Friday, February 25, 2011

Yet Even More, MORE Stuff From The Mailbag...

Reader JPilot writes:

Hey Steve,
Would it be preferable to pitch to a broadcaster or a production company first?

Hello Jean,
The simple answer is - I don't know. There are advantages and disadvantages to each.

Let's assume that you show your (ANIMATION/KIDS) pitch to the broadcasters. In Toronto, it's YTV, Teletoon, TVO and CBC (possibly).

WORST CASE SCENARIO - none of the broadcasters are interested. You can't sell your show to local production companies, because you've already shown it to the broadcasters (their market). In that case you have to shelve the property (until the broadcast buyers are replaced) and then rework it to freshen it up for a repitch - 5 years down the road.

If you lie to the production companies and say that you haven't shown it to the broadcasters - they'll find out soon enough and you'll be toast. So don't do that.

BEST CASE SCENARIO - The Broadcaster is interested and wants you to get a production company onboard. This is the Best Case Scenario - because then EVERYONE LOVES YOU! You've done all the hard work and assumed all the risk for them. In that case, set up pitch meetings with 2, 3, 4 production companies... Hell, set up pitch meetings everywhere.With any luck, you'll have a bidding war on your hands. WARNING - Those who lose the bidding war will be mighty pissed off at you.

An the bright side, because the broadcaster likes your creative, you have much more creative control over the show. You become a key player. More about this...

If you pitch your show to a production company, it's one of many on their roster.

ADVANTAGES - Depending on what you negotiate, you can receive and Option Fee which allows them to pitch/develop your property for a specific period of time (the option period). Another advantage is that the production company would have a sales staff with the money and contacts to sell your show to broadcasters worldwide.

DISADVANTAGES - They will put their grubby fingers all over your work. Don't get me started.

Development Exec: Steve. You're ONLY the writer...

Steve's Agent: Steve. Put down the axe...

So which one do I recommend? I don't know. I'm currently pitching shows to broadcasters and production companies. It depends on what I feel is right for that particular show, personal relationships with the players, etc.

It all comes down to the old... NOBODY KNOWS ANYTHING.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Yet Even MORE From The Mailbag

A reader writes...

I was wondering, Steve, just what secret Masonic handshake one needs to sell a show in this incestuous business? I've pitched a few shows and have always been told everything is "Brilliant" but then I never hear from them again. Is it just a matter of waiting for the right person to "get" what you're presenting? Does a pitch have an expiry date or can you re-present to different people in the same company at a later date? I'd appreciate your input on this matter.

Thanks for writing in. Those are good questions.

Ah, the "secret handshake" - You have to remember that there are 1000 things going on at the broadcaster - none of which you're aware of:

- What's doing well for them?
- What is already in development? Is this similar?
- What's doing well for the competition? Is this like Spongebob?
- What's going to be "big" next year?
- What's for lunch?
- Do they think you have the ability to pull this off?
- What have you done in the past?
- Who have you worked with?
- What colour are your socks?
- What did they have for breakfast?
- Gee, this coffee's good.
- Who's sleeping with who?

These are things that you can't control. I was lucky with "Freaky Stories" - I had a unique project that hadn't been done before - and I found a sympathetic broadcaster who was willing to give untried and unknown talent a chance.

You've hit the nail on the head - you have to find the right person on the right day and a lot of stars and planets have to align.

In my experience you can't repitch an idea to the same company. I used to think that if you waited long enough, they'd die and you can pitch to their replacement - but apparently they keep notes. If you come in with the same FANTASTICALLY BRILLIANT IDEA THAT YOU REALLY BELIEVE IN AND WOULD SELL YOUR SOUL TO SEE PRODUCED - they'll say, "Nah. This is old. You pitched it to us a couple of years ago." Don't do it. You come out looking like an ass.

There are a thousand reasons a show gets on the air - or not. The bankability is a factor. It is unlikely that a company is going to give a guy working out of his home studio any sort of chance. But YTV did and it worked for me.

Let's put it this way - the brightest mind in Canadian TV animation looked at my "Freaky Stories" pitch and proclaimed, "It'll never get made - and if it does, no one would ever watch it." By way of a reply I quoted William Goldman's immortal truth about the entertainment industry, "No one knows anything."

Freaky got made and I kicked his studio up and down the ratings for the next three years. No one knows

November 25, 2009

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

KidScreen Update

I just got a phone call from a very happy client. The pitch bible and script that I wrote for them was very well received by broadcasters and production companies at The KidScreen Summit, last week in NYC.

It looks like they're well on their way to a development deal. More details as they become available.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Not for the Faint of Heart

Some potential clients asked if I could guarantee... IF I COULD GUARANTEE - That if I wrote a Pitch Bible for them, their show would sell. (They didn't want to spend the money without a guaranteed return on their investment.)

Of course I said, "no". I can't guarantee that. But I did guarantee that if they didn't have a Pitch Bible and they didn't pitch their show - it would never sell.

Sorry guys. There are no guarantees in life. Well, aside from that Death and Taxes stuff. But if you're going to play the game, then play the game. Otherwise, step aside and let the real talent shine.

There are 1,000 reasons why your show might not sell - and 1,000 reasons why it might. But while you have little or no control over them, you have to try.

Or not...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


After speaking to (and being rejected by) several publishers - Sorry folks. I don't want to write "A Beginner's Guide to Pitching TV Shows". I assume that my readers have some skill and talent as writers, otherwise they wouldn't be reading this blog. - I've decided to publish an E-Book on the subject of Pitching and Pitch Bibles.

Think of it as "The Pitch Bible Bible". It will tell you everything - and I mean EVERYTHING you need to know about writing a pitch bible and pitching shows. To be honest, I hold about 15 to 20% back from the info on this blog. That's the added value that I provide my clients and now it will be available to the readers of my new E-Book.

"So, Steve...", you say... "What's in this new book that we can't find on your blog?"
It'll be chock full of way-cool secret information, like:
  • How do you get past the Gate Keepers and speak directly to the decision makers?
  • This is the 21st century. How do you add cross-platform media into your pitch in a meaningful way?
  • How do you create living breathing characters in a 2 page pitch document?
Basically, its the difference between getting a development deal - and not getting a development deal.

When's the book coming out? Not sure - but it's in the works as a high priority item.

The price? Cheap. Million dollar insider info for less than a pack of ciggies.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

I'd Tell Ya - But Then I'd Have To...

Well, we've topped 10,000 hits. This may not seem like much to you. But to me, it's huge. So thanks again everyone.

Just to let you know that the Pitch Bible material isn't limited to pitching animation. I've used the Pitch Bible format shown in the blog to pitch live action, unscripted, feature films - and now... I'm pitching a toy.

A bit of history...

In 2001 I had a "eureka" moment. I had an idea for a point of purchase toy, similar to Crazy Bones. If any of you don't know "Crazy Bones", they were lumps of colored plastic with faces on them. They came, 3 in a foil pouch which sold for $2.99. As a dutiful father, I bought my son the entire set - investing many, many dollars in lumps of colored plastic with faces on them.

While examining one of these expensive plastic lumps, I bounced it up and down in the palm of my hand. The number "27" as in 'cents' flashed in my mind. Because that's what it cost to produce the 3 plastic lumps that I'd spent $2.99 to buy for my kid. This worked out to 9 cents per lump.

Another thought flashed in my head. "I can do that too."

So I designed a toy. I built a prototype. My pal had a 3D simulated model and packaging designed. It looked pretty good. I put together a pitch bible - found a sales agent (because I don't know NOTHING about the Toy Biz) and he took it to NYC.

We landed a toy deal. But before the much anticipated "pot of gold" could land at my feet, 9/11 happened, the economy tanked and with it - the toy business.

The toy company bought out the contract (THANKS GUYS!). Another toy company made a side deal and bought the toy's name (and trademark) from me. So I took the money and shelved the entire toy concept. I'd been paid twice for it - yet still owned the toy.

So now I'm reworking the pitch. I know that I've got a half-way good idea. It already has market acceptance - a toy company wanted it ten years ago. Now, I'm using my pitch bible skills to put together an up to date (and very cool) pitch to bring to market.

What's in this "toy bible"? Well, its got the same things you'd find in a TV show Pitch Bible:
The Who, What, Where, When, Why and How of the product - be it a toy or a TV show.

It also outlines the all important "WOW FACTOR". What sets my 27 cent piece of plastic apart from all the other 27 cent pieces of plastic? Why would a kid want to have one - or maybe 52 of them? Would a parent be intrigued enough to buy this toy? This is the same as the 'compelling reason' that I've outlined for online web series. "Why would someone watch this show?"

I'll let you know how it goes... So what is this toy? Its secret. If I tell you, I'd have to...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Thanks Everyone!

Just a note to say thanks to everyone for making January 2011 our best month ever with about 1250 hits.

I realize that many blogs get that amount of hits every day or every hour (every minute) - but for me, its staggering that this many people are checking out my little niche blog.

Thanks again - and more good stuff to come.