Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Like it says at the top - You only get one chance to make a good first impression!
Monday, March 29, 2010
Know that a pitch bible and a writer's bible are two different beasts. The latter is a much broader document created after a show's picked up, the former is designed to give a brief but clear overview of what you want to do with your cartoon.
Everyone looks for something different in a pitch bible. I like to see a very brief overview, a few character descriptions, a bit about the world in which the characters live, and a handful of storylines. Make sure your storylines are brief but that they contain a beginning, middle, and end (i.e. no "Ben and Jerry get jobs at a car wash and hilarity ensues" or "Lucy has to cook dinner for Ricky's new boss - will she be able to pull it off?"). Three or four sentences should be enough.
Be as brief as possible overall. A total of twelve to fifteen pages should suffice. A paragraph or two, using the right language, should be more than enough to give an exec the information they need to decide if they want to see more of that character. Put yourself in the exec's position - what would you like to see? Remember, most development executives see an awful lot of bibles, many drastically similar. Be short, sweet, and distinctive.
Include a mix of artwork. Not everything should be finished or finalized, although I always like to see one piece of art showcasing how the creator envisions how the show will ultimately look. However, remember every project goes through a lot of development and will look different than what you initially present. One more note: I, personally, dislike character art in which your characters are more or less standing there, as in the standard model sheet pose. I see it all too often, when I'd rather see the characters doing something that reflects their personality.
Keep in mind the purpose of a pitch bible is to get a network interested in seeing more, kind of like a movie trailer. It's a first impression and should grab attention.
Good words of advice!
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
This is the complete Pitch Bible for Steven Spielberg's Animaniacs that ran on Fox Kids and then The WB for five seasons starting in 1993.
(I scooped the link from www.latitude-comic.com - in all fairness, I have to credit my sources. Check 'em out. It's a good site.)
Okay. So how does this bible differ from what you or I are doing?
Well, cost aside - let's assume that since its Warner Bros and Steven Spielberg - that this bible cost in excess of $100,000 to produce and that it used the creative talents of a battalion of writers -- nothing.
It tells the who, what, when, where, why and how of the show. At 37 pages - THIRTY SEVEN PAGES??? - it goes into a lot more detail than you'd usually see (or want) in a pitch bible. (I suspect that its really the Writers Bible/Guide - there's no art and far too much detail for a pitch.) My suspicion is that all Steven Spielberg has to do is enter the room, smile and the show is sold. Anyhow, it's interesting and well worth a look.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
The broadcaster LOVES the Pitch Bible for my latest show. Absolutely LOVES IT.
We've (my team and I) spent most of the weekend working out a rough budget for the series. It goes to the broadcaster - as I figure it, right about now...
And there's nothing I can do. It's out of my hands. They 'get' the creative and now the million (behind the scenes) things that I haven't thought of - and have no control over, come into play:
- What's out there on the market, similar to my show? Well, we know there's nothing like it - or the broadcaster would have told us by now.
- Is our budget too high? Nope. We're confident that we're within the price threshold that they can afford.
- How's the market? It's been tight - but the broadcasters have to start spending money on new programming. Otherwise they'll get stale - and the other guys will have the exciting new shows.
JUST SO YOU KNOW - Although things are starting to buzz (show-wise), we're still taking Pitch Bible commissions. If you're interested in having a Pitch Bible that sells, get in contact with me sooner - rather than later!
Saturday, March 20, 2010
One of my projects is inching towards a Green Light.
Things are starting to heat up. The broadcaster loved my bible... well, naturally.
(What did you expect?)
As word leaks through the interweb, I'm beginning to hear from old friends - people I haven't heard from in months and even years.
Kinda like being a lottery winner!
Monday, March 15, 2010
I've been asked many times about "casting" at the Pitch stage. That means, putting names to the characters, as in - "Who would you get to play this character?"
There are a few ways this can go - and a few reasons for it.
As a writer, I find it easier to write for a character when I can picture who is going to play the role. In many cases, you're writing for a character in which the actor has not been cast. While writing a few episodes for the live action show "Family Biz", I spoke with the Producer and said that I pictured the actor who played Noah Bennet - Claire's Dad (on Heroes) as the Dad on the Family Biz show. The Producer agreed that actor would be a good fit for the role - and I had my model for my writing. Obviously, they didn't hire "Noah Bennet" for the part, but it worked from the writers perspective.
Often in a Pitch Bible, the writer will put a "such as" actor into the bible. This usually reads "We'll get an actor such as 'Alec Baldwin' for the role of ED." This is fair - the bible isn't committing to Alec Baldwin - just using his persona to give a taste of how the role will be played.
The big danger in this is when you have two or three "such as" actors, suggested for a single role. Its even more dangerous when the "such as" actors' styles are completely opposite to one another. I saw a bible once where they suggested James Woods, Shia LaBeouf and Adam Sandler for the same role. Which one is it? This tells me that the writer doesn't have a handle on what the character is about.
What I often do is choose an actor (in my case, usually Gilbert Gottfried - because the whole human race sounds like Gilbert Gottfried), get his voice into my head - and then write for him.
In one case where I actually did write for Gilbert Gottfried, people (on hearing the finished voice tracks) commented on how great his improv skills were. Actually, every word of his monologue was scripted - by me. But the point is - if you have a character in mnd - even if you don't put the name down in your Pitch Bible - it helps to lift the writing off the page and make it real.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Let's have a look...
A solid proposal must demonstrate:
- A strong understanding of Network X's audience and schedule; (Hi. This is me, here in the italics, commenting on their notes. About the "Strong understanding of Network X's audience and schedule: In all fairness - don't waste their time. If your show is really not what they're looking for - a kids show for "The Hunting Channel" - you're wasting their time and your effort.)
- A strong overall fit with Network X's programming needs; (If they show 1/2 hour episodics, round the clock - don't try to sell them on a Movie of the Week. They've got nowhere in their schedule to run a one-off.)
- Originality in subject or treatment; (This is a bit of a... I dunno. On one hand, they always ask for ORIGINALITY, while on the other hand, they really want "tried and true" - meaning SAFE programming. If the show tanks, "you know who's" job will be on the line.)
- Clarity of approach and focus; (Meaning - Know Your Stuff. If your show is about sea creatures, you should have a pretty good knowledge of sea life.)
- Creativity and imagination; (Goes without saying.)
- Top-quality writing, research and presentation; (Ditto again. Don't go in with some half-baked idea scrawled on a napkin. It ain't gonna fly.)
- Credentials of production personnel including a proven track record with professional and creative broadcast series production; (This depends. When I got my first development deal, my credits were really thin. If you have THE GREATEST IDEA IN THE WHOLE WORLD, the broadcaster may require that you partner with a more experienced producer. Don't let this stop you.)
- A thorough budget and financing scenario, if requested. (You should have a realistic idea of what it will cost to produce the show. Do your research and have it ready if needed.)
Please submit the following with your proposal:
- Summary of show concept, series focus and treatment;
(Hey! They want a Pitch Bible! Go figure...)
- Outline of its relevance and appeal to Network X's core audience;
(In your words, why will people watch it?)
- Show format and sample rundown (if applicable); (Ya know? In all my years, I've just done my first one of these. And it was only after I'd done it - that anyone asked. Its a good exercise and it helps you to prepare for the pitch.)
- List of key creative personnel and complete resumes.
(Good to have on hand - but the truth is, if you get your show up and running, you can buy all the creative people you want. Make up a "such as" list. Example - "This character will be played by an actor such as Tom Hanks". The reality is, you'll never get Tom Hanks - but it gives them a taste of what you have in mind. Same goes for artists.)
- Corporate profile with credits; Have your resume handy. ( Or, if you're more experienced, a link to your imdb page.)
- Video samples of your past work and, if applicable, of proposed host (Makes sense. It's always good to have a demo reel. I'm sure that I sold Freaky Stories on the strength of the 5 minute pilot that I made in my basement.)
- Signed RELEASE FORM (Yeah, yeah, yeah... They might make you sign one of these to protect themselves. You might have an idea similar to something they already have in development. This actually happened to me - I pitched a show to a network and it was EXACTLY what they had just shot a pilot for. They told me that my pitch was better - incidentally... but no sale...)
Let's talk about binding - or how you hold your pitch bible together for presentation.
Believe me, I've seen them all. Years ago when I was in charge of assembling the art for Nelvana's pitches (Cadillacs & Dinosaurs, Ace Ventura, WILDCats, etc.) I was in the situation where the L.A. sales agent would call me at 10:00 a.m., tell me what he needed - and I'd have to have the finished presentation ready to FedEx out at 5:00 p.m.
I learned to work fast. Not only that - I got to try a lot of crazy things:
Once, we had a VAMPIRE themed show. I built a 1/4 size coffin out of foamcore, covered it in textured Japanese paper, filled it with dead leaves (and the pitch material) and sent it out. The sales agent and the TV execs loved it.
That was an extreme case - and it underscores the main topic. You're leaving behind something that someone has to store - and possibly duplicate as they pitch it up the ladder. Whether it be to an internal department or a corporate "green-light" committee, your pitch has to be easy to handle. And it can't be too weird - like the coffin. Someone has to keep it in their office. You don't want them shrugging off your addition to their decor.
A lot of pitch bibles arrive in binders. Usually the binders have a lot of empty space inside, because the pitch bibles are only 15 to 20 pages. These aren't necessarily bad, but you run the risk of someone dumping your pitch and recycling the binder after you leave.
My early pitch bibles were simply stapled in the upper left hand corner. Simple, but hardly imaginative. Then I switched to brass fasteners, through the 3 punched holes in the paper. Occasionally, I'd find an arty-er solution - a variation of the brass fastener.
For a while, I used presentation binders - with plastic sleeves that you slipped your pages into. Some of the presentation binders come with slip covers and they look good, but can be costly - especially when you consider that you may need many copies.
For my Egypt Side Road pitch bible (right), I played on the show's "Machine Age" design esthetic by binding it with self-locking nuts and bolts. It looked great - and everyone commented (favorably) on them, but was surprisingly heavy. This became an issue when I pitched the show in L.A. I sent a FedEx shipment of bibles to my agent - 30 or 40 of them. The weight of 160 nuts and bolts added considerably to my shipping costs.
What I'm using now - its a learning experience - you have to keep looking for newer and better solutions - are simple plastic binding strips (on the left). They're found in better art and stationary stores. You bundle your proposal (stapling it, to keep it together) then slip a plastic strip over the spine. Voila! Inexpensive, elegant and it looks great. They're cheap and come in a rainbow of colours. For that extra edge, I print my pitches on heavy weight, gloss, presentation paper.
I haven't done this - but I've seen it on a few occasions -- custom binding services will professionally bind your pitch bible into a hardcover book. Here's one (right) that I swiped from the Jaguar booth at the 2009 Toronto Auto Show. I've seen photographers and artists self publish limited edition volumes of their work. I'm not aware of the cost, but it would make a great presentation piece. This swanky Jaguar book came with a DVD tucked into the back cover - an ideal way to present a pilot video. While other car brochures eventually find their way into the trash - the Jaguar brochure has found a permanent place on my bookshelf.
You have to weigh the "cool factor" of the binding VS the return on its cost. Let's put it this way, I don't know of any show that was ever sold (or passed on) because of the way the pitch bible was bound.
Monday, March 8, 2010
Monday, March 1, 2010
Snail Mail. They call it that for a reason. Two weeks later, I'm still waiting.
There's nothing wrong with snail mail for your daily correspondence, bills, magazines and junk mail. But we're in the entertainment business. SNAP! SNAP! Show biz. SNAP! SNAP! Things happen fast. SNAP! SNAP! People have short attention spans. SNAP! You have to strike while the iron's hot - when there's interest - and frankly... snail mail is too damned slow.
"It's in the mail" doesn't inspire confidence - especially not when you want to WOW somebody. Get it there - and get it there NOW!
If you're going to send documents, email is the way to go. If you find that the file sizes are too big - too much artwork, videos, etc. - then set up an FTP site. We use Sharefile. With Sharefile I can email a url to my intended viewer. They log onto the site and download the file(s) as they need it.
It's instant, secure and dare I say it? Sexy. Not only that, but you get a return receipt telling you that your file has been downloaded - the time, the date and by who.
Sure. Ben Franklin set up the U.S. Post Office - but last time I checked, this was the 21st Century. Move with the times.
I JUST WANT TO ADD SOMETHING HERE...
A number of years ago, I was seated on a Toronto-bound flight next to the owner of a very large animation studio. We chatted about things, the biz, people we knew, my project... When the plane landed (about 1 a.m.), the man asked to see my resume, portfolio and reel. He wanted it on his desk that morning.
I made damn sure that it was on his desk at 9 a.m.
I landed a job as a Producer at his by noon that day.
If I'd popped it in the mail and it arrived a week later - the guy would have had no idea who I was. He'd have forgotten all about me - and that Producer job would never have appeared. The lesson here is - STRIKE WHILE THE IRON IS HOT!