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Joke and Biagio's New Podcast is All About Making an Unscripted TV Show - with You

Joke and BiagioAward-winning filmmakers and unscripted TV producers Joke Fincioen and Biagio Messina (you might know them as Joke and Biagio) have a long history of helping independent creatives by providing them with invaluable information on how to get past the velvet rope of Hollywood. Now that they have launched their new podcast Producing Unscripted, which aims to help you “create, develop, pitch, and sell unscripted television and film,” they’re going to do you one better — they’re going to let you pitch your ideas directly to them in the hopes of making a show together.

Joke and Biagio understand your plight as a fledgling filmmaker. Perhaps you’ve tried to work a room full of potential clients, producers, and collaborators, but to no avail. Maybe you’ve had a great idea, but had no way to tell anyone about it. If you haven’t been there before, you probably will one day, and Joke and Biagio know it, because they’ve been through it:

We remember what it was like to be living in a one-bedroom apartment, knowing no one in ‘the business’ and developing show ideas in a vacuum. We always said once we found success, we’d make it easier for aspiring producers and filmmakers to pitch to us.

And that’s exactly what they’ve done. Before they launched their podcast, their “Grand Experiment” opened up new doors for independent filmmakers and producers by allowing them to pitch their ideas and even potentially collaborate with them personally. This outreach method has brought to air TV shows like Caged on MTV, Ghost Inside my Child on Biography Channel, and the MTV True Life Presents documentary special “Secrets, Lies, and Sex.”

They say on their website, “We have a special place in our heart for wild, ambitious indies.” And it shows. Their website is full of helpful lessons on pitching, like how to use visual aids (Don’t!) and production skills for producers — all of which are meant to offer advice from people on the inside.

Joke and Biagio Producing UnscriptedAnd now with the launch of Producing Unscripted, which just recently was named “New and Noteworthy” in iTunes across all categories, you not only have the Joke and Biagio’s wisdom on the go and in your ears, but you also have an easier way to pitch your ideas to them.

Here’s how it works: listeners subscribe to their newsletter, which gives them information on how to pitch your idea to Joke and Biagio. Subscribing also gives you access to the “submission agreement,” which is required before you start pitching.

So, you might be wondering about how protected your ideas are after you reach out and share them. Are your ideas safe when you pitch them to Joke and Biagio? Well, we wondered that, too, but Biagio was kind enough to fill us in:

In our particular instance, the last thing we’d ever want to do is steal someone’s concept.  We have two very public blogs, good size twitter followings, and try to be as transparent as possible in all we do. It would be career (and social media) suicide for us to be so public in accepting pitches, and then to rip people off.

However, he also suggests not selling yourself short by relying on a couple of ideas to advance your career:

People who obsess over their one or two ideas are doomed to fail in any area of Hollywood.  However, those who realize that pitching concepts is a numbers game (the more you pitch, the more chance you have of selling a project) quickly come to understand that ideas are cheap, but good people are hard to find.  Thus, we’ve often had talented people pitch us shows that weren’t sellable, but we hired them on other shows, and eventually they found projects we could do together.

He mentions that it’s just plain difficult to legally protect your ideas, noting that shows with similar concepts (he mentions Wife Swap and Trading Spouses) exist on different networks. Also, ideas alone simply won’t make you stand out to producers anyway. So, what does it take to get noticed by Joke and Biagio as well as others in the business?

As we talk about on the podcast, “packaging up” your idea by finding a great real-life character, getting access to a unique world, or attaching an interesting property (like a book or local business) takes you from worthless idea to sellable concept. Add your filmmaking skills to that package, and we want to meet you.

Okay, so — you’ve pitched your idea and it got picked up by Joke and Biagio. What now? How involved do they want you to be in the production of your show idea?

We want the original person pitching the show to work on the show in the greatest capacity they can, both creatively and physically.  Budgets are tight, and people don’t make large sums of money for simply pitching a show concept and walking away when it comes time to make TV.

Producers who have pitched to them in the past have gone on to work closely with their projects. The producers who pitched what became Caged on MTV worked in field producing and editing for the show.  The one who pitched what became Ghost Inside My Child on Biography Channel worked in casting.

Biagio weighs in on what they’re looking for in someone they’d want to work on the show they pitch:

Ideally, we’re looking for filmmakers who can shoot, edit, run interviews — do it all. The more you can legitimately do at a professional level, the bigger line item we can give you out of the budget to work on the show. But you have to be good.  Really good.  Can you shoot?  Can you edit?  Are you a terrific coordinator?  Fantastic interviewer?  We want to work with you. Those who team up with us will receive at least a Producer credit, and possibly a bigger credit if they’ve worked on other shows or have a ton of documentary experience.

To learn more about pitching and working in unscripted TV, check out some of Joke and Biagio’s podcasts below and savor in some of the goodness:

Make Reality TV Shows and Documentary Series with Joke and Biagio

Why Ideas Aren’t Enough in Hollywood, And How to Submit Concepts to Us

Unscripted TV Success — Instantly Up Your Odds With This Secret

5 Steps to Develop Shows without Going Broke

Pitch Reality TV Shows and Documentary Series With These 5 Magic Words

If this looks like something you’d want to participate in, subscribe to the newsletter and get pitching.



We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

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  • Thanks for such a great write up on our new podcast.

    We love the spirit No Film School embodies, and the hands-on filmmakers who read this blog are just the kind of people we love to work with. Fingers crossed that some No Film School readers will consider teaming up with us, whether they want to do more traditional documentary series style TV or bigger reality style shows.

    Most of all, thanks for running a great site we still turn to for news and inspiration.

  • Darren Wolff on 06.26.13 @ 1:03PM

    Wow! What a great post! As usual, No Film School comes through with more inspirational resources! I for one, am getting involved. The right side of my brain is already in overdrive!

    • Hey Darren! Glad to hear it. Been fans of No Film School ourselves for a long time. Encouraging filmmakers to “go make stuff” is a message that can’t get out there enough. And, if a few of you can “make stuff” with us, well, that would make me very happy.

  • Anthony Marino on 06.26.13 @ 4:20PM

    Nice post, very informative. Nice to know there’s an outlet for creativity. Many have such great ideas and concepts but no one to show. Sounds like a winner, I’ll be tuning in…thanks

    • Thanks, Anthony.

      We really just wanted to make the blog/podcast we wished existed when we were starting out. We had to “fib” our way into production companies. When we finally got there, they liked what he had to offer. It’s our belief that it shouldn’t be so hard, and as long as we can make time, we’re going to keep doing this.

      Hope we get to work together some day!

  • Could you offer some details about what happens if you’re chosen? As you have it now, we must sign a release to even pitch you, with no information about what happens if we’re chosen.

    I get the feeling that this is one of those situations where if you are chosen, you’re better off having not submitted and just pursuing the idea yourself.

    • Hey Ed,

      We really don’t want you to feel that way at all. As we mention in the podcast, our goal is to find people who want to actually make shows, not just sell ideas.

      In the case of CAGED, Travis and Steve pitched us the idea, received producer credits, and were paid to work on the show as editors and field producers, as well as sit in every step of the way to really learn the business.

      Like we break down in episode 2 of the podcast, the submission agreement is a standard form people do have to sign to submit to us. However, at that stage, we have no right to your material, and we’re not committing to working on the show idea with you. If it’s not right for us, we’ll tell you, and you’re free to do whatever you like.

      In episode 4, we break down the step-by-step process of how we work with people, and it’s not until we do a collaboration agreement together that we would ever be pitching your ideas. It’s during the collaboration agreement that we spell out exactly how we’d be working together, what you can expect from the partnership, etc. That’s different for everyone (depends on your experience, etc.) but there’s no moving forward on anything unless you’re happy.

      Only then…once you have all the details, and you decide you’d like to work with us, do we all move forward on actually pitching a show.

      So there are plenty of steps a long the way to make sure you’re comfortable working with us.

      We know it’s scary — this is exactly how we started out 10 years ago, and honestly, we had to sign agreements WAY scarier than our one page submission agreement. At the time we decided the risks were worth it, and today we’re a full-fledged production company, just like the ones we managed to pitch to all those years ago.

      Hope that helps, and feel to ask us more questions here or at the Producing Unscripted site.


  • If anyone else has any questions, feel free to ask them here. We’ll try to check back regularly through the weekend.