Top Tips: Pitch Up


Got a great idea for a TV show but not sure how to pitch it? BAFTA teamed up with Stellar Network for a Pitch Up! Event on Monday 23 April, and we’ve gathered the top tips for pitching that came up.

After sifting through 230 competition entries, ten finalists were selected to have the chance to pitch their ideas to a panel of TV execs. That panel was made up by Juliette Howell (Head of Working Title Television, UK), Ben Cavey (Head of Entertainment, Tiger Aspect), Huw Kennair-Jones, (Commissioning Editor, Drama, Sky), and Gregor Sharp (Executive Comedy Editor, BBC). A diverse range of ideas were presented on the night – each with different genres, audiences and formats in mind – in a wide range of pitching styles. Here are the top tips that the panel had for our finalists on how to perfect a pitch:

Perfect Your Characters

If you have a great concept, make sure you match it with great characters – high-concepts in particular require an even greater focus on characters
Every character has to be unique, every character relationship must be rewarding, and each character’s emotional and physical journey must be defined
Don’t be afraid to prepare casting suggestions as they can be helpful during the pitch

Develop Your Story

Don’t overcomplicate it; the best ideas keep things simple by honing in on the story and characters
Science-fiction stories should establish a set of rules that cannot be broken to prevent them from becoming too unwieldy
If you are developing an idea for a series, set up a universe full of conflicts, rivalries and relationships through which individual stories can be told
Ensure that there is a consistency of tone throughout, and think about what wider message you are trying to get across through your story

Preparing for the Pitch

Work out which channel is best suited to your idea, and make sure that’s the channel you’re pitching to
Don’t pitch your idea until you’re sure that it’s ready and you think it’s perfect
Have a clear idea of how it would be filmed (studio, single-camera etc.) and also how and when you think it should air
Prepare visual aids if you think they might be necessary, and take a writing sample along with you to prove you have the ability to develop your story on the page

During the Pitch

Inject your personality into the pitch and make the story your own – show what you can bring to this story that makes it different. Know what your USP is and clearly define it
Don’t lose focus during the pitch and get your timings right. Even the best ideas can be overlooked if you start to waffle or don’t deliver the whole idea during the allotted time
Presenting unique and challenging ideas, or delivering a performance pitch can be risky – they could just as likely turn someone off your idea as they could catch their attention
Once you’ve finished, listen to the feedback you get and take it on board. Don’t be defensive or impolite in the face of negative feedback

And finally, to help you know who to pitch to, here’s what our panel are looking for: 

Juliette Howell: Working Title Television are looking for a long-running series with international appeal, and quality and commercial potential – ideally a contemporary drama that could play out at 9pm
Ben Cavey: Tiger Aspect are rarely interested in one off programmes, it has to be a series to get their attention. If it's a really, really funny idea he'll want to meet up and talk
Huw Kennair-Jones: There are no set rules at Sky other than if you can see your idea working for another channel, it won't work for Sky
Gregor Sharp: BBC2 are looking for a huge ‘laugh your socks off’ sitcom for BBC2 – something that plays towards the fun, lower end of the comedy spectrum. For BBC3 he is looking for something experimental, bold and completely different