Just because something is ‘un-scripted’ doesn’t mean it doesn’t need a writer. In fact, unscripted shows can sometimes be the more profitable ones because as creators of a certain format (example: American Idol), you reap the rewards of “Idol” in every country in the world. Creating something may be more of a producers job but a writer needs to be in there to create the outline and the specifics of any reality show. Unscripted shows can also be documentary style shows and not only game shows, contests, competitions, improv shows and so on. Regardless, whatever they are they have a certain format for selling that you need to follow.
Unscripted shows need to be sold visually not literally. This is where outlines (much like s scripted shows Bible) come in and the ever present sizzle reel, a 3-4 minute example of what the show is going to be with as much information and ‘sizzle’ as you can muster. it’ a selling tool and it’s going to do the job more than anything else – except of course, the notion that the show can sell and can continue on for seasons to come.
An unscripted show needs to have its concept explained in a short treatment with a listing of 8-12 episodes to follow. If we use American idol as an example the listing of shows would be ‘Country week with Major country artists mentoring” and ‘Elimination week’. This treatment needs to set the pace and pattern of the show as a script would for a scripted show. This treatment should look nice, it should sell the show and be left behind at a meeting.
Pitch meeting are more likely with unscripted selling as the sizzle reel and discussion of how the show will work need to be shown and the concept discussed. Obviously, again it’s important that you know what companies are going to be interested in the kind of show you are selling. Once you’re in the room, sell that show! That means, as with anything you write or create that you need to know it inside out and you need to be your own ringmaster – sell ice to Eskimos here as you are going to be the tool for sale, you and that 3-4 minutes of video.
If you have celebrities involved, use them. if you are showcasing a certain way of life, go there and get it on film. You must put this work into it. A description is not enough unless you are Simon Fuller who easily created American Idol after managing pop acts all his life. You need to give the producers or the networks a snippet of what they’re going to get and it needs to be exciting, informative and keep their attention. Use what information about the show you have and make it fun .
Every channel on television has unscripted shows of all kinds and they all fit a certain need for entertainment or education. Find a niche and fill it. Create a format and it can be duplicated in every country in the world. Unless you’re paying a judging panel millions of dollars, unscripted shows can be inexpensive and therefore they are easier to sell. However, as with scripted shows, we’ve seen most of what is out there already so you’ve got to put a new spin on something old or dig deep to find something new to capture the public’s interest.
Again, if anyone is in need of a unscripted treatment or even a glimpse of a sizzle reel, get in touch and I will send one to help guide your way.