In today’s hectic world of TV production, most new show creators use what is known as a “sizzle reel” to pitch a new show idea to studio and production company executives (the buyers). The biggest names in TV can still get a greenlight for a new show by simply describing their idea; but for most show creators the sizzle reel is a critically important part of their pitch presentations.
So what exactly is a sizzle reel and why is it so important?
First, a sizzle reel–also known as a promo video, demo reel or show concept package–is a short, fast-paced video that clearly and concisely demonstrates the creator’s concept for the show and can provide information on setting, character and plot. It doesn’t need to go into great detail and answer every question; it just needs to generate excitement about your show idea. It can give just enough information to create an image that will capture the buyer’s attention and encourage them to listen more intently to the rest of your pitch.
A sizzle reel is an important part of a pitch presentation because when a new show idea is pitched using words alone, the show’s creators and the potential buyers may have very different ideas of what the show really is and what it will look like. A sizzle real not only makes sure that the show creator and the buyers are on the same page, it also demonstrates the tone and feel of the show.
There are different types of sizzle reels that can be used to give buyers a clear vision of what your show is all about. The type of reel that works best will depend on the type of show you are creating, where you are pitching your show, and the amount of time you expect to have at the meeting. You may even edit different versions for different buyers. When considering what type of sizzle reel is right for your project, keep in mind that most pitch meetings are usually short and you may have little time to actually show the reel.
The following are a few types of sizzle reels you may want to consider:
Standard Sizzle Reel: A standard sizzle reel is like an extended movie trailer. It showcases the talent, provides an overview of the show, and gives a sense of the creative vision. These sizzle reals are usually two to seven minutes long.
Teaser Sizzle Reel: A teaser sizzle reel is more of a fast-paced promo, and doesn’t try to outline the elements of the show or demonstrate how the show will be structured. They are usually one to two minutes long.
Talent Sizzle Reel: A talent sizzle reel is almost completely focused on the talent. Instead of pitching the show, this kind of reel focuses exclusively on the people in the show. It shows the talent doing the types of things they would be doing on the show, and may include interview segments. These reels are usually one to five minutes long.
Presentation Tape: A presentation tape is like a standard sizzle reel, but has full scenes that demonstrate how the show will look on TV. They are usually seven to twenty minutes long. This can even be a full length version of the show, allowing executives to get a better sense of what the audience would see on TV.
Before creating your sizzle reel, research and watch shows that are similar to your idea and see how they look, how they are structured and how they solved certain problems. This is important because you don’t want to waste time, money and effort creating a sizzle real that has major flaws. Practice the pitch in front of other people and make sure there aren’t any holes in your presentation that should be addressed visually on the screen. Your sizzle reels should only be included in your presentation if its production quality is extremely high and if it provides an accurate representation of your concept.
When you pitch with a high quality show concept package or sizzle reel, you are not only better prepared to share your concept with the potential buyer, you are also demonstrating your professionalism. You are showing that you have a good idea, that your vision of that idea is compelling, and that you have the talent and resources to develop the concept. The sizzle reel makes it clear that you have thought through all the logistical aspects of creating the show, and allows you to present your new show idea in the clearest, most entertaining way possible.