TAL looking for ideas

Hey folks. Here's the latest request for pitches from This American Life. Good luck! -mia


Dear This American Life friends and contributors,

We've got a new round of themes-in-progress and we're coming to you for story pitches, thoughts and suggestions for our upcoming shows.

How this process works: When you send in a story idea to me, I'll respond with a generic email letting you know that I received your pitch and that I've read it. I promise. I read every pitch. (I won't send you the auto response until I've read your pitch so expect a day or two delay sometimes to get that email.) If we think the pitch is right for us, or if we need more information from you, I'll send you another email asking for more info on the story or letting you know we'd like to commission the story. But if you don't hear back from us within two weeks, beyond the initial auto-reply email, it means the story just isn't right for us or for the needs of that

particular show. The idea of doing it this way is just to get through
pitches and get back to everyone a little more quickly.

Like always, these themes are shows we're actively pursuing right now but we're always on the lookout for new stories or ideas. So if you've got a story that you think would work especially well for us but doesn't fit a specific theme listed below, please send it along anyway.

Thanks so much for your pitches. All of us here are very appreciative.


FIRST CONTACT: Inspired by the Star Trek movie that I’ve actually never seen, we’re looking for stories about first meetings or beginnings with an “other,” alien or otherwise. Actually, alien would be awesome because we don’t actually have any alien stories for this show yet (yet!) but we are working on a story of an American man who, for the last seven years, has spent four hours every Sunday morning talking with three brothers in Iraq he has never met in person. In another story, a boy recounts how he tried very, very hard to get his first kiss. We’re looking for more stories about the beginnings. Maybe a story about a person who is just truly great at

making first impressions but things go south after that? Or a story about the first time having to do something? The first time technology comes to a place? Is there a profession or field that specializes in “firsts’? Science stories would be great for this show, too.

SOCIAL CONTRACT: This is a show that is coming up soon and is pretty much filled, story-wise, but we are looking for a little help with the opening, or “top” story to the show. We’d like to talk about how various municipal and state legislatures across the country are beginning to say we need to fundamentally rethink what government can do and fund. We’d like to get to this idea by playing clips of speeches, press conferences, city council meetings, school board meetings, and the like, where legislators suggest that maybe government just can’t provide the services we’ve come to expect. We’d like these clips to come from all across the country and from a variety of different governmental bodies so if you have suggestions on any quote you’ve read in the news or heard at a meeting or anything, will you let us know? We can track it down and get the audio if you can just point us in the right direction. Thank you so much.

STICKING IT TO THE MAN: We really love this one story about a toddler who seems to express – in a not-very-subtle way – all of our collective frustrations with our American leaders, so we’d love to do a whole show about big and small attempts to punish the people in charge. We’d like a story that gets at current frustrations with political leaders and maybe we do that through Tea Partiers (what? It isn’t 2009?) or different social and political movements or with specific candidates that seem to shed light on the general dissatisfaction a lot of citizens are feeling now. But we’d also love non-political stories, too. Great “sticking it to the man” stories seem to be about people who justify their bad behavior in the name of righting a wrong, or in pursuit of a larger good. A great story for this show would be one from “the man’s” perspective – maybe a boss who is forced to learn a lesson? Or a company that realizes it’s in the wrong? Stories about vengeance would be nice for this show.

GOOD COP, BAD COP: Stories about using both brute force and sweet persuasion to get what you want. Classic parenting stories would work well for this show, along with workplace stories. Maybe a story where the players actually decide ahead of time who gets to play what role. We’d really like a story where someone tries a bunch of different ways to get what they want, kind of going through a bunch of approaches to get to the end. Or a story about two people on opposite sides of an issue. Or a story where two people in conflict both believe they’re playing the role of good cop. A “wolf in sheep’s clothing” kind of story would be particularly nice for this show, where something that is purportedly a force for good is actually evil in disguise.

DREAM ON: A woman who has had cancer for the last 22 years and has grown, understandably, a little cynical about new treatments, new therapies and new discoveries, dares to ask the question: how close are we to finding a cure for cancer? In another story, an architect who briefly believes one of his buildings may have caused the deaths of several people in a horrible collapse, now devotes all his energy to designing buildings with absolutely no environmental impact. We’re looking for more stories about people looking to accomplish things that seem impossible. Just because of the cancer and building collapse, though, a lighter, maybe-kinda-funny story would be really, really nice for this show. Maybe a story about starting a ridiculous business or venture? Or someone who has a vision that they can be the kind of person they most decidedly are not? Maybe a story about a political candidate with a very specific agenda? Short fiction could be really nice for this show, too.

CRY BABIES: We’d like to do a show about people who have out-of-proportion responses to perceived wrongs. There’s always one cry baby – one member of the family or one person in the office. And what’s so galling is that being the cry baby almost always works. For a short-term strategy, it’s kind of brilliant. It’s just in the long term that it gets really annoying. So we’d love to do a show about a person or an organization or institution where the go-to move is to cry “victim.” And how frustrating that can be, dealing with someone like that. Also, a story told from the “cry baby” perspective would be great, too, because it can also be such an unfair label, undercutting any argument or motive. Political stories, obviously, could really work for this show but family stories would also be great.

***** Julie Snyder
Senior Producer
This American Life
153 W. 27th Street, #1104
New York, NY 10001
(212) 624-5012

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