Monday, April 26, 2010


With Sheridan College's Industry Day fast approaching, bloggers like Mark Mayerson have posted some excellent advice for film school graduates and other job seekers. A lot of this also applies to people who are pitching shows. Mark makes some good points - so I'll simply refer you to his blog. That said, there is an idea that I'd like to suggest - radical? Yes. Heretical? Maybe. But here it is...

Look outside of your comfort zone. Graduates of Animation Schools look down on other types of filmmaking. "I'd never make a live action film." is a comment that I've heard time and again. I was banned from the website (2 lifetime bans and counting) because amongst other things - I'm a writer, not an animator. People in the arts - although they like to think that they're liberal, are really quite xenophobic. If you're not one of us - you're EVIL!!! For a really good look at this, check out - an artsy-techno site which once claimed to be a "directory of wonderful things" - and now boasts an "anti-everything" point of view.


If you're pitching a show - does it have to be animated? Or live action? Or puppets? With the convergence of technologies available today, there are an unlimited number of options available to a producer.

If you have a vision for your show - that's the way you want to see it produced. But you have to ask yourself, "Is this the best way to do my show?" Times are tough - budgets are tight. Its easier to sell a less expensive show than a costly one.

My original pilot for FREAKY STORIES was a 5 minute animatic (a film made up of camera moves - zooms, pans - over static artwork). The network commissioned a 1/2 hour animatic pilot - which worked out very well. From that point, we went into fully animated production on the series. But my original vision was that FREAKY should have been done as animatics - with the artwork farmed out to a wide variety of artists.

That was my original concept - but for the network sale, we had to change it. For the better? Maybe.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


I've been invited to speak at the Sheridan College Animation Program Industry Day. Industry Day is when the graduates strut their stuff for industry types (hence the name) in the hopes of landing a job. Recruiters come from major studios across the continent - so its a big deal.

Me? I usually go for the free food - and to hang with my buddies - who also show up for the free food.

But this year, they've asked me to share some of my wisdom with the grads. Like what I've learned in my unconventional 30 year career. It's an informal "kick back and relax" panel after the main proceedings. Sheridan is my Alma Mater, so its kind of an honor.

So as I prepare to talk to the grads and other people from the industry, I have to ask myself, "What have I learned?"

There are a couple of key things. Life lessons to take with them on their journeys. The shit they don't teach in school.

Number One - and the most important thing that I ever learned:


Carve that in stone. Thank you William Goldman. This is the greatest truth in our business or any other business for that matter. Don't believe me? You think that big business movers and shakers know what they're doing? How soon we forget about the Subprime Mortgage Meltdowns. I'll talk about this in greater length at Sheridan - what it means to you - and how it works to your advantage.

Number Two -


There will always be good times. There will always be bad times. And I'll talk more about this at Sheridan.

That is - if I can get a word in edgewise on the panel.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


A guy contacted me with some questions last night. He's working on a pitch bible.

"Great! Good for you." I replied.

"Its a great idea - and everybody loves it", he said.

"Fantastic - how far along are you?" I asked.

"I've got the idea all worked out" he said.

"All worked out? Okay. And how long has this taken you?" I asked.

"Uhhh..." he thought, counting back in time. "Three years."

Hey. That's fine. Take as long as you want. There's no rush - seriously.

BUT if you're serious about creating and pitching a show - you've actually got to do the work. Or, you can hire an expert to do it for you. I'm turning out pitch bibles in 3 weeks (allowing for approvals). This includes 2 main drafts and a polish - with approvals at every stage.

Or - you can spend three years on your idea...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Trademarks and Domain Names

I was asked recently about how to register the name of someone's project. Should they obtain a trademark, or is there some other (cheaper) way to register the title?

While technically you can't trademark a title, you'd be foolish to call your project "Star Wars". That's just inviting trouble. Don't do it. Not a smart move.

I have in the past, gone the trademark route. I came up with a kids toy - based on WWII spy technology. I registered the name "Spy Gear". When the toy manufacturing deal fell through, I was immediately contacted by Wild Planet Toys. They wanted to buy the name. The offer was very generous - but it was a "carrot or stick" situation. The lawyer said that if I didn't take the deal, they'd use the name anyway - and it would be up to me to sue them. That would be a long and expensive process. I took the deal, sold the name - and when you see SPY GEAR toys at Toys R Us - you'll know that I came up with the name. And they had to sell a LOT of toys just to pay for it.

Funny thing - they were very nice until I signed over the trademark and dot-com. Then I never heard from my new "best pals" ever again. I feel so cheap and used...

Cheaper and more effective than a trademark registration are - Domain Names. Get your own dot-com. It's cheap, its easy, its fast - and if you own "", they'll have to deal with you.

You don't have to build a site. You can register the name through a domain registry. It'll probably cost you about $15 for the year. ONE THING TO KEEP IN MIND -- VERY IMPORTANT!!!!!

Let's assume that you have a cool name for your project. I'm not even going to guess what it is. But you've Googled it and it doesn't come up. Chances are, its available. Whatever you do, DON'T type "www.Your Cool Name Goes" into your browser window, over and over - while you think about registering the name. Why not? Because a domain registry will grab the name and sit on it. You'll either have to BUY the domain name back from the bastards (expensive) or... find another domain name. Type in the name - and register it. It's only $15 so just do it!

Also - go for ".com". The registries offer all sorts of wimpy alternatives, like ".net", ".org" or even ".tv"- but baby, those are second place. You want ".com".

Been there. Done that. Learn from my mistake.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Being Flexible

I recently signed with a distributor to handle my properties and hopefully get some of them into production. She has a great track record and I've got my fingers crossed.

So as I sat with "my people" and "her people" in a trendy downtown eatin' joint - the subject came up... One of my shows has been shopped around a LOT. Everyone has seen it - it's almost been green-lighted for production at several points over the last few years.

Now, a broadcaster and studio are interested - but there's a catch... My characters are all of a certain type of creature. Everyone loves the writing and the idea behind the show - but The Whole World has seen it before. Would I consider changing the species of the main characters - and of course their names - and the show's title?

I thought about it for about 1/10th of a second before agreeing. What's important for me - is the stories. Whether the lines are said by furry woodland creatures or slimy critters makes no difference - its the same jokes.

If we had to stupid-ify the jokes, that would be a different matter. But since they like the Marx Bros styling of the show, we're in good shape.

I spoke recently with some guys who are the polar opposite about their creation. They don't want to change anything and are not willing to compromise.

Who's right? Who's wrong? In the long run, I don't know. I think that I'll have the easier time of selling my show - because I'm willing to compromise. But at what point do you draw a line in the sand and say to the money guy - or other potential partner: "This isn't working for me"?

I guess you have to know your own show - and what you will and won't bend on.