There is no correct way to structure a pitch package. However—some ways are better than others, and I’ve outlined a format below that MANY television companies are using today. The bottom line is to KEEP IT BRIEF. You want to provide readers a thorough understanding of your show and let them know why it totally rocks, but you do NOT need to answer every question. Questions are a good thing. If execs read your pitch package and care enough to ASK YOU SOMETHING about it, you’ve just hit it out of the ballpark. Spend time getting MORE SUBSTANCE packed into LESS SENTENCES, and you’ll be headed down the path to a winning pitch package.
Pitch packages should run NO LONGER than 3-5 pages. They should be single-spaced and typed in a common font, such as Time New Roman, Helvetica or Arial, and should always include PAGE NUMBERS.
Okay—let’s jump into it. Your pitch package should include the following elements:
1. HEADING: 2 or 3 lines
Don’t use a separate title page. Your heading should be centered or justified left on the top of your first page, and should not take up too much space. Your heading should include your show’s TITLE, the show’s LENGTH and GENRE, and the AUTHOR’S NAME(S). For example:
an hour-long drama
by Johnny Newman
“Pink Slip” -- half-hour sitcom
by Mary Goody & Jill Westerhouse
Formatting and punctuation idiosyncrasies don’t matter. Just keep it simple.
2. LOGLINE: 1-2 sentences
The logline is the most important part of any pitch package, and you want to make you completely NAIL IT. If your logline comes off as dull or meandering, no one will care about the rest of the pitch. This is your opportunity to present your show’s HOOK and to inspire producers to flip eagerly through the next four pages of detail.
So, what is a LOGLINE?
A logline is a summary of your ENTIRE SHOW CONCEPT captured in just one or two well-formed sentences that tells your readers WHO the main character is, WHAT the show is about, and HOW the main conflict of the show might be resolved. It is written in beginning-middle-end format, and shorter is better. Here are some examples for shows you might recognize:
When people around the world begin to develop superhero powers, an ill-equipped twenty year-old must race against time to save mankind from an apocalyptic end.
After losing his winning lottery ticket, 30 year-old Earl decides he is the victim of bad karma, and dedicates himself to righting every wrong he’s ever committed.
Following her husband’s unexpected death, suburban mom and upright citizen Nancy Botwin embraces a new profession: neighborhood pot dealer.
3. ONE-PARAGRAPH OVERVIEW: one-paragraph
After your logline, your pitch package should include a ONE PARAGRAPH overview of your entire show. Think of this as your PRIMARY PITCH. You paragraph should be no longer than fifteen lines, and should expand upon your logline by providing enticing details about the WORLD of your show, the SEASON-ONE ARC, and key SUPPORTING CHARACTERS. This is also your opportunity to establish your show’s TONE. Is it a dark, ominous, scary kind of drama? Or a light-hearted wink-wink type of show? Is your half-hour sitcom goofy or endearing? Again—you do NOT need to answer every question. In fact, you should not. But you do want to SUGGEST how your show will work, and what will make it unique.
Pink Slip is the story of MATTIE BAKER (30) a perpetually chipper mother of three whose world is thrown upside down after she is fired from her high-paying job at an advertising firm. Determined to turn her bad fortune into good, Mattie partners up with three of her closest lady friends to start “Pink Slip,” a job-placement firm for recently laid off women. Determined not to let a single client slip through the cracks, Mattie and her friends will pull strings, knock down doors, and do whatever is necessary to knock out the competition in this upbeat sitcom about women taking charge of their own futures.
4. PILOT SYNOPSIS: one page or less
Your pilot synopsis should be no longer than one-page, and if possible, closer to one-half. It should include an overview of your pilot episode, with particular focus on the section of the script that best captures your show’s CONCEPT. In the “Pink Slip” example above, the pilot synopsis would emphasize Mattie’s firing and the formation of the job-placement firm, but avoid scene-by-scene specifics. It would also include a brief, one-paragraph write-up of the pilot episode’s A-plot, which would most likely involve Mattie and her friends finding their very first client a new job—hopefully through an unexpected and surprising process.
The key thing to remember in drafting a compelling pilot synopsis is not to get lost in the minutiae. You must present a storyline that feels like a full episode in-and-of itself, but also establishes the world of your show for future episode. Use lots of adjectives, and include words that suggest the look and tone of your show. Beyond all else, your pilot synopsis must never drag or feel boring—if you’re unsure about whether or not to include something, chances are it should be cut.
5. CHARACTER BREAKDOWNS: one short paragraph per character
Each of your central characters should be summarized in just 2-4 sentences that focus on their essential traits, flaws, and problems. These summaries should sound snappy, and SUGGEST a full-fledged character rather than outline out every single detail of who they are. It’s often useful to describe a SITUATION, and how they’d REACT in this situation, such as:
Marty is the kind of guy who’d steal candy from a baby—then steal the baby.
Mary will give her last dollar to a homeless person on the street, even if it means walking home from school rather than catching a bus.
It’s also okay to compare your characters to known celebrities and personalities, such as:
John looks like a young Brad Pitt, but has the confidence level of Fat Albert.
Jane is hotter than Jessica Alba, and she knows it.
It’s also alright to provide basic details about a character’s relationships with other key characters, especially if these relationships help to establish the dynamic of the show.
FINALLY—whenever possible, each character should be coupled with a PHOTOGRAPH. Use celebrity shots if possible, and combine each character description with an image that captures both their LOOK and ATTITUDE.
So, a finished character synopsis might read like so:
CARLY (35) – It’s not easy balancing the cutthroat world of professional wrestling with the challenges of being a single mother, but Carly has never backed away from a challenge. When a surprise pregnancy threatened to derail her decade-long rise to the top of woman’s wrestling, Carly butted heads with MANNY, the CEO of the federation, but ultimately got her way. These days, Carly is a fiercely-devoted and strict mother to Gracie, her 6-year-old daughter, but beneath her tough exterior is a soft and sensual woman who just needs a good back rub.
ELLIOTT (22) – A natural athlete, Elliott was the star football player during his senior year and has always had an easy time with the ladies. Despite appearances, however, Elliot also has a huge insecurity complex born of his overbearing father, who is the MAYOR of Spring Bluffs. A big-hearted, loveable guy who would do absolutely anything for his closest friends, Elliott is currently home from college recovering from a sports injury. Over the course of the show, Elliott will not reach his full potential until he win’s his dad’s respect—or realizes he doesn’t need it.
6. SEASON-ONE ARC: one paragraph
Next comes a tight-worded but thorough overview of the plot-arcs and key-character arcs that will unfold over the FIRST SEASON of your show. Your season arc may be fairly simple if you’re pitching a free-standing sitcom, but episodic shows will have more complex arcs, and this should be reflected in your season arc write-up. You do NOT need to say every detail of your show’s season-one storyline, but you DO need to suggest where you show is headed, and what some of the obstacles will be along the way.
7. FUTURE EPISODES: one short paragraph per episode, (3) episodes total
Near the end of your pitch package, it is important to include brief, 3-6 sentence summaries of three future episodes. These episodes should be TITLED, and should read something like expanded loglines. Each episode summary should include mention of the A-plot ad B-plot for that episode, but does not necessary need to state how that episode ENDS. It is enough to describe the emotional arc of the key characters, and the setup of the episode’s MAIN STORYLINE.
“Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” – When a blue mist starts killing workers at a Spring Bluffs Electrical company, Mark and his friends suspect Xi CORP, but are shocked to learn that Elliott’s father (the Mayor of Spring Bluffs) is the main player behind a corporate cover-up. When Elliott discovers a blossoming relationship between Mark and Carly, he double-crosses the team to take sides with his father, and risks exposing the identities of his friends to Xi CORP.
“Queen of Hearts” – When Donna is fired from her job at Diaper Fresh, she returns home early to find Dan throwing a “house-hubby party” for local dads. His dirty little secret now exposed, Dan tries to make it right by taking Donna out for a romantic evening. All goes wrong, however, when Donna’s boss shows up at the restaurant and Dan tries to blackmail him into giving Donna back her job!
8. BRIEF CONCLUSION: 2-6 sentences
At the very end of your pitch package, you should conclude with a brief paragraph that restates the THEME of your show, and reminds the reader of your show’s central HOOK. It is okay to be repeat a phrase or sentence you may have already included earlier if it helps to underscore why your show is COOL and UNIQUE.