ATX: Pitch Competition

Austin Television Experience (Photo: atxfestival.com)
Austin Television Experience (Photo: atxfestival.com)

Ten aspiring TV makers pitched their series ideas at the Austin Television Experience Pitch Competition. Who won and what ideas are floating out there?

The Blurb

The Pitch Finals are here! After narrowing it down from hundreds of applicants, for the second year, the judges are aching to hear our finalists pitch live, and name a winner! Join us as our ten finalists each get three minutes to give their best pitch. The winner will receive a development meeting with one of our judges and the chance to pitch our network partners. Who knows, one of the series you hear today could be on your TV next year!

The Judges

  • Bryan Seabury — VP of drama development at CBS
  • Kyle Killen — producer extraordinaire of that show you really liked and they didn’t give a chance.
  • Katie Krentz — executive at Cartoon Network
  • Dina Hillier — former VP of comedy development at Sony Pictures Television
  • Jordan Levin — executive VP at Xbox Entertainment Studios

The Pitches

  1. Jews in Smith County — a jewish family of five (mom, dad, three sons) gets relocated to rural Tennessee. The story is from the point of view of Zack, the youngest son and the only family member excited about his new surroundings.
  2. Buzz — a Machiavellian social media manager to the stars opens her own agency and deals with celebrity monsters of the week while coming to terms with the idea that online connections aren’t the same IRL.
  3. Studio Apartment — two struggling artists (one visual, one con) try to break into the art world of Pittsburgh. Rent isn’t cheap, and all they can afford is a studio apartment which is both their living and work space.
  4. The Chapel — a gigolo at the end of his escorting career taps into his Methodist ministry background to become an officiant at a chapel that caters to unusual weddings.
  5. Third Man — following his return to Earth after co-piloting the first mission to Mars, a guy has to get back to real life while being forever entwined with the two worst people he’s ever known: his fellow mission-mates.
  6. Late to Class — a woman who has put her life on hold during her twenties goes to grad school, but her only housing option is a quad in an undergrad dorm.
  7. Crikey Royalty1 — An art student in London is about to get married. Her in-laws happen to be the Royal Family, and all their eccentricities.
  8. State U — Armadillo State’s School of Liberal Arts is where you find your dreams. Unless you work there, especially after graduation.
  9. Velvet Valley — A look at seedier side of running a “legal” brothel in Nevada.
  10. Sidekick — Charlie is an aspiring superhero, but getting into her hometown’s guild is a PROCESS.

The Winner

Second place went to Jews in Smith Valley, which had a fantastic presentation and could be interesting if it doesn’t become a minstrel show. The winning pitch was “Crikey Royalty”2 for its thorough character profiles and potential to take small family situations to a heightened reality.

The Experience

My friend Becca and I were going to come up with an entry for this, but could not get past the idea of “sexy zombies?”3 Hearing all these pitches helped to demystify the process somewhat. Calling the ideas simple sounds backhanded, but this presentation demonstrated that you do not have to be convoluted even if the resulting series might be. All 10 of these ideas are workable, with many ideas reminding me of elements of other series. What I found interesting was that the last two were the only ones pitched as dramas, though I think some of the other eight might be better served outside of the conventions (or restrictions) of a half hour comedy format.

The panel also offered some helpful advice for your next pitch:

  • Write what you know. Even better: write the most uncomfortable things that you know.
  • Where does your show live?
  • Get to the core of your story. Character details are helpful, but why are people doing what they are doing?
  • “It’s [show/movie] meets [show/movie]” can help sell tone, but some execs HATE that type of construction. Don’t distract from your product.
  • Regardless of success or failure: WRITE.
  1. I’m 95% certain that is not the title, but it is what I heard and the title was never repeated.  
  2. To be renamed, I’m sure. SORRY!  
  3. Which the CW will be producing for the fall. So I guess we were on the right track?  

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About Mike McComb 656 Articles

Mike has been writing about TV online since 2008, when he started the blog WTF Little House on the Prairie? The blog was a project to practice writing about television analytically prior to getting an MA in Television-Radio-Film from Syracuse University, or as he likes to call it “TV Camp.” After a lengthy stint at TVLatest, Mike wanted to launch a site that brought in classic TV, diamonds in the rough, and the shows everybody watches. E-mail: mike@whatelseison.tv