Saturday, December 12, 2009

Before You Close That Distribution Deal...!

Jerome Courshon over on the Linked In Animation and Film Jobs discussion site has started this topic.

Here's what he has to say: Too many producers & directors don’t know what questions need asking, when talking to distributors. Don’t make that mistake and “fall in love” during courtship... make sure your distributor will be the right one! Then it links to his site that has the usual ins and out - he's selling a course. Here's the link.

Fair enough as far as it goes. But really, it doesn't go far enough, so here's what I've added. Please feel free to suggest a few from your own experiences.

You'll probably be too excited about the deal and will sign your life away - but just in case you're not, here are a few things to check out:

Do your homework:

Does your distributor have a history of optioning projects and then shelving them? Do they have any similar projects on the go? Might your option fee be their way of eliminating competition?

Does your distributor provide accurate annual sales reports?

Does this distributor believe in paying ROYALTIES???
It doesn't matter what your contract says. Unless you have the $$$ and the stones to enforce it in court - they can rob you blind. So ask around - check with other people who have dealt with them - do they pay royalties?

Here's another one:

Does your distributor "get" your project? Do they understand what it's about?

Lemme explain: I don't like baseball.. Not that I don't really like it - I just don't get it. Sure, I understand the rules and how the games played. I even understand some of the subtleties of strategy, but the passion for the game eludes me.

My brother-in-law on the other hand is a baseball fanatic. He visits all the historic parks. He's made the pilgrammidge to Cooperstown. My nephew plays on a rep team. They live and breathe baseball.

Who would you rather have represent your baseball show and pitch it to buyers? The guy who gets it or the guy (who despite his best intentions) doesn't? Talk to your prospective distributors carefully - DO THEY GET IT?

IS IT A GOOD DEAL? Sometimes distributors simply offer crappy deals. I recently got up from a boardroom table, thanked everyone for their time and walked away from a deal. Why? It was a crappy deal. It stunk on ice and only a fool would have taken it. Know when to walk away.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

T'is Better To Give...

It's the season of giving - so let's talk about it.

We've all been to events; trade shows, conventions, etc., where as we walk past booths or tables, we stop and pick up free pens and stuff. Right? Everyone does it. We have drawers full of free stuff.

Likewise, when I'm at Sheridan College's Industry Day each year in April - the kids keep foisting demo reels and art samples on me. To be honest, I'm not in a position to hire anyone, so I rarely if ever take a sample. Better that you guys give them out to people who might actually hire you.

But in the pitching process, people often give out things - to entice the person on the other side of the table to take on their projects. If you go into the office of a Broadcast Executive or even a Develpment "executive" - they're filled with really neat treasures. Art, scale models - they invariably wear a cool "crew jacket" - or they did, back in the day.

A few years ago when I was pitching my "Egypt Side Road" movie in Toronto and L.A. - aside from the amazing book that I had made up for the pitches (see the earlier post) - I gave out sample animation cels. Here's a look...

They were gorgeous. 11" X 17" matted on acid free paper. Hand painted with amazing detail that doesn't reproduce here. And they weren't cheap - but because I was trying to promote my movie, I had quite a few made up. And as I quickly discovered - they disappeared fast. (I have a few left that might wind up on eBay at some point. Hint Hint...)

The point is - people started grabbing them because they were way-cool and free. I was getting calls and notes - requests for these great pieces of art - and people were chatting me up. But these people weren't interested in my movie - they were grabbing the art. I remember shipping a couple of these off to some sleaze-ball executives in L.A. - with the packing and insurance... Yeesh.

On another project - I pitched a live action show, where the lead characters drove around in a really amazing custom car. We would have built it full size for the show - but I made an incredibly detailed scale model for the pitch.

When I unveiled it - the Broadcast Exec gasped said, "I want that model." I looked at her across the table and said, "Buy my show - and I'll give you the model." She didn't blink.

I knew that if I didn't hand over the model car - there was no way she'd buy my show. And even if I did - there was still no guarantee that she'd buy my show. I handed it over. She didn't buy my show - and I'm down, one really, really cool model car.

Now days, I go in to pitch with very simple pitches - usually printed on plain paper, very simply bound.

So the point is - if your pitch needs some kind of gimmick to sell it, maybe it's not worth pitching. A truly great idea stands on its own.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

You Never Can Tell...

In my experience, you never can tell what is going to happen in a pitch.

I mean, you've done your homework and hopefully the pitch is honed to the point where you have it down perfectly. You've rehearsed it. You have every base covered. You can anticipate every single one of their questions - and...

They hit you with the curveball that you're not expecting. There's always that one last question...

I had a meeting yesterday with a major web carrier about my new show. We'd met before. They not only like my show - they LOVE IT! So here's the curve: Their sales force will have to sell it - and although the numbers are right, they've never seen projected audience numbers as high as I'm forcasting them.

I was ready. I produced my data - the sources are accurate - but they've never seen a show like this. It's an entirely new model. They didn't know what to do with it. They didn't want to let it get away, but they can't justify the cost of the entire series.

So I suggested a pilot. We're going to do 4 episodes - and see what our numbers tell us. This is the ideal way to do a show. No focus groups. No guesswork. We're just going out and doing it.

Which is exactly what happened with Freaky Stories - we did our low budget pilot, that blew everything else away. The following week, we were greenlit for our series...