When it came to choosing someone who could bring VH1 new original content, all fingers pointed towards Stacy Littlejohn. The veteran TV writer/producer beat out a slew of other scribes to pen one of the summer’s most talked about shows, Single Ladies. “We were all kind of in competition of who can bring back the most interesting content to [VH1],” says Littlejohn, who has written for hit shows such as All of Us, Moesha, and One on One. “I guess I won!” She did more than that as a reported 1.8 million viewers tuned in to the entertainment news based cable network last week to watch the series premiere. With social media circles abuzz about the show, BlackEnterprise.com spoke with Litteljohn to get her personal tips on getting a show idea from pitch to the airwaves.
Character development is vital
When pitching an idea to network executives, Littlejohn advises that you know every detail surrounding your show; from the world your characters live in to their past and their goals. They have to be three dimensional figures on the page because, ultimately, the characters are what really sell a show. “Just know those characters and make those characters interesting and you’ll make them pop,” she says. “You’ll write real people with real needs, real desires and real dreams.” If a question arises about how a character would act in a particular situation (not related to your script), you should know him or her so well that you can predict his or her next move, she adds. Remember, you created the world they live in.
Do your homework
Pitching a show is no different than going on a job interview, researching the organization always puts you at an advantage. If you discover that a particular network has a proven track record of success with dramas, while comedies have faired worse, you’re chances of successfully pitching the “funniest sitcom ever” are slim. “If you want to pitch to a certain network, know what that network usually responds to,” says Littlejohn. “Know what kind of shows that network tends to buy or tends to show and stay in that genre.”
Practice makes perfect, so go over your pitch
Just as you wouldn’t walk into an exam room the day of a test without ever looking at a book, you wouldn’t dare stand before a room of network executives without reviewing your pitch. You only get one chance to make a first impression so get to the point and make your words matter. After practicing your pitch over and over again, it might start to sound rehearsed. Littlejohn warns against coming off as robotic. “Make it sound conversational,” she says, “And make it sound like you’re just now saying it for the first time.”
Whatever you do, be relatable
Although it’s natural to be nervous, draw the attention off your nerves and onto your personality. Start with a personal story or, if you’re funny, start with an appropriate joke. “The way you tell a story—your own story—it’s going to disarm people and make them say, ‘Oh, this person is cool,'” says Littlejohn. “They’ll already feel like they’re on your team.” A smile won’t guarantee a sale, but it sure does help.