarre, but it helps. And I stay away from too much coffee because between the gym and coffee, they'd probably have to carry me out in a straitjacket." -- Betsy Beers, ABC's Grey's Anatomy

"Someone once told me, "You want to look expensive," so I'll often wear a suit and try to be stylish. I've had studio execs tell me they really appreciate that I bothered to dress up because they're going to entrust you, if you're lucky, with $60 million to $80 million a year, and they want you to at least seem like a professional." -- Noah Hawley, ABC's The Unusuals

"I like to do a twist on the old "Think Jessica Alba" or "Think Matt Dillon" trick. I remember saying, "If Anne Hathaway from Love & Other Drugs and Anne Hathaway from The Dark Knight Rises had a sister, she'd be Amanda Flynn." So instead of just saying "Think Anne Hathaway," I was able to conjure vulnerable Anne from one film and kickass Anne from the other. Whenever possible, titles are good too." -- Howard Gordon, Showtime's Homeland

"We like to pitch in the morning. The death slot is 3 p.m. You never want to be the first up after lunch because you know what's happened? They're in a food coma, and they don't want to hear what you're saying." -- Eddy Kitsis & Adam Horowitz, ABC's Once Upon a Time

"You can't be discouraged by a no. It's very easy between pitch three and four to give up or pitch it without the same degree of enthusiasm, but you need to remember: You only need one yes." -- Gerg Berlanti, The CW's Arrow

"I don't usually pitch titles because you don't want to throw anything in there that they could not like. Oh, and if you've got a lucky shirt, wear one. I've got a few." -- Bruce Helford, FX's Anger Management