The Man Who Greenlit ‘Portlandia’ Tells You How to Pitch

The Man Who Greenlit 'Portlandia' Tells You How to Pitch

Pivot president Evan Shapiro gives it to you straight at the New York Television Festival

Pivot president Evan Shapiro kicked off the 9th annual New York Television Festival this week by telling aspiring TV producers how to pitch.

When he was president of IFC, he developed and greenlit “Portlandia” — so the more than 200 people in attendance took note. The festival is designed to bring independent writers and producers together with executives, like Shapiro, who can get their shows on the air.

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Pivot, which debuted over the summer, is home to such shows as “Raising McCain” and “Jersey Strong.” Many of Shapiro's tips are straightforward — don't be late — but Shapiro also explained why pitching is kind of like dating.

Here are his tips, condensed from his keynote address:

1. Be on time — in fact, be early

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2. Do your homework — know the brand, its audience and what a buyer is looking for is half the battle.

3. Go in with an open mind — be willing to “pivot” in terms of your concept

4. Be comfortable

5. Even though it may sound cliché, be able to boil your idea down into an elevator pitch — get to the heart of your art.

6. Send something brief in advance if you can, in order to set the table for your meeting.

7. Know that nearly all programming executives have a rare form of ADHD — TVAD. Since you can't always know that something you send will be read, make sure to bring/use visuals when you can.

8. Your goal should be to have an intriguing enough “first date” that leads to a second one. Leave the executive believing that you are someone they want to work with. If your pitch is good enough, you can often get someone to pay you to develop it further.

9. Places like the New York Television Festival are great ways to get in front of industry execs, but know that they are pitched everywhere they go. (Every time I go to a bar mitzvah, I get 12 pitches… including “this bar mitzvah is a TV show!”) So make sure to use your time wisely, and consider getting an agent who has the right relationships.

10. Don't be afraid to break from convention; anything is possible with the right idea and the right story.  Figure out your true voice and what you do better and differently than anyone else, and go hard at that.

  • Out in the Street Films

    Like this perhaps:

    Credit Risk is a romantic thriller about Jack, a bank IT guy, who wants to be a full time actor, but has to provide for his wife and two kids, while getting involved
    with a friend and former porn star, Jenny, recently raped by his twin brother Will, which implicates Jack for the crime, now pursued by his sister-in-law detective, and two other cops, more interested in surveillance of the porn star.

    Credit Risk is like Pretty Woman, but not as pretty, not as Cinderella fantasy, not as rich, more down to earth, more complicated, real world dangerous, and in the street instead of a penthouse. It’s about a former porn star, not a call girl.

    But they are both about the stigma towards women of certain professions. They are both about woman and men looking to live in a better place than where they are. They are both about taking risks for money. They are both about finding love as redemption. And they are both about finding a way out, and finding a way to beat the odds.

    More at

  • renamoretti1

    Big Yawn!

    Yet another executive pretending he's on the lookout for great projects when all he ever greenlit is a continuing flop that most people wouldn't watch if they knew it existed and that he probably picked because it came from a buddy of his…

    How inspiring!!

  • Massive Jon confusion

    Wow, I thought this pitch was a joke. I was laughing while reading… then when it appears this may be a real pitch, well… I just feel sad for the writer…

    But oh wait, massive confusion — is this the guy who co-write MILDRED PIERCE??? Because this guy is credited on imdb as Jon Raymond, co-writer of MILDRED — but there is also a Jonathan Raymond credited on MILDRED who started as an asst for Todd Haynes on FAR FROM HEAVEN, who wrote OLD JOY, MEEKS CUTOFF and WENDY AND LUCY, all well received indie films. And “Jonathan” is credited for HEAVEN under the name Slats Grobnik (WTF)? And this Jon guy looks too old to have been an Asst in 2002 on HEAVEN.

    So methinks these are two completely different people and “Jon” had nothing to do with MILDRED or any of the other films of pedigree. Possibly “Jon” has somehow tied himself to MILDRED on imdb to try and confuse buyers… or imdb just made a mistake, which has happened. But “Jon” should really correct it. Another reason — Jon doesn't mention MILDRED on his website, and why wouldn't you mention such an awesome mini-series.

    If indeed they are the same person, than the imdb names should be combined. I'd find it hard to believe that the “Jonathan” of the films above doesn't have representation who would advise him better than this, hence, another reason methinks “Jon's” MILDRED credit is wrong.

    Either way, “Jon” should find some representation who can give him some good advice, like don't pimp your screenplay on a website, because no one will want it. Also, you gotta lose the B-movie worse than VOD/Redbox cover art. If your script is any good at all, no one is gonna buy something that looks so cheap, and is plastered all over a website (both this and your own)… and lose the trailer, it's awful!

    • renamoretti1

      Thank you for illustrating my oft-repeated point that those who trust imdb as if it were all-knowing and all-seeing get what they deserve. ;)

    • Out in the Street Films

      And you are…?

  • renamoretti1

    I was wondering also if you had come up with that as a joke and was going to tell you that's exactly the kind of ridiculous stories that get done as long as they're brought in by a buddy of someone at the studio, but it's a real movie.

    Well done, Sir!!


  • renamoretti1

    All right, I have to say it: Why cares about the guy who greenlit “Portlandia”?!!!! I had to look it up to know what it is.