Reader Question: On Producer BS Detection and More

Reader Scott J had a few questions I’d like to answer here…

“Let us say that a reality TV producer approaches you about doing a reality show that focuses on what you do for a living, are there any red flags you should look out for that signal that this character is just wasting your time? That he’s on a fishing expedition? Or “green” flags that he’s the one to go with?”

Well, first things first.  Has the producer produced anything?  That’s always the first red flag for me.  If they want to tie you up exclusively for more than about 90 days while they pitch, that’s a bad sign, too.  Don’t be alarmed if they don’t want to pay you anything up front for the right to pitch a show about you, as the development budgets at most reality companies aren’t exactly stellar.  Be wary of producers who expect you to go out-of-pocket in helping them produce a sizzle reel or support material.

“Flipping the above, let us say you’re that producer. What should you do to show the potential talent you’re not wasting their time? That you have a real shot at pitching this to networks?”

Have a few credits already.  Ask the talent to agree to a short, exclusive window rather than an open-ended exclusive agreement that’s going to prevent them from accepting other offers two years from now when your lazy *ss still hasn’t edited those five mini-DV tapes together into a sizzle reel.  Don’t oversell or promise the moon.  Be realistic when answering questions about the process should the show go to series.

“Troy, you’ve said you’ve tried to pitch shows to network people. What have you done to secured the talent for your prospective shows?”

I’ve been fortunate in that I’m close friends with most of the wonderfully offbeat folks I’ve built shows around.  Of course, we still made a basic agreement before moving forward between ourselves and also with the production companies we partnered with on the projects.  Never put off committing expectations to paper until after the pitching process starts — it’s a great way to find yourself embarrassed when your talent suddenly asks for the moon in response to the network showing interest.

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