Monday, August 30, 2010

BATMAN: The Animated Series Writer's Bible

Okay. So this isn't the original Pitch Bible for BATMAN: The Animated Series - but it is the Writer's Bible that would have been commissioned during the show's development. This is massive, gorgeous - and goes into much more detail than you would ever do on a 'regular' animated show.


Because BATMAN is a property with a canon. There is a history that has to be adhered to, or reconciled with. If you fail to address Batman's history - who he is, where he came from, why he does what he does - then it isn't Batman.

An original property doesn't have that sort of history, allowing your writers more freedom to create the canon of your series. Also, BATMAN had a HUGE budget, the kind we're not likely to see again.


So against my better judgment, I'm involved in a couple of internet discussion groups.
Why do I do this...? Never mind.

In one of the recent online topics, they discuss how to pitch a show and the various options available to them. Should they make a pilot? Should they mortgage their homes and just make the whole series? (I know someone who did this. Don't do this.)

I suggested that they build their brands online, as I'm doing with Brain Eatin' Zombie Babies.
While they've pointed to successful online producers such as Shane Dawson, nobody in the animation community seems to 'get it'. You must create a constant flow of content in order to build a brand. Viewers need a reason to revisit your site. And they must revisit it often. If you can only put up a new video sporadically, then you're not going to get a critical mass of viewers.

My guess is that it's nearly impossible to do that in animation because of the cost. If you're on a budget (and who in the 'independent world' isn't?) then you're probably doing it yourself - while you're working that day-job.

As you know, I've gone the puppet-route for my latest project. My feeling is Creative = Creative no matter what the medium. For the life of me, I can't understand animation purists - "If it ain't Disney (Pixar, Dreamworks, Anime... the list goes on) it's crap!" My feeling is that whatever best conveys your idea is what you should go with.

Check out the clip posted above. It's great. Watch the whole thing - then come back. Don't worry. I'll wait for ya...

(whistles... files nails...)

Okay. What did you see? A street performer. A Busker.
The guy earns his living by performing in the streets.
The thing that separates him from the other Buskers is that he's performing (brilliantly) in a medium that we don't see all that often in street performances. He's a puppeteer. And a damned good one. People don't usually see puppeteers - and it catches their attention.

That's we should all be striving for in our pitch bibles - A) Quality and A) Uniqueness.

Yes, I've mentioned "A" twice - because those two elements are of equal importance if you want to sell a show. Give them something they haven't seen before - and do it brilliantly! Add volume - as in a large number of episodes and you have the magic combination of success in any aspect of showbiz - whether it be pitching bibles or in live/online performances.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Savoring the moment...

I've worked on some projects that have gone big (Freaky Stories, Atomic Betty, Magic School Bus), some projects that have died on the table (Rocket Rodents, The Seven, Buzz & Dewey) and a bunch of stuff in between.

The one thing they have in common is that special point in time, where people just don't get it. Its the early stage where they think you're crazy. I love that point in time - its the pugnacious, "I'll show them!" attitude that really gets the creative juices flowing. And its amazing how fast you can go from "Zero" to "Hero".

Those who remember Freaky Stories, remember it as a good, smart show. I still get emails every week from strangers asking about it. But in my mind Freaky brings back bitter-sweet memories where everyone said that I was completely out of my head. And I heard that from a lot of people.

With my feature, "PUBIC LICE: The Motion Picture" - There was a tipping point, where it went from a crazy idea in my mind - and turned into a real tangible motion picture. That fact that it hasn't found a distributor is irrelevant. PUBIC LICE went from an idea to become a physical product.

And now, with BRAIN EATIN' ZOMBIE BABIES - I'm at that same wonderful place. We've got a few micro-episodes out there on YouTube. We've had about 1500 hits so far. Not viral by any means, but people seem to like it. All it needs, is to be discovered. But what I really like, are the naysayers. The people who don't believe in it. The ones who don't get it. Maybe ZOMBIE BABIES will take some time to build, but it will - and today's naysayers will be its biggest fans tomorrow.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Very Important Message

Check this out. For the record, when I was trying to get FREAKY STORIES up and going, I was told by one of the most knowledgeable people in the industry:

"Freaky Stories will never get made. And if it ever did, no one would watch it."

Believe in yourself.

Friday, August 6, 2010

If It Ain't On The Page - It Ain't On The Stage

I recently met with a production company to discuss revising their new Pitch Bible in preparation for MIPCOM. I'd read over their notes 3 times before the meeting and thought that I knew it quite well, when I sat down with them.

Then as we discussed it - I learned something about the project that wasn't in the bible. It was a comedy. I was floored. What I'd read was a grim, action-adventure piece. There was nothing remotely funny about the set-up or the characters. At all. There was not one CLUE that this was an adventure-comedy. The producer was very upset when I pointed this out to him. I think I hurt his feelings. Needless to say, I didn't get the job.

But I can imagine the hilarity that will ensue when they try to pitch the project to a broadcaster. It's like pitching a romantic comedy without mentioning the romance. Or the comedy. Cue the sound of CRICKETS. Because there will be an uncomfortable silence in the room.

You have to be specific up front about what your project is. You have to understand and communicate the genre, up front - so that everyone understands what you're doing. If you bible implies that your project is in one genre - when its really in another - then you've confused your buyer and I guarantee that they will pass on your project.

I had no idea it was supposed to be funny. Honest.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Bag and Tag

The family's coming over for a civic holiday BBQ, so I've been stashing the Zombie Babies puppets and props. One thing that I learned during the production of Freaky Stories was how important it was to properly store your assets for the next season of production.

Each year when we finished the puppet shoots, the puppet crew would powder, wrap and very carefully store the puppets and their props. It seemed like a lot of work the first time I watched them do it - I would have just thrown them into boxes and been done with it. But when the next season rolled around, the puppets were in great shape and everything we needed was right where we expected it to be.

So, what does this have to do with Pitch Bibles?

They are assets. They have value - whether you've sold them or not. So store them carefully. Even if you're not actively pitching and selling, you want to know that your creations are in good shape. How do you do that?

First, register your latest or final draft with the WGA (WGC or whatever).

Next, back up your work on a disc and even print out a hard copy. To be even safer, store it "off-site" on an FTP site. You can upload the files and have access to them at any time. This way, no matter what happens - even if your house burns down and your computer is destroyed, your work will survive. As one who has survived some catastrophic computer failures - its a nice feeling to know that your work is safe.

I've actually started uploading my work to our FTP site on a daily basis - to back up the writing that I do. Its a good habit to get into.