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


  1. Hey Steve,

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

  2. Hello Jean,
    Good question. I think I'll answer it as a new topic...