Dear E. Jean: Last weekend, I ran into a well-known producer as we both waited in line at a Thai takeout place. Her company supplies reality and documentary shows to television networks. We started talking, and I pitched her an idea for a show on the spot. She liked it so much, we set a meeting. The problem is, it’s my ex-boyfriend’s idea. This is the guy who cheated on me last year with my own intern! I think I added enough details to the idea to make it mine. Do I have to give him credit?—Laissez-faire
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Laissez, my love: Yes, you must credit the little dickhead. But keep your wits about you. I just got off the phone with the foxy and dexterous Stephanie Drachkovitch, executive vice president/co-owner of 44 Blue Productions, Inc. (Family Court, Split Ends, Peter Perfect, etc.), and, after listening to your letter, here is what she advises: “You never want to pitch someone else’s intellectual property. If it’s not substantially different from the original concept, you gotta call the guy and say, `Hey, I have an opportunity to pitch the idea. I’ve made changes to it, but I think we should have an agreement between us before I meet with the producer.’ Then you should draw up a couple of paragraphs outlining how you’ll share credit, fees, responsibilities if the show becomes a series.”
Of course, on the other hand, if you don’t want to contact the filthy cad, come up with a new idea.
P.S. Because the brilliant Drachkovitch takes about 250 pitches a year, I called her back and asked her for the three best tips for giving a good TV pitch. She said:
1. Practice the pitch in front of someone. You’ll quickly see where the holes are in your idea. You must be prepared to respond when challenged by the buyer.
2. Get me excited in the room. Tell me a story. Engage my imagination. Be excited about your own idea!
3. Paint a picture of your show. I like props! Visuals! I like to see the idea come to life on a tape, on storyboards, or in a cleverly written presentation.
This letter is from the E. Jean archive.