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Meet Our 2021 Moonshot Pilot Accelerator Fellows: Kate Torgovnick May

In this Q&A with 2021 Pilot Accelerator fellow Kate Torgovnick May, learn about her career path and tips for bringing humanity to your TV pitch


2021 Moonshot Pilot Accelerator fellow Kate Torgovnick May

Applications for our 2024 Moonshot Pilot Accelerator are currently open, so we are taking this opportunity to shine a spotlight on our past fellows!


Kate Torgovnick May was one of the fellows in our 2021 Moonshot Pilot Accelerator (formerly WWFC’s Pilot Accelerator), so she was part of the inaugural year of the program.


Below, learn more about Kate, her career path, and what she’s working on next.


What drew you to TV writing, and how did you get started?

For most of my career, I was a journalist — I started at JANE Magazine, then was a correspondent for THE NEW YORK TIMES, then spent seven years at TED Talks. But I got bit by the television bug when my narrative nonfiction book, CHEER!: Inside the Secret World of College Cheerleaders (Simon & Schuster), was optioned and transformed into the series HELLCATS on The CW. As a consulting producer, I’d feed information into the writers room and watch the most incredible stories come out. I realized, "Oh, I think that's what I'd like to do with my life."


What inspired you to write the pilot script that was selected for the Moonshot Pilot Accelerator?

I was in the accelerator for my pilot, SOMETHING SWEET, which is about the strange business world that's rising up around the phenomenon of sugar babies — young women, who date older, richer men in exchange for gifts and money.


Like many people, I had heard of sugar babies. But I ran head-first into their world when my mom, a college professor, had a group of female students who were vocal about doing it. When she tried to dissuade them, they quickly swatted down her second-wave feminist critiques. So she asked: did I have any advice? 


Honestly, the idea made me queasy at first. But as I started to research it, I realized this isn’t a concept women are arriving at on their own — it’s a worldview being sold to them through conferences, podcasts, message boards, influencers, etc. And its appeal really does make sense. For women in college, the alternative is graduating deep in debt in an economy where entry level jobs have evaporated. At the same time, they’re a generation that’s only known the bad behavior that comes with Tinder. That grew up with Christian Grey as their romantic ideal. That spent four years watching a president who embodies the ethos that wealth entitles you to youth and beauty.


As I started to dive into the world more, it felt like there was the potential to create a show around this. Something that would be almost like a SUCCESSION, for this new generation of women.


What's something you learned from the accelerator workshops?

I had learned how to write and structure a pitch before being a part of the accelerator. But honestly, I hadn't thought at all about how to actually give it. The couple of times I had to, I just sort of read my pitch out loud and clicked through my slidedeck. It wasn't very personable.


In the accelerator, I learned how to be much more present while pitching my show. I learned how to say all the things I wanted to say, but to be much more conversational about it. That has helped me immensely going forward, where I now pitch shows regularly.


What did you learn from pitching to so many companies through the Moonshot Pilot Accelerator?

Pitching so many companies in a row helped me not put so much pressure on any one pitch. After a pitch or two, I felt like I could relax — and just enjoy sharing this cool show with someone.


Overall, I think the accelerator showed me that, like many women, I was holding really tight to perfection as my ideal — I wanted to say everything just right, impress execs by having the answer to every little question, and always come off as this total professional. But hearing feedback on my pitch from the other fellows, and the different coaches who came in to help us, I realized that no one really wants perfect; they want human. They want you to be engaged in a conversation with them, they want to think things through with you, they want to get a taste of who you are versus just what you've done. I think I realized that I was using “professional” as a defense — since I'm newer to this industry, I wanted to show people that I get it and can do this. But that the veneer doesn't actually communicate that at all, it just kind of communicates bland.


How has your career progressed since the accelerator ended?

I’ve grown so incredibly much as a writer in the years since the accelerator — I've written lots of new pilots and each one is just better and better. And I think I've grown even more in how I present myself — or rather, don't worry so much about presenting myself at all — in meetings, and pitches, and interviews. I go in as me, ready to get to know whoever the person is, and share what I think. I'm just much more relaxed about it all.


Career-wise, I'm still looking for that next staff opportunity — like most TV writers in this contraction moment in Hollywood. But I've sold things, have interesting shows in development, and am working on some really cool projects that have a lot of potential. Overall, I think I’ve learned to take the insights I specialized in as a journalist and translate them into delicious, entertaining female-centered TV. That feels good.


What would you say to a writer who's thinking of applying to the Moonshot Pilot Accelerator?

100% do it. I typically tell people not to spend money applying to programs and fellowships and contests, as the payoff of them feels a little shaky. But this program is totally worth it, in what you get in terms of mentorship and actual pitching experience. Not to mention that I've made really good friends for life.


What are you working on next?

I am currently working on a new pilot with fellow Moonshot Pilot Accelerator fellow Danielle Nicki! It's a YA heist show about a group of young people from around the world who come together to do something big and splashy — to force change around the climate crisis.


ABOUT KATE TORGOVNICK MAY


Kate Torgovnick May started her career at JANE MAGAZINE, where she wrote features on female music video directors and sketchy colleges. She’s written about bike polo players and karaoke diehards for THE NEW YORK TIMES; covered South Korean animators and women who took over their local government for THE ATLANTIC; and spent seven years as the “Storyteller” at TED TALKS, working with every kind of speaker you can imagine to help them share their work. Kate spent a year on the road researching her narrative non-fiction book, CHEER!: INSIDE THE SECRET WORLD OF COLLEGE CHEERLEADERS, which was transformed into The CW’s HELLCATS. She served as Consulting Producer on the show, and it opened her eyes to how dramatic series could be built on real-life insights. She has since moved to Los Angeles, to pursue television writing full-time. She has staffed on the CBS powerhouse series, NCIS, writing two episodes in season 17, and is currently developing her own slate of series. All of her work is grounded in in-depth research, and a desire to understand people and their motivations.



Do you want to pitch your TV pilot to major companies and have your script read by industry members? Submit to our Moonshot Pilot Accelerator by April 14, 2024, for a chance to be one of our 2024 fellows!

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