Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Animaniacs Bible

The previous link to the Animaniacs Bible is down. However, I've located a new link, which you can find... HERE.

As noted before - this appears to be a writers guide, rather than a pitch document. Either way, it's fun reading.


A Typical Day

A potential client contacted me about writing a pitch bible for him. Only one problem: After speaking with him, I knew that what he wanted me to write, wouldn't sell.

The core idea was okay, but his format was way off. It was confusing - so much so, that anyone reading it would be left scratching their head, unsure what the project was about.

Which left me with the moral dilemma; "Should I take this guy's money and deliver the product that he wants, but which I absolutely believe will fail? Or, should I argue with this man - and get him to see things my way?"

The problem was - if we did it my way and forever reason, it didn't sell - then I'd be to blame.

It was a no win situation. I wished the guy luck with his project and I've moved on to other things. But in the interests of Public Service, here AGAIN are some Things that a Broadcaster looks for in a Pitch.

Ignore them at your peril:

  1. 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 knitting show for "The Hunting Channel" - you're wasting their time and your efforts.)
    • 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...)

Monday, August 29, 2011


Image from "The Goon" by Eric Powell. Please
check out Eric's work and THE GOON, here.

I spoke recently with the head of programming for a major cable network. During the course of our conversation, I asked what it is, that he looks for in assessing a new show or project. His answer:

"New Eyes" - Will this show bring new eyes (new viewers) to our channel?

In today's market, the goal is not only to satisfy the current viewers, so that they remain loyal to the channel - but to attract NEW viewers to boost the ratings.

So how do you do that?

When we were producing Freaky Stories, we were writing for adults. It wasn't a kids show. It looked like a kids show. It sounded like a kids show - but there was an adult subtext - smart stuff was going on.

The kids would be happily watching the show - while the parents, listening in the next room and interested in what they were hearing - would come in, sit beside their kids and watch the show too. We brought "new eyes" to the broadcaster.

While everyone was watching the episodes - I was watching the commercials - because I knew that the ad agencies had the exact audience demographics. The first couple of weeks, it was mostly promos and PSA's. Then we got commercials for breakfast cereal. I knew we were reaching the right audience when we got our first mini-van ad.

Check out the really successful animated series of the past couple of decades: the Spongebobs, the animated Batmans, the Ren and Stimpys. They're smart. They're subversive. They appeal to multiple audiences. And most important from a show sales point of view, they bring New Eyes to the broadcaster.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

There ain't no cure for the Summertime Blues...

Yeah, yeah, yeah - I haven't been writing much. It's Summertime. It's nice out - and as I sit on my hilltop, trusty dog beside me, watching the clouds roll by - I'm thinking of amazing, insightful things to write. Notice how I keep procrastinating about finishing my book?

Nobody to blame but me. My fault. But I promise to put my shoes and socks back on and start writing new material in the next few days. That said, here's something to tide you over...

Collected here are links to The Very BEST of The Pitch Bible Blog.No searching - it's all right here!

NEW!!! (I just want to add one note: You generally get one shot at pitching a project to a broadcaster. If they pass - its over. Got it? You get one try at it. While there is a lot of good info posted below - if you're really set on pitching your Million Dollar Idea, it might be worth your while to hire a Pro - someone who knows what they're doing when it comes to pitches.)
Everyone owns a hammer, pliers and a drill, right? But who among us does his own dentistry?

Subtle Sales Pitch over... Here's the goods...

TOPICS - In No Particular Order - But all very important...


TOPICS - In No Particular Order

Happy Reading - More To Come

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

20,000 Hits

I know that in the big world of the internet, 20,000 hits isn't much - but for the little old PITCH BIBLE Blog - that's a lot. Thanks everyone for your support.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Two Routes to Sucess

I spoke recently with a very successful entertainment entrepreneur, asking (yes - I interview people asking for the secrets to their success - which they usually provide) - about how to produce a successful new show.

His answer: "Do something original. Or do something that's been done before - only do it better."

Let's examine that. Do something original. That's a tough one. I'll be honest - Original is a hard sell, because people have no idea what you're talking about. They've never seen it before, so you probably have to create it - and then sell it. Of course, they'll still have no idea what it is.

I ran into this problem with Freaky Stories. I produced 3 pilots (limited animation, graphics, etc.) and it took many years to get the show into production because the powers that be, didn't grasp the concept.

Here's a brilliant example of something original. It's simple - One guy singing a song - yet has huge "WOW" factor - because it's done in a completely novel way. And brilliantly produced.

Here's something that's been done before: STOP MOTION ANIMATION - but done brilliantly. Two examples from Sumo Science(Ed Patterson and Will Studd). The first, "DOT" is the smallest Stop Motion film set ever made.

Next, "GULP" uses the largest Stop Motion setup ever done.

In both cases, the filmmakers were able to rethink a conventional idea and use it to attract attention and financial backing to their very successful projects. Its nothing that hasn't been done before from a content point of view - just very well and in a new way.

Also - the scale of the projects fit perfectly with the content of the films.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Tale of Two Pitches

I want to be very clear about something: I like to see new pitches. I want to LOVE everything that crosses my desk. I want to be the first person to see the NEXT BIG THING. So I get really excited when I see something great - and I'm really disappointed when I see a lost opportunity. I'm not trying to be mean - I'm just being honest. And maybe a little selfish - because I WANT to love your work.

I've received two pitches in the last couple of days. Coincidentally both were from teams of filmmakers in the U.K. Those were the only similarities - except for the fact that both teams claim to have studied my blog and wanted my feedback.

The first to cross my cathode-ray screen was from a duo calling themselves "tea and cheese". I thought their pitch was pure gold. Flawed, but pure gold. It had everything that I wanted to see in a pilot and online bible. It told me who the characters were. What they were trying to do. Who was trying to stop them? How, Where, Why, etc. And it was stylish and fun. I laughed out loud a couple of times.

They'd pitched the idea all over L.A. and it hadn't sold. I could see why - there were similarities to another (hugely popular) show. But their technique and material was impeccable. Brilliantly put together. Great dialogue and timing - as good as - if not better than the other, hugely popular show.

I suspect that I haven't seen the last of "Tea & Cheese".

Then something else slithered over the transom. Again, from a team in the U.K. and again, they swore that they'd studied the blog.

The video was cool. A team of heroes in a post apocalyptic world - struggling to stay alive. Yeah. It looked good. It looked very good. But...

Okay. Who are these guys? What happened to Earth? It IS Earth, isn't it? Who are the bad guys? They look cool. What do they want? ..and Why? I mean, if they've destroyed 99.9% of humanity, why worry about one guy with a rusty sword?

The pilot didn't answer any of the questions - and wasn't a strong enough presentation to make me want to see more. I don't remember the characters names or even the title of the show. They put all their energy into the video - with no thought as to the content of the show - the result? Utterly forgettable.

I don't mean to be harsh - but if you're going to pitch something - DO IT RIGHT. Otherwise you're wasting everyone's time and your money. The pretty pictures will be wasted unless you put your focus on the WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHY and HOW of your series.

I hope that I haven't crushed anyone's dreams. Well... maybe a little...

Now get back to work!