SARASOTA — Have an idea for a killer TV show? One that would trump all that Hollywood has been churning out lately?
Here’s your chance to prove it. The Sarasota County Film and Entertainment Office has developed a new contest called “TV ME!” in hopes of finding fresh ideas to spice up the television landscape.
No genre will be left behind. Cartoons, dramas, reality TV, game show ideas and beyond are welcome. Extra points will be given if innovative ideas have a Florida connection.
And it gets better: The grand prize winner will be whisked away on an all-expenses paid trip to Los Angeles to meet with industry professionals and pitch their idea. It’s a dream come true for any would-be TV writer trying to break into the business.
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“A lot of opportunities can open up if you are the master of your own destiny,” said Charles Meyer, executive director of the Los Angeles-based Scriptwriters Network, which is partnering with the SCFEO for the contest. “One of the experiences that writers learned from the last writer’s strike is that you really have to take charge in some things. A lot of writers are realizing that we can’t just look for jobs on staff. ... But sometimes what you can do is to create your own path. So this contest gives them that capability.”
There is a not-so-secret motive behind the national TV contest, though. The SCFEO hopes TV executives will discover how picturesquely film-able the greater Sarasota area is for TV. They also hope the TV world will notice the employable pool of talented writers, producers and production students at Ringling College of Art and Design and State College of Florida that the area offers.
“They (TV execs) have already discovered Miami and we’re very happy for them, but in Sarasota, we have a lot of talented people,” Meyer said.
Kelly Fores, Manatee County’s film commissioner, said the contest is a great idea for the area.
“I’ve heard so many wonderful television show concepts from both industry and non-industry people in Manatee County,” Fores said. “I hope they take their ideas and turn them into pitches. It’s excellent that this is a national contest. It stands to bring positive attention and really shine the spotlight on the region.”
Del Jacobs, State College of Florida’s film production technology program manager, said he will definitely let his film students and those who are writing-inclined know about the exciting opportunity.
“TV ME!” asks par- ticipants to take a slightly different approach in getting inside the indus- try door. Instead of a full-length TV script for the contest, participants are asked to submit a five- to 15-page pitch for a programming concept.
The concept can be for one of three categories:
n Scripted series (comedy, drama, cartoons, sci-fi and other series)
n Unscripted/partially scripted (reality TV, game shows, demo/training programs like cooking shows, interview/investigative programs, etc.)
n One-offs (single standalone programs such as a sporting event, gala, concert, staged performances, etc.)
Each category winner will receive special prizes and recognition.
“I hope that it gives creative people the op- portunity they may not be able to get elsewhere,” said Jeanne Corcoran, SCFEO director.
Of course, trying to write an ideal show in a TV climate where many hopeful programs end up quickly succumbing to viewer fallout can be a challenge. Meyer said the more novel the idea, the better.
Memorable shows like “I Love Lucy,” “Seinfeld,” “ER” and “St. Elsewhere” are examples of such breakthrough TV.
Hosting a contest where the grand prize winner tries to successfully pitch his or her idea sounds like a show in of itself.
In the end, it all boils down to how well the winner can sell their idea to Hollywood. But don’t worry, the winner will also get two training sessions with a pitching coach before heading to L.A.
“We’re not guaranteeing that anything is going to be sold,” Meyer said. “What we are doing is providing opportunities. Getting access can be everything, especially to writers.”
January Holmes, features writer, can be reached at 745-7057. Follow her on Twitter at @accentbradenton.
HOW TO ENTER
Participants are encouraged to enter as often as they like, but each submission must have its own completed application form and individual payment. The early entry fee is $15 per concept through Sept. 30, $20 during October and $30 during November. The deadline is Nov. 30. Visit www.filmsarasota.com and click on “TV ME!” for rules.