Wednesday, April 27, 2011

My Worst Pitch EVER!!!

This happened a number of years ago. I had a pitch meeting in the early afternoon, but met an old friend for a quick lunch. We stopped in at a small Middle-Eastern place and being brave, I ordered something (I forget what) that I'd never tried before.

Untried restaurant. Untried food.

It was delicious. We finished lunch. My friend went back to his office. I went to my meeting. But as I got to my car, I noticed something odd. I was sweating. Really sweating. Not the, "it's a warm day" - kind of sweat, but buckets were pouring off me.

It must have been something that I ate. I wasn't sick. I wasn't going to throw up. I was just drenched in sweat. And it was getting worse.

By the time I got to the meeting, I was sopping wet. My clothes were soaked and sticking to me. The guy I was meeting with asked if I was okay. I assured him that I was - but all he could do was stare at me. My hair was plastered down over my face...

The pitch didn't go well. I felt fine, but I was dripping puddles on everything. When I got up to leave, there was a wet puddle where I'd been sitting. Needless to say, the show didn't sell. We won't even discuss the squishy handshake at the end of the meeting.

So what do we learn from this? Know when to cancel. If you're sick. If you have a cold, a flu, something that you even think is contagious - do everyone a favor and put it off until next week.

Nobody wants to get sick - and spreading germs isn't the best way to pitch your show.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


I pitched a show to a production company yesterday. The pitch went very well - they "got" the idea - it's a cool show. It may turn into a development deal.

Nice. Nice. Nice... Yeah. Yeah. Yeah....

Moving on... They've asked me not to show or pitch the show/idea to anyone while "we" decide how to proceed. Its common that once you're out pitching, you set up a bunch of meetings - and you pitch your show around town until you get the right deal. But in this case, they've asked that I not show it to anyone. They want to keep it under wraps until we're ready to pitch it to broadcasters. (They like the creative, but feel it needs a bit of refinement.)

This is fine with me. Now I'll get to the point...

A faithful reader sent a link to his blog page a few months back. The blog was about the show he was (or maybe still is) pitching. I'll be honest, it was probably the best idea for an animated show that I've seen in a LONG time. And he's got it sitting out there for anyone to "borrow".

First thing - I told him to remove it from the web. Right now. This very second. Only show it to the people that you want to see it - don't show your fresh, bright, new idea to the world - because ideas can't be copywritten. They're like free intellectual properties.

Little minnows swimming in a shark tank.

But he didn't listen. His idea is still posted up there - and I expect to see it, or something very "similar" on the tube in the next few years...



Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Animation Insider

I'm profiled at Mike Milo's <-- You can check it out here!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

BEHOLD! The Magic Galoshes!!!

I was discussing a show concept with a friend recently: Its about a hero who, when he puts on a helmet of supernatural origins, gains the power of ________________ <-- fill in the blank. And he fights evil...

To be honest, I didn't like the idea. "What happens when he's not wearing the hat?" I asked.
"He's just a normal guy - but WITH the hat - he's SUPERMAN!!!", said my friend.

I stopped him right there. THAT'S the problem. Your hero is only interesting when he's wearing The Magic Galoshes. Otherwise, who cares? The HERO of a show can't be an average, ordinary, normal guy. He's got to be extra-ordinary in his day-to-day life - because from a story standpoint, "What happens if he can't get to The Magic Galoshes?" What if he loses them? What if they're at the shoemakers? Without the boots - he's nothing.

Let's take a look at a "Magic Galoshes" premise that works - and works brilliantly: IRON MAN.

(Disclaimer: I'm a DC guy. I grew up on Batman and Superman. I've bought 1 Spiderman comic in my whole life - and I don't know those X-Guys from a hole in the ground. Point being - I come to the Marvel Universe as a Newbie. I don't know anything about them - so I have no preconceptions. But I like what I see!)

Tony Stark - billionaire, playboy, scientist - is Iron Man. And I'll be honest, Tony Stark as played by Robert Downey Jr. is a hell of a lot more interesting as Tony Stark, than he is as Iron Man. Iron Man flies. Iron Man makes things go BOOM! Big deal.

They could make a "Tony Stark" movie and I'd go see it - because Tony Stark is an interesting character (with a lot of flaws and vices) and I like him. He's a richly written character, with a troubled past and an interesting present. Put Tony Stark in a rocket-powered tin suit - BONUS!

Point being - 'gimmick' shows usually don't work. That doesn't mean they don't sell. They do - but they don't have the "legs" or richness of concept needed for a strong run.

Bottom Line: Your Hero has to be interesting WITHOUT the gimmick.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

In The Works

Just a note to let you know that my book, "The Pitch Bible - Bible" is in the works and well under way. I expect to have it completed and off to the publisher (Ha Ha Ha...) by the end of April. Probably the end of May is more likely.

The Pitch Bible - Bible will go far beyond the contents of the blog with everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) you'd need to know about creating, pitching and selling a TV show. This book has been a massive undertaking - so hang in there. I think it'll be worth it.

Saturday, April 2, 2011


From the blog of Austin, Texas artist AUSTIN KLEON:


This is important stuff. Take the time to read it.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Straight Talk About The Business

Someone made this video using 'extranormal' software and posted it on YouTube. It's getting some play, so I thought that as someone who has been actively pitching shows for 20+ years, I would weigh in with my comments and observations.

Whoever made this video ("Anonymous" naturally) gave their opinion. I'm going to offer mine.
First off - take 3:53 and watch the video.

Done? Okay. Let's get going:

"Stick it in the slot." It's true. Everyone will ask you to submit your project - but the reality is, they get a lot of submissions and their time is limited. They'd prefer not to meet, but if you POLITELY ask for a meeting, 99 times out of 100, you'll get one.

"What is the Canadian Content?" This is completely false. While everyone, broadcaster and production company alike would like to have the Maple Leaf tattoo'd to the butt of every show, I am never asked about the Can-Con quotient and I've pitched a lot of shows. The "Canadian Content" is made up by the people working on the show in key creative positions and through regional production programs.

Let's talk about "regional production". Yes, it can be difficult when you live in Toronto and you have to work in some place like Ottawa. But it can be done and done well. When I was working for a major Toronto studio, the attitude was, "If they were any good, they'd be working in Toronto". Yet this was the same attitude that we received from U.S. based studios. WE couldn't be any good - we were working in... Canada.

Yet, when I went to Ottawa and met the artists there - there were many whom, if they lived in Toronto - would be on my "A" list. So I put them on my "A" list. Bottom line - GREAT TALENT CAN BE FOUND ANYWHERE. Just because you live in NYC or LA or TO - doesn't make you great. Or even good...

"Who's Going To Write The Stories?/Are You Members of The Writers Guild?" - This is completely wrong. You don't need to be a member of The Writers Guild in order to write for television. As a matter of fact, the way to join The Writers Guild - is BY WRITING FOR TELEVISION. Once you've got that first contract, then you're eligible to join. A production company or broadcaster would prefer to work with a Guild Member because Guild membership indicates that you are a professional who understands the workings of television production. It's nice - but not necessary.

"Safe and Non-Controversial Material" - Excuse me? In "Freaky Stories" we touched on EVERY bodily function/fluid except for menstrual blood. The broadcaster and production company allowed me to kill characters on-screen. I presented stories about "Sex, Drugs & Rock 'n' Roll" - but in smart, oblique ways. In "Atomic Betty", I re-staged "The Manchurian Candidate" for 8 year olds, INCLUDING themes involving drug use, brain washing and assassination. (I left out the incest.) Again, this was for 8 year olds - and it passed the network's Broadcast Standards and Practices without anyone blinking an eye. If you are smart, you can do anything on TV. Anything.

"The Writers Don't Even Work In the Same Building As You" -- True. Except for instances where the show uses a "Writers Room" - which is rarely done in Canada. I've never been part of a Writers Room - Writers and Story Editors work from home. On their own time. On their own schedule. So unless you want to see me writing stories in my pajamas and fuzzy pink bunny-slippers - you're going to stay at home too.

"If you're lucky, the whole thing will be animated in the Philippines for pennies a day" - Well folks - that is the reality of the business. It's TV - not feature films. You have to work overseas, or you don't work at all. You hire the best people that you can afford. You hire the best studio, the best overseas studio and the best OVERSEAS SUPERVISOR that you can get.

And you know what? Check out my notes (above) on Canadian Content. Some of those "pennies-a-day" overseas animators are better than you. Hell, I'd bet that most of them are better than you.

"Cheap Animation School Labour" - Well, someone's bitter. It looks to me that whichever "Old Timer" who made this video, never went to animation school - or scraped along to pay his dues.

"It's Cheaper To Develop New Content Than to Continue With Existing Shows" - Incorrect. Sorry, this is just plain wrong. The MINIMUM number of episodes required for syndicated distribution is 39. A show does not and can not make money in its first season. Production companies and broadcasters want and need to build an audience for their brands. Whoever made this video is misinformed.

OVERALL - I'd say this video was made by a bitter wanna-be show creator. He/She/It blames everyone without taking a good look at the CREATIVE of the show to be pitched. Let's be realistic about this. Not every idea is a good idea. Not every pitch is a good pitch. Most of them are pretty awful - it's that old "98% Rule". It isn't always the fault of the system. Trust me.