If you own a business, work as a freelance, or just have a great personality, reality television could be a great media tool to get the word out. Television after all, is simply a vehicle. A vehicle to millions of eyeballs all itching to learn more about you, but you can't just walk into a production company with charisma; you need the right tools to pitch yourself properly.
The Tape: The Only Tool You Need to Get a Reality Show
When a producer says, "Show me the tape," you're in business. Think about it this way, a busy producer would rather watch 2 minutes of tape, than read a treatment about you that you've submitted by mail. First of all, don't waste your time sending in the treatment, no one is going to read it. I know, I've thrown many of them out in my day.
The tape is simple. It is a piece that needs to shed the personalities that you hope to feature in your show, while also displaying the world that you and the other characters live in. Do not make it long. Anywhere from 3-7 minutes is the standard sweet spot. Remember, these producers are busy. Give them a small bottle of bang and they'll get behind you with the bucks. I guarantee it.
The first thing you will need to get a tape together is equipment. You don't need anything too fancy, a nice little HD camera with a mic input and a wired lavalier mic will do the trick. There are tons of great deals on amazon if you are in need of these pieces of equipment. I recommend that you do not spend over $1000 on your equipment. It is absolutely unnecessary. The magic must come from you.
Once you have your equipment it's time to get the most important pieces to any tape, the interviews. Plan to interview each potential cast member for an hour each. When you interview them, you are not looking for conversation, you are looking for very concise statements. In the world of reality television these statements are known as sound bites. You may want to pre-plan these sound bites vs. asking questions. It's really all about getting everyone to say those amazing things that shed their character, and most of all with charisma.
Charisma in an interview is absolutely KEY. If you are not getting the energy you need, feel free to prod until you do. You want the energy high, and out of this world. That's what makes a great television character. No executive is ever going to say, "wow, that person has way to much energy." However, the pill that commonly kills is the lack of energy. Remember you only have 3-7 minutes. Make it the most energetic minutes for that producer and you will get a show.
Once you have a few good interviews, you'll want to supplement the bites with b-roll and reality moments. For instance if someone is talking about how much they love to work on their hot rod, then show a shot of them working on a hot rod, and afterword, get them in-scene working and saying something like, "This car will go 0 to 90 before your girlfriend can say yeehaww!" The b-roll is the shot of the character working on the car, and the reality moment is getting those sound bites in scene or playing a scene of conflict between two characters.
Once you have these essential items it's time to build your story in an editing system. You don't need anything fancy. Macintosh products have a software called iMovie that you can get away with. Once you are in the editing program it's time to build your story. Be very concise. Think about how you tell stories around a camp fire, or how you write essays for your freshman english class. Place the information in logical order. More importantly, make sure all the best moments are in the tape. You can actually get away with an unclear story if its great moment after great moment. The producers will figure out the story once you sell your reality show.
After you have built your edit and you are happy with the content. Search and find great music that matches the tone of the story you are trying to tell. Remember this tape is for presentation purposes only so don't be afraid to put some of your favorite music tracks in there. Once again, just make sure they match the tone of the piece. Another pro-tip is to make sure the lyrics aren't fighting over the soundbites. It is best to use karaoke tracks so that you don't have to worry about fighting with the lyrics.
Once you have finished putting your tape together it's time to begin shopping it around. Really, this is all you need to get a reality show - a good piece of tape. Most production companies will not take unsolicited materials, but you may want to send a private link to them and see if you can get anyone to view it. You may want to do the same to all the big talent agencies. More so you may need to do your homework and dig up producers on linkedin and facebook to see if you can get it in front of a big producer. If it's a good tape, someone will take it on. There is just too much room in the market for them not to. Now go out and make a great tape. I look forward to seeing you on television, Wednesday nights at 9pm!