Dorie Geniesse | TV Writers Vault Member Success Story
“…of the 26 current projects I’ve pitched at the TV Writers Vault, there are thirteen different concepts under official consideration, with four different TV companies, including seven contracts.”
Congratulations to Writer/Member Dorie Geniesse of Mazomanie, WI. on her recent successes pitching reality-based TV projects to Producers at the TV Writers Vault. Geniesse has struck a multi-project development deal with Smoke & Mirrors Creative (FOX’s Mobbed TV Series Creators & Executive Producers) in addition to several other option deals she’s secured with various companies. Her success is a testament to her true love of the creative process, tenacity, and intelligent approach to formulating new projects.
To date, Geniesse has pitched dozens of reality-based concepts, receiving more than 160 official reviews by Producers and Executives, and secured deals with a handful of major Production entities. She shares with us some of her experiences at the TV Writers Vault, and the process of collaborating with Producers.
Scott Manville: Its been quite a ride for you, Dorie, and wonderful to see all the connections and deals you’ve set up with Producers on your projects. I appreciate you taking the time to share your experiences with other Writers and Concept Creators at the TV Writers Vault.
Dorie Geniesse: Thanks for interviewing me, Scott. I hope I can help some other aspiring creators and writers. Your interview with Chris Cowan of Angel City Factory was terrific. Every writer should read that interview, and all the rest. These producers tell us what they want, if we just take time to listen.
SM: How long have you been pitching reality show projects using the TV Writers Vault, and how long was it before you got the call from Producers for your projects? Tell us a bit of your experiences in that process?
DG: I started about nine months ago in August, 2010. My first review came that month with my first Producer contacting me in December.
When I came onboard, I knew nothing about the industry, how to create a project, or what the expectations were of the producers (whatever they did!) The overlapping differences between Reality Series, Game Shows and Docu-style Series evaded me, too.
The very best decision I made was to have you craft my first three projects (View Scott Manville’s Development Services). From those experiences, I learned what format is expected and works. How to �see� the project before I put pen to paper, and what it takes to catch the Executives� eyes. To date, my projects have been reviewed over 160 times.
From August until December, I probably crashed your server by checking every 15 minutes to see if anyone reviewed my projects. That was the hardest part, because until a few were reviewed, I didn’t know if I could compete.
SM: What has using the TV Writers Vault helped you understand about the process of pitching reality shows that you may not have known before?
DG: The short answer is that I didn�t know anything before using TV Writers Vault, so I had a huge learning curve � and one that I still haven�t mastered. Once I was contacted by a few kind, patient executives, I learned a terrific amount. Each one has his or her preferred format and writing style, pet genres, specific contacts, and unique personalities. They also appreciate our professionalism when we follow up, respect their time, and persevere. Without TV Writers Vault, I never would have gotten to work with these wonderful Producers.
SM: So jumping into your current projects, I’d love to know (without disclosing any confidential info about the projects) what’s on your table with Producers at the moment?
DG: I have several projects in various stages of disarray. They cover the gamut from Bodyguards to History; from Toxic clean up to a Large and Wild Animal Veterinarian ; and from Mississippi River Salvage to Hypnosis to strange American pastimes. All in all, of the 26 current projects I’ve pitched at the TV Writers Vault, there are thirteen different concepts under official consideration, with four different companies, including seven contracts.
SM: Its clear that you’re very focused on the docu-style reality genre. What is it you like about creating these projects? Any advice you can share with other aspiring writers and producers?
DG: Creating these shows is great fun. One thing I did- I went back through ten years of TV Guide Magazine to see what had been created in the past, what lasted and what withered quickly. It was fascinating watching the evolution. One commonality was that the longest lasting shows were bigger, more challenging, and exceeded the envelope of what had been done in the past. Most likely, someone knitting on their front step isn�t going to work unless he�s 7� tall, discovered in a cave in the Antarctic, is nocturnal and uses thread made out of meteors and penguin feathers.
For writers, think about what shows are popular and dissect them. There are certain characteristics that must be present regardless of genre. It needs to be unique, it needs to have people you care about, that are strange or unique, and it must end with something that makes you feel good or something that makes you want to return to watch because you need to know the outcome.
One of our responsibilities as writers is to help the Execs know what�s going on in our world away from LA and New York. I have an email list of about 4000 people and I ask their advice all the time.
For Producers and Executives, take a little time with us newbies. Many of us are diamonds in the rough and if you�re willing to educate us and encourage us, it may turn into a fruitful long-term relationship. I have Howie (Smoke & Mirrors Creative), Jim (Buck Productions) and Scott (TV Writers Vault) to thank for that, as well as the others with whom I work.
SM: From the time you started pitching, up until now, I’ve seen a dramatic improvement in the quality of your writing, and the way you formulate concepts. Do you think this may be the result of having so many conversations with Producers… Kind of learning how to think and focus an idea?
DG: Thank you, Scott… and Howie, Jim, Courtney (Film Garden Entertainment), Oliver (BEI TV/ Fremantle Media) and the rest. Most definitely you and these wonderful Execs have shaped my writing. Each has his or her own style of writing, so there are many ways of presenting your concept. Some like to experience the show as it unfolds in a multi-sensory method method of writing. Others write like attorneys in a factual style. And others like the writing to flow from one act to the next. The key is to write it your way, then modify it upon request. There are two rules I always follow: 1. Respect my reader’s time. Use the fewest, most precise words available to tell the story, and 2. Spell check!
SM: So what do you feel makes one reality show concept stand out among the many that don’t go the distance? In the many projects you’ve created, how have the successful ones been different? Can you put a finger on it?
DG: That�s a good question. I learned from Oliver that if they do take on your project you need film (for docu-style series), which means you need the talent lined up. I didn�t know that when I began, so I would put out a good concept with no talent attached. Well, that didn�t work very well. It�s easier to build a concept around unique talent than it is to find talent to fit your concept. There are definitely some secrets to finding talent, but the best tip is tenacity. I�ve been working on one concept that will have taken us seven months to find the talent. The good news is that we�re close to signing them, and the better news is that no one else has had the tenacity to get this done.
SM: If you can share some of your firsthand experiences with other aspiring Writers and Producers who haven’t used the TV Writers Vault, what can you tell them?
DG: This website and service could be a book. The most important step is to sign up immediately for TV Writers Vault. There are countless production companies out there and all of them are trying to find new ideas. There are thousands of aspiring writers/creators out there that want to connect with Producers. There is no better venue than this. It�s safe and professional. TV Writers Vault gives writers a shot, and it�s a potpourri for producers.
SM: What is the most challenging aspect of pitching projects?
DG: Patience, tenacity and flexibility. It may take up to 18 months from when a writer gets �Requesting Contact� from a Producer review at the TV Writers Vault and a TV show. For docu-reality series, that assumes the talent is attached and a video is available. During that time, it�s a rollercoaster. It may take four months before you get to �no�, and you start all over. The talent needs to be nurtured, informed, and kept up to date or you can lose them, too. It�s important to remember, and to tell the talent, that this is a collaborative adventure, and �the whole is greater than the sum of its parts�.
Another difficult piece, and truthfully, I haven�t figured this one out yet, is keeping the options open. For me, it is simpler to work with one company on a concept rather than juggle one concept amongst several companies trying to develop it prior to any deal. Each company has his/her own vision of the show and you, as the creator of the idea, have to make sure that you don�t leak any information. In larger firms, your contact person may not be the decision maker. In smaller companies, he or she usually has to sell your idea to a production company. In both cases, your contact person is a conduit to a production company who then might produce a �sizzle reel� (for $25,000 or so) that can be taken to the network or cable company for review. Production companies can�t stay in business if they make too many sizzle reels that don�t sell, so it takes time. Your contact may also have a change in priorities. Your concept can be dumped because something bigger or better comes along. It�s all a part of the business, so don�t take it personally.
SM: What has been the most exciting part of the process for you?
DG: Every step of this process is exciting, except the �No�! Getting the first request for contact was thrilling, though I drove the producer crazy, right Oliver?! Working out the concept and watching it morph into something far better than the original concept. Finding and signing the right talent. Getting my first contract. And ultimately, getting paid and seeing your show on TV. All of it is great.
SM: Have you been pleased with the level of Executives and Producers you’ve met through the TV Writers Vault?
DG: Absolutely. They are all unique individuals, and so we as writers have to respect and honor that. Some people are easier to work with than others, and I�m sure they say that about us writers as well. All have offered a tremendous amount of insight, though with some, it was more of a hidden treasure. One thing to keep in mind is that our jobs as writers is to make the Executives� jobs easier by staying in touch with the talent, arranging times for conference calls, gathering the information the executive needs such as biographies, photographs, descriptions and of course, tape and keeping a pulse on things. Talent also deserves respect and consideration.
SM: What do you feel is the most valuable aspect of the TV Writers Vault as a service?
DG: Not to sound melodramatic, but I wouldn�t have one concept in front of anyone had it not been for TV Writers Vault. Within the first 18 months of starting, there�s a possibility that I�ll have four or five of the thirteen shows on air. One show might expand as a franchise to three or four shows in different cities. It wouldn�t have happened without the TV Writers Vault and the producers and executives who taught me along the way.
SM: Its been thrilling to see all of the momentum you’ve gained with your projects and Producers. We look forward to your continued success!
DG: Thank you, Scott, for your support and this terrific service.
SM: My pleasure. Keep us posted.