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How to pitch and sell my documentary idea to a TV network?

by Beverley A.
(UK)


Question I have an idea for a documentary for UK TV and I would like to know how to write the proposal for my idea, how to protect my idea and who to send it to? I'm a complete novice at this but I believe my idea for a documentary is good.

Thanks, Beverley


Answer | Desktop Documentaries

Hi Beverley, Thanks for your question(s).

Let's start with your first question:

"How To Write The Proposal For My Idea?"

Well, this question all depends on who the proposal is for. If it's for a certain TV broadcaster or a foundation or for an individual, you will write the proposal around the parameters of who will be reading the proposal. We've put together a multi-use Documentary Proposal Template package which you can download directly from our site. This template is a great starting point and then you can modify it for each particular situation. Or you can contact the organization who you want to pitch your project to and ask them if they have a specific format they require for pitching your project. So in your case, research the UK broadcaster you are interested in and find out what their process is for pitching ideas to them. Here's the link for how to Pitch TV Ideas to the BBC.


"How To Protect My Documentary Idea"

In general, a filmmaking novice will worry too much about protecting their idea. I'm not saying it's not important, but keep in mind that ideas are the easy part. It's the implementation and execution of that idea that's the hard part (imagine all the money, crew and coordinating involved in making a film -- and making a good film at that!). Most documentaries don't make a profit so there's rarely an incentive for someone else to steal your idea. Plus the value of an idea is often not in the idea itself, but in the treatment you put together, the unique access to the story and/or the funding/partners you bring to the table.

With that said, here's advice from entertainment lawyer Jaia Thomas about how to protect and copyright your documentary ideas.


"Who Do I Send My Documentary Pitch To?"

Again, this all depends who you are pitching your idea to. Every broadcaster, production company and organization has their own process. In general, you will send your idea to the programming department. So look up the person or department at the organization who handles the acquisition or development of new programs. Or find out if the broadcaster has an online "portal" for submitting your idea. But keep in mind this is similar to "cold calling" which is never ideal and probably won't get you very far unless you're pitching something pretty spectacular. Also, be aware that some entities do not accept unsolicited ideas from the public, so you'll need to work with a production company who already has the necessary connections. Click here on help finding filmmakers.

In general, it's MUCH better if you can pitch your idea in person. There are several ways to do this. You can attend film festivals and other filmmaking events where filmmakers can pitch their ideas to TV executives. Examples include the IFP market in New York, Hot Docs in Toronto, Westdoc in Los Angeles or IDFA in Amsterdam.

Download the Guide: Sweet Spots: What Television Networks + NETFLIX Pay For Documentaries, Originals and Series

Another option is to hire a "sales agent" to pitch your idea. Sales agents have relationships with all the big producers and networks and can shop your idea around. However, in order for an agent to take you seriously, you usually need to have a successful film under your belt. Example of a sales agent is Josh Braun of Submarine Entertainment.

Josh Braun: What's A Sales Agent



How To Get Your Documentary On Netflix

To learn how to get your documentary on Netflix, check out this special guide by Peter Hamilton Consultants: How To Get Your Documentary On Netflix.

Anyone else have ideas for Beverley? Leave comments below.

Comments for How to pitch and sell my documentary idea to a TV network?

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Oct 21, 2021
BBC Pitch
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It is not possible for individuals to use BBC Pitch to get their programme ideas considered even. BBC Pitch is only for production companies so take it to an indie instead.

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I dive lakes around were I live for yes and I free dive for trash lures and junk I do really good$$ and I have fun I need help with someone to film and come join me it helps everyone if can help please I will make it worth it

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Project: Documentary

Tag Line: The Strength of Ordinary Becomes Extraordinary.

As a child growing up in Puerto Rico, my grandma told me a magical story about how the world was once one land and how darkness tried to take over the land. When they thought everything was lost it was the strength of three ordinary friends who defeated this evil by sacrificing themselves. That was the moment the world parted ways and the continents were formed. The
place, where this story began and ended, is still there in a town called Aguadilla.

In 2017, when Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, I was unable to reach my mother for two agonizing weeks. Like millions of others, I saw the havoc Maria caused and the lives lost, but also the strength of the people. It was at that moment, the story of the three friends came flooding back and the documentary "Our Stories" was born.

After more than 130 interviews, I have chosen 4 people to showcase their lives before, during, and after Maria; ordinary people who did and still are doing extraordinary things. The documentary will follow Yael Deynes back to Puerto Rico and by telling his story he will tell their
stories and how the strength of the three friends live within all of us. yaeldeynes@gmail.com

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Hello my name is Tony, I would like someone to help me with my powerful and compelling story!!
Set in northern Ireland in the 80s
I would like my story turned into
A documertarery!!
Can anyone out there help me trust me one hell of a story.
Tony

Jul 06, 2017
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Hello, I'm the author of the book, "The Soldier's Words" a non-fiction US civil war book using mostly first-hand accounts by Confederate soldiers. Most of the material examines the reality of Confederate uniforms, But there are hundreds of new material regarding the American Civil War that are not known even to serious CW students. Please contact me and I will explain further, as most (75%) of the material in my book has never seen the light of print before. My email address is: kennwoods123@gmail.com Thanks, Kenn

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