Monday, June 28, 2010

Question of the Week: A PBS Program

 Q: Hello Slash. My name is Sam Dirani. I know this is untoward, but a friend of my fiancé, living in Richmond VA, recently told me about your work and with PBS and she recommended I send you a message asking for some advice.

My friend Matthew and I have finished developing a new children's educational science show and are now dealing with the difficulties of speaking to networks, producers, and agents. We were wondering if you could offer some advice on how to find agents and get in touch with the right people.

While still in its infancy, Matthew and I have developed a new children’s educational series focusing on all branches of science. This unique and innovate children’s show, the likes of which not seen since Bill Nye left the airwaves twelve years ago, is appropriately named Adventures in Science with Matt and Sam.

This new series promises to entertain children and keep them interested, all-the-while nurturing their curiosity and love for science, and ultimately to keep them asking questions about the world around them for the rest of their lives.

Please check out the link below to the theme song we developed and put together for the show.

Thank you very much, and I look forward to hearing from you and learning more about your career.

Sam Dirani and Matthew Mendler.

A: Hi Sam, I couldn't really tell a whole lot from your song and my guess is that the decision makers will wonder what else you've got as well - that's why tv shows usually shoot a whole pilot season before they present it to the network.

It's an expensive but necessary risk.

Perhaps you already have 5-10 episodes, and if not they'll want to see snippets of some sort of season so they can make their decision based on the continuity of the program.

In addition to this, you’ll need to test market it yourself in front of some classroom children and then give the kids and teachers a questionnaire about the program. The information you get from this is all stuff they’ll want to find out anyway. This target demographic should be similar to the PBS demographic.

You get one chance with this and it’s important to have everything in place before you make your pitch rather then get impatient and blow an important opportunity.

Another important aspect of your presentation will be testimonials - filmed and written. But, kids on camera in your target demographic is just one part, you'll need to get testimonials from teachers, principals, etc. And this list should include important industry peeps (and even famous people can't hurt). Would a decision maker really say "No," to a show endorsed by Bono?

More important than your show though is your media kit - which is similar to a book proposal which will spell out your intended demographic in very specific terms and why your show is needed. This marketing plan will comprise the most important part of your pitch. I recommend a book called How to Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larsen. The Marketing Plan info in the book will help you get really clear about what you’re trying to do with your show. 

And finally, I recommend spending some money and hiring a few PBS/Public Media crew members. It's a sure way into a long term and fruitful colloboration. You should contact several stations and get a quote as to how much some of their crew members would cost or even how much they would charge to produce the show. You'll avoid a lot of dead-end roads if you pre-plan with this in mind.

 However, this is just a stepping stone to the next step which is pitching your finished program to a distributor  - which is how it gets played on the actual stations. This requires an entirely different set of rules and planning.
Anymore, it’s not really about how good a product is… it’s about what you can do with your product and how big your platform is. There’s a ton of good information throughout my blog that should give you tips to fill in some of your platform gaps. Read through it and get back with me if you have more questions.

Good luck,

For more info about "The Neon Man and Me" and other storytelling projects by me - Slash Coleman - please visit

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