Last week I met with BBC TV Comedy and BBC Radio Comedy to pitch my first sitcom. I’ve put together a list of tips based on the feedback I gained from the professionals during the meetings. Tips 1 – 6 are tips from the TV meeting and 7 – 10 are from radio.
Top Ten Tips
1) Always pitch a script as well as an idea
You could be brilliant at writing your pitch document but rubbish at writing comedy. Your pitch may sound quite average but your comedy writing could be brilliant. It’s the writing that makes it work, they need to see that.
2) Character A loves Character B but hates Character C…
When describing characters in your pitch always explain how they relate to one another. This was something I did in my pitch document (hurrah!). It’s important because it’s where the comedy situations arise from. Often pitch documents lack descriptions of how the characters relate to one another.
3) Steer clear of ‘the one where they meet the other characters’
First episodes should be cracking stories just like every other episode. Nearly all new scripts are first episodes. Typically people spend too much time setting up characters and nothing actually happens. Sadly my first episode description included the killer phrase ‘the one where they meet the other characters’, drat! At least every other episode had a very clear storyline. But all is not lost, they said my script will let them know if my comedy works or not. Everyone does the episode one thing but now you won’t (and I won’t next time).
4) Include the channel
This is probably totally obvious but I hadn’t included which channel I was aiming for in my pitch document. As a new writer I wouldn’t be aiming for BBC1 but perhaps BBC2, 3 or 4…
5) It’s always good to have a bit of poetry up your sleeve
This was something that was said and it made me smile lots. My point here is BE YOURSELF.
6) Consider pitching to radio
Some comedy starts on radio and moves to TV and vice versa.
7) Watch Bridesmaids
Especially if you want to be a female comedy writer.
8) Consider Shakespeare
Think about universal themes and write about them.
9) Heart, mind and soul
What makes you tic? What are you interested in? What do you do aside from writing comedy? WHAT IS YOUR ESSENCE? Your comedy will come out of all of that (if you have any left after all of those questions).
10) You can take or leave the feedback
Listen to it all, consider it all, respond to the best of it. The professionals can have totally different opinions on the same idea. That’s OK.
How do I arrange a meeting in the first place?
Good question! I don’t think there’s a formula but here’s how it happened for me…
First I got actors, writers and comedy loving friends to read my script and give me feedback. It was amazingly helpful and it improved loads as a result. It also gave me the confidence to pitch my idea, especially because I’d asked friends who I knew would be honest with me.
Then, while I was working for CBeebies I met with the talent team to let them know what I was up to. At the end of that meeting I asked who I should pitch a sitcom to. I got in touch with the recommended people by email to see if they would be interested in seeing a one page treatment (a pitch document summarising the idea).
There’ s no one way to write a pitch document but I included a description of the sitcom, character profiles, episode storylines and a photo summarising the show. I’ve made lots of one page pitch documents for Children’s BBC and previously when I pitched adult comedy to an independent production company they asked me for a one page treatment -that’s why I went with that.
Once I’d had positive responses by email I sent the treatment through and next I offered to send the script. I also got in touch to suggest when we could meet to discuss the idea. A few weeks later I had a couple of meetings…
I should have added the tip, be patient. Following the pitch meetings I’ve now got a few weeks to wait before I get feedback on my script. Wish me luck!
BBC Writers Room is full of great resources for comedy writers including scripts and competitions.
If you enjoyed this post you might like ‘How to Successfully Stalk Comedians‘, a guest blog I wrote for 12Books12Months.