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Sizzle Reels: Produce Before You Pitch (Part 4)
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Part 4: Using Your Finished Sizzle Reel

By Dan Abrams

 After you’ve finished your sizzle reel you got to get it seen by the Buyers. Here is where having an agent is crucial. If you don’t have one someone you know has access to an agent who can help you. If you’ve already made a great sizzle tape then getting it seen and forwarded appropriately shouldn’t be impossible.


Don’t be too afraid to sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) and don’t be too insistent on others signing yours. What good is your pitch if no one hears it? Remember, too, that there exists such a phenomenon as "simultaneous creation” and very few people actually steal ideas. In any case, if you’ve done you’re homework then even if someone else has the same idea as you, they don’t have the same talent or IP or package elements or creative vision that you’re bringing to the table. So if they want all that they gotta go to you.


NOTE: There isn’t a clear consensus about when/where to show the sizzle reel. Ideally, you get the meeting on the basis of your track record and the idea’s logline. Then, you schmooze in the room a bit before showing the reel right then and there and then discussing it with them afterwards (and not letting them keep it). That way you build suspense before and create scarcity/mystique afterwards. If you don’t getaway with that method and thus have to send the reel before or leave it behind after then anyone can nitpick at its flaws including rivals within the network seeking to forward their own found projects.


Ultimately, that may be all out of your hands if they insist on seeing it before they decide if you’ll even get the meeting. There is somewhat of a consensus about leaving behind a treatment, however.  Of course, have one written beforehand but try not to leave it behind immediately following the meeting. Instead use the execs’ post-viewing comments & notes to rewrite the treatment and tailor it to what they want & like and email it to them with a thank you follow-up ASAP.


NOTE ABOUT PUBLIC DISTRIBUTION ON THE INTERNET: We can all imagine a world where you put your sizzle reel on the web, the public loves it and that clamor of fans propels a network to buy your project. That doesn’t appear likely just yet. Generally, most producers advise you protect the secrecy of your project for fear of letting the zeitgeist sample and inadvertently propagate your genius idea without your deliberate participation.


Sometimes there are multiple levels of Buyer. Normally, the network is the ultimate and all-important buyer. But even then there are potential international sales and format sales beyond that Before the network sale there could be a studio or production company that has to "buy” your idea. Buy, in this situation, can simply mean "sign on” or "partner with”. You can convince a production company to help develop or pitch your show and even sign a legal contract (haggled over by agents and attorneys) and still not make a penny unless/until the network buys it.


In such partnership agreements it’s common for some fee structure to be spelled out where your take could be virtually anything (but often between $1k - $10k per episode potentially for the life of the show, rarely with a realistic percentage of the backend profits). This may or may not be in addition to any fees for services rendered (like actually being a producer if not the Showrunnner on your own show).


Alternatively, sometimes a generic "promise to negotiate in good faith” is all that is included. Often a much coveted "created by” and/or "developed by” credit is possible and shared where appropriate.


Revel in your success, wealth and happiness while contributing to making the world a better place.


{{{{SIDEBAR– Another "Buyer” may exist to facilitate a sale. "Branded Entertainment” is a viable business especially if you’re targeting the smallest of the cable networks. If you can interest a sponsor to cover all or most of your series’ production costs and then you can go in to the network exec and say "just air it” for virtually nothing, then the network exec is going to have a harder time saying no to you compared to a producer demanding millions.}}}}


FINAL CAVEAT: This is Hollywood so not only is it true that "nobody knows anything” but also "there are a thousand ways to succeed and a million ways to fail”. All of this advice is just meant to help you think about the terrain and how to navigate it. That is not to say you can’t blaze your own trail of how to sell a show. If you find your method works particularly well please write an article about it for the PGA web site.


Mr. Abrams is the Supervising Producer of  the "The Outdoor Room with Jamie Durie” airing on HGTV