One of the hardest things to do is to turn a creative concept into a successful venture. And nowhere does this truth hold more water than with a Reality TV show.
In the past, the odds of taking a television project from concept to production on your own was about as common as winning the Kentucky Derby on a three-year-old, three-legged horse named “Miracle.” Today, however, with the assistance of experienced film development companies, it is highly possible to turn your concept of a Reality TV show into a business in no time flat. And contrary to popular belief, the process is really not that complicated.
However, there are a few important steps that anybody should follow in order to ensure your Reality TV show ends up in front of network executives and not in a good, old circular file.
Step One: GO FISHING
It has been argued that some of the most creative ideas come while people are relaxed. But we’re not suggesting you grab your rod and reel and expect to reel in the big one as soon as you drop your line in the water. This is a metaphor for FINDING THE HOOK. And if you are going to be successful in Reality TV show development, you need to capture multiple fish at the same time.
A “hook,” in entertainment terms, is a way in which the concept of the Reality TV show can be highly effective in a short period of time. Television producers need a device or “hook” which can engage the viewer (DANGLE THE BAIT), propel the story forward (SET THE HOOK) and ensure the viewer will continue to watch, not only the entire show, but every episode in the series (REEL THEM IN).
A Great Example of This Happens to Be a Reality TV Show About Fishing
Beginning in 2005, The Deadliest Catch (sponsored by Coors Light) on The Discovery Channel, now in its 15th season, proudly boasts their show catches over six million viewers every Tuesday night. Those are huge numbers for a cable network. They are able to accomplish this due to an exceptional hook. The job of a crab fisherman in the rough seas of the Bering Strait is extremely dangerous. Combine that with the drama which is created in this highly stressful profession, a bunch of guys who are not afraid to say what’s on their mind and the question everybody asks each week is, “What will happen next?”
A good hook needs to be creative, out of the box and not the same old song and dance. If your idea is a spin-off of a current show, with a different group of people, the odds are you will be met with: “Yeah that’s great. I liked it the first time when it was (insert favorite Reality TV show here).”
A great Reality TV show needs multiple fish to bring to the market. And it’s difficult and time consuming to catch one fish at a time. And you can’t simply rely on an interesting topic to capture viewers. So, what kind of tools can you use to catch more viewers at once?
Step Two: CREATE A GOOD CAST
In order to catch a fish, you’ve got to make sure the line is in the water first. But, if you know where the fish are, and can skillfully cast your line directly to them.
In this case, a Reality TV show needs an entertaining and engaging cast. Having the right people who best sell the concept (or Hook) you developed is the next step in creating a successful show. Once again, we can look at our friends on The Deadliest Catch for example.
The guys on this Reality TV show are an eclectic bunch. From the highly intense captains Sig Hansen and Keith Colburn to the free spirited guys like Wild Bill Wichrowski and Jonathan Hillstrand, the show has a crew that engages a highly diverse audience. Heck, even the boats have personality and add to the flavor and strength of this cast.
The point being, a great Reality TV show needs to include a solid cast of characters, who will create brand affection with the viewers. Sure, good television starts with a solid hook and story, but the cast makes the story sell.
Step 3 – Solid Treatment
In order to catch fish, you need some great bait. In order to pitch the concept to TV executives, you’ll need a great treatment to be written for your Reality TV show concept.
A treatment could be considered a written pitch; something that catches the buyer’s attention and makes them want to see more. Something which breaks down the hook you created originally, and the cast to support the story. A great treatment should highlight the key points of the show, using effective writing skills to sell your point.
A great treatment should also be brief. There is no need for a 50-page thesis here. Just like your Reality TV show, your treatment needs to engage the reader quickly and effectively. You need to make your point right away and summarize what the show is all about in a tight package.
A lot of times, having all this information is what most people do. And often, their treatments end up in the old-fashioned circular file we talked about earlier. So what kind of bait can a person use to truly get their Reality TV show noticed?
Step 4: SIZZLE, SIZZLE, SIZZLE
A sizzle is also known in some circles as demo reels, show reels, media highlight reels, public relations videos, video pitches, electronic press kit videos, promo videos, or teasers. They are 3- to 5-minute videos that combine visuals, audio and messaging to create a fast-paced, stylized overview of a product, service, initiative or brand. In this case, they are selling your Reality TV show.
Put yourself in the decision makers chair for a second.
If you had to choose between a concept on paper which most likely took the writer a day or two to create and edit, or a concept on video which most likely involved a few weeks of planning, editing, shooting, re-editing, revising the planning, directing, producing and re-editing (and yes, there is a reason we used the term re-editing twice), nine times out of ten they are going to choose the video option.
Putting forth the extra effort, investing your time and money to create a professional sizzle reel will separate you from the competition. And let’s face it, the world of Television Development is a highly competitive industry.
As you can see, there is a lot to do in order to be prepared to pitch a show. We have not even touched the actual pitch part, as this is something entirely different. But, the facts remain; Reality TV is a solid business. Reality-based TV is not only the current trend, but all signs point to an increase in these types of shows in the future.
And even in tough economic times, there is a need for good entertainment. Advertisers know this, and networks depend on this reality.