Creating a Reality Show (Again)

I’m starting to get those kinds of emails again.  Folks with “ideas” for shows that want advice on how to get access to networks, despite the fact that they’ve never worked in the industry before, have no representation, and are already worried more about how to keep someone from stealing their great ideas than how developed their idea really is.

I love you guys, but you should no more expect to start your career in reality television as a show creator than a newbie baker who’s never cracked an egg should expect to start off his or her career making ultra-complicated eight-tier wedding cakes.  Unless you’re bringing recognizable personalities into the mix (as in, “It’s a reality series about my cousin, Selina Gomez, who’s already signed a letter of interest”) or add some other kind of unique value to the project, it’s gonna be a tough road.

Complicating things further, reality TV is different from scripted in that you can’t really write a spec for a reality show that will get you hired as a reality producer.  It takes time to build your credits and become the kind of person that a production company or network would want to meet with, so starting at the bottom and putting the time in is how that works most of the time.

So once more, here’s how you break in and work your way up:

Starting Your Career in Reality Television

If you’ve decided not to take my advice, might I suggest that you check out this book by Donna Michelle Anderson:

The Show Starter Reality TV Made Simple System



5 thoughts on “Creating a Reality Show (Again)

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  1. Great advice, even for me being kind of “one of those guys”, lol. I guess inquiries like this are inevitable, but that’s why I bought your book, check in here, seek answers.

    When I first got into screenwriting, a TV series writer, from the 1970’s, befriended me online. I learned a lot, then she offered the following — I could send her my script for editing, for a fee, then it had to go through her friend’s process, another fee, then there was a fee to have a luncheon to pitch with her 1970’s producer, after flying to L.A.

    Needless to say, I avoided that scheme! But her “gang” was running a real racket for screenwriters that would pay anything to pitch, kind of sad.

    You’re doing your inquiries a big favor by telling them the truth.

  2. Plenty of folks out here in LA are looking to make a buck from new writers. I’m gearing up to start doing seminars on reality production and trying to ensure that they’re the real deal and informative — which can sometimes mean delivering hard/painful truths in exchange for whatever the registration fee might be.

    Lots of folks, alas, are secretly looking for validation rather than education when they sign up for these things, so it’ll be interesting.

    Info on the event:

  3. That’s a fantastic offering for a fair price, congrats on being part of it, Troy! Plus, the offer of Final Draft and a discounted hotel rate, nice!

    I think legit seminars are the greatest thing and have taught several. Nothing like being in an atmosphere of people revved up about learning what you do.

    And sure, many just want to see you in the flesh, feel a part of it for that weekend, get validation, but if that’s their dream, so be it! Still turns the numbers!

  4. I’m taking a different approach. I’m launching an online game soon (it is currently in the alpha stage) and, due to how it incorporates 30-second ads into its play, it will have 31 advertisers. I plan to tap them to fund the launch and operation of a reality webseries based on a “feel good” aspect of the game. The show helping promote the game and vice versa. Then if the show becomes an Internet sensation, my goal is to sell “24-hour exclusives” to TV networks around the world. After 24 hours, the episode will be released free on the Net.

    As I believe the era of gatekeeper TV is coming to an end due to the rise of online TV, I don’t want to be chained to any broadcast or cable TV network. I think selling only episode premieres to TV networks will enable me to both profit from broadcast and cable TV networks while at the same time maintaining my independence from them and thus the ability to live on after they have become defunct.

    As for what I bring to the table, that would be me. The online game has a “feel good” aspect that only I can create. A unique voice that others simply cannot copy. They can try to make their own but I just don’t think they’ll be able to pull it off since to pull it off they will have to appear on talk shows and talk about their vision. That and it will be clear they’re just copycatting me. Not that I care if they do. They can. I’ll consider the imitation a form of flattery.

    However, more importantly, my plan is to bring 31 advertisers to back my show. Networks are, at best, middlemen between content providers and advertisers. At worst, they’re gatekeepers due to the limited nature of any TV channel schedule. I’m aiming to simply bypass them and then turn around and sell them a limited part (premiere) to the episodes.

    After the online game goes into beta, I will start approaching advertisers. The first being a major corporation whose CEO is a cousin of mine. 😉

  5. Troy, if you know Ms. Anderson, please encourage her to make an ebook version of her book.

    Since getting a Kindle, I hate going back to printed books. If you don’t know the definition of a word, you don’t have to reach for a dictionary but simply move the cursor to the word and it will pop up a brief definition at the top or bottom of the screen. If that is insufficient, you click on a button and a more elaborate definition is shown. That and you can enlarge the text font so you can easily read it while working out on an exercise machine. I just wish they had an audio function that would pronounce the word for you too.

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