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Reality TV Wants to Hear from BU

TruTV network holds pitch-fest on December 5

Think the latest crop of reality television shows is a little too far removed from reality? A new network is coming to Boston University with a challenge for aspiring producers or just regular TV enthusiasts: if you don’t like what’s out there, change it.

TruTV, the new version of Court TV scheduled to launch in January, is currently touring colleges around the country soliciting pitches for new reality shows. On Wednesday, December 5, network executives will be in the George Sherman Union from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., inviting BU students, faculty, staff, and alumni to step up and showcase their best ideas.  

“I’m both apprehensive and wildly thrilled,” says Eleanor Greene, a part-time master’s student in the College of Communication and the assistant director of research in the Office of Sponsored Programs. Greene plans to pitch a show called The Marrying Kind, which profiles people who have been married three or more times, with interviews with their therapists, children, ex-spouses, and divorce lawyers. “This will be only the third time I have ever pitched something and the first time I’ve pitched when it counts,” she says. “This will definitely be a step up, so to speak.”

When TruTV launches in January, it will broadcast several programs currently playing on Court TV, such as the crime-investigation reality show Forensic Files, but the network is looking for new and different types of programming, according to Garland Waller, an assistant professor of film and television at COM, who collaborated with TruTV to bring the College Pitch Tour to campus. “They really believe that young people in the academic world rarely get a chance to say, ‘What about this idea?’” Waller says. “They don’t know exactly what they’re looking for, but they’ll know it when they hear it.”

Participants will have 10 to 15 minutes to make their pitches, which must include a written treatment covering the format, the characters, and potential storylines. The TruTV Web site suggests bringing photos or videos of potential characters as well. Judging will be based on originality of concept, clarity of structure and format, compatibility with TruTV’s mission, and the project’s overall feasibility.

Kevin Gonzales (COM’08) plans to pitch a show called The Mailroom, which follows four young people working entry-level jobs in the mailrooms of major talent agencies in Hollywood and New York. “The mailroom is known as the boot camp of Hollywood, where the long hours and miserable pay could eventually become a promotion to an agent or executive,” Gonzales says. “I’ve run the idea past a lot of my industry friends, and they loved the idea, based mostly on their own experiences.”

When the pitch tour is finished, three semifinalists will be selected to go to New York and pitch their ideas to a panel of industry professionals. The winner will receive a $2,500 development fee and work with experienced producers to create a pilot.

Waller’s students were required to craft pitches for next week’s event, providing a needed push into the professional world for Gonzales and other students. “If this hadn’t been part of my class grade, I probably wouldn’t have participated because of the time constraints,” Gonzales says. “Luckily, Professor Waller has the real-world know-how to realize what an opportunity this is.”

Jessica Ullian can be reached at jullian@bu.edu.