Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Beware of Helping Hands

One of the things I've encountered time and again as I pitch shows are people who want to help. Everybody loves show biz. Everybody wants "in" - to be a part of that Hollywood Glamour that just comes dripping off us.

A number of years ago while I was trying to get Freaky Stories up and running, I was introduced to a man, we'll call "Ted". Ted was a retired broadcast executive. He was very wealthy, very well connected and with his amazing career credentials - very impressive. He literally traveled the world, "helping" young producers get started.

Or so it seemed.

I'll be up front with you - Ted had the best of intentions. He wasn't out to hurt anyone. He'd sign you up - then try to put like-minded people together.

This is much like what a distributor does - except Ted didn't approach it like a business. It was a hobby for him. He also bought up rights to films and TV shows - but didn't know how to sell them - so they'd go stale on the shelf.

That's what happened to me. He'd call from all over the world, promising big things "next week" - but for a year, "next week" never arrived. Finally Ted and I parted company. But I kept an eye on him for a long time - none of his "big deals" ever materialized.

Ted didn't need to work. He did this to keep his hand in the game and stay relevant. That was his thing. For him, it was something to do.

From my point of view - I think its natural for newbie producers to look for "Angels" to help them out. Someone who will champion your project and move it forward. That's fine. That's an honest emotion/reaction. But the truth is, you have to keep your eye on your Angel - to make sure that they're REALLY doing what they say they do.

With Ted - while he didn't hurt me, he did waste my time. What I find these days is that everyone wants a piece of the action - but they're not willing to do anything to earn it. And believe me, there are a LOT of people out there who are making promises.

So how do you handle this? In any agreement, be it a letter, a contract or whatever - make sure that THEIR role in the project is clearly spelled out. They have to produce "A" in order to earn "B". And there has to be an EXPIRY DATE. If they don't 'produce' by a certain date - they're toast.

This will save you a lot of pain, suffering and hurt feelings later on - trust me.


  1. This is interesting. Do you find it easier to sell your concept when you are presenting it yourself or when a helper/businessman/ distributor does it remotely for you?
    I asked the question to an experienced person in series development in the U.S. and they said "absolutely bring the creative to sell his/her idea, he/she can pitch it and sell it better than a salesman or distributor who doesn't understand animation."

  2. Hi. Thanks for your note.

    Yes - absolutely. In every case, the creator of the show should be the one to pitch it. However, many production companies or distributors have EGO PROBLEMS and insist on having "one of their own" pitch the show.

    Second Best - a salesman, developer or distributor does the pitch. They usually have a briefcase full of other pitches, in case yours doesn't sell - they can whip out something else. "Don't like this? Try THIS!" Where's the commitment in that?

    WORST WAY - When they tell you to download the submission form and mail (or email) the pitch to them. You're wasting your time because they're not interested. I recently heard that from a broadcaster and said, "No thanks. I'll take it somewhere else." They will NEVER buy your show. If they can't take the 20 minutes for your pitch - they're not interested - and probably a bunch of dicks anyway.

    If you, the creator are in the room during the pitch and there's a question or objection to something - you can address it right there. If the question/objection lingers, your project is in trouble.

  3. Just want to add something to my previous comment.

    I called a broadcaster to schedule a pitch appointment. I actually knew and had worked with the executive many years ago and we got along well.

    I got her on the phone - and after the usual hello's and chat, she asked that I schedule the meeting with the director of development. Okay. This sounds reasonable.

    She put me through to the next lady, who asked me to set it up with her assistant. Again, reasonable.

    The assistant said she was busy and shuffled me off to the receptionist, who in turn referred me to the online submission page - which frankly, is unreasonable.

    I think that by the time you've been shuffled off to the second person, you should shop your show elsewhere.

  4. Just out of curiosity, and definitely not the route I'd want to take, but could you publish an example of one of these online submission pages? I only want to see it as a caution and especially to see what kind of contractual legal language they use. The fine print if you will.


  5. Man I'm really digging these articles. Keep em coming!