Sizzle. Pitch. Execute.

Sizzle. Pitch. Execute: The Importance of Being Prepared

“Do you have a sizzle reel?” The VP of Program Development asked us.

“Why, yes. Yes we do,” I happily answered.

checkboxI said this as we sat in the conference room during a TV pitch meeting with a major cable network on Thursday. I knew we had a sizzle reel because both my pitching/producing partner and I had our Mac tools with us. He had a Macbook. I had an iPad. I had downloaded a hardcopy to my iPad, he came network-ready, prepared to tap into our host’s Internet network to view the clip online (our backup plan in the event that I stupidly dropped my iPad by some off chance).

The sizzle had gone through several incarnations and rewrites. Each time it became a little better and a little more concise. Over the past two years the fatty fluff had been cut from our sizzle reel — I know because I cut every version of it. Each time I cut a sequence I went through withdrawals, but there was job to do and we unanimously did what was necessary.

It’s important to be prepared on all fronts when you enter a pitch meeting. It seems like common sense, no? But I’ve gone into meetings with folks who weren’t prepared to answer questions, who had no strategy. They assume all they are required to do is talk, talk, talk and sell, sell sell.  Not so.

Pitching  film and television is a process of engagement. As the creator/producer you job is to have the tools and words to convince the development executive to come to feel about your project the same way you feel; to love it like you love it. And that includes every aspect of the show, the characters, the premise, the theme, and the format.

We came with the sizzle. We were pitch-ready. And we executed our plan.

Textbook Pitching: Catching a Break

It’s been a very long time since I blogged. In a future blog I will discuss exactly why it’s been such a long time. However, this is not that blog. This is a better blog🙂

I woke up this morning gagging because it felt like I swallowed a handful of razorblades and they were caught in my throat. Not good, especially considering the pitch meeting at a major cable network on the schedule. I  immediately recognized my condition as an acute sore throat. I don’t get them often but when I do, I am virtually incapacitated because I get the worst of ’em. However, the pain subsided and I got ready for my meeting. First I had to drive to Santa Ana, 20 miles south (40 miles roundtrip), for a employer related meeting. Afterward I returned home and got ready to drive the 25 miles north. I coaxed my niece Alexa to get my tribe from school — that favor is going to cost me some Starbucks and a position as Operations Manager when I get my production company running at full speed. No worries.

catching the sun.jpgI hit the shower, shave my head and trim my mustache. I’m hoping I can catch a break and survive the meeting and ultimately… day. But oh-oh, I get a sharp radiating pain in my throat again. Now it’s becoming achy.

I grab a bottle of water and head out on the 405 freeway north to Century City, LA. I’m meeting my cohort, Kali, thirty minutes before the meeting to go over any last minute strategy changes. Plus, we’re hoping to get a room with a conference phone so we can conference in Dionna who’s standing by in Atlanta.

On the way I call Dionna and we talk about strategy. She can hear the difference in my voice and I tell her that my throat feels like I have to force the words out louder in order to get them out. She prays for me. Also, my ears appear to be getting clogged as well.

I arrive in Century City, meet up with  Kali and I know I have limited time before my voice goes out. It’s not a question of if my voice goes out, it’s a question of when.

We settle in for the meeting and, wham. Score. They have one of those Polycom phones in the room and we conference Dionna in from Atlanta. We meet  the VP of Development and a Development Manager. Nice. No middle men here.

We pitch. I start, intro concept, proposal, highlights. Kali handles characters and reinforces the concept. Dionna has a person touch and familiarity. She’s been there done that, and lives there! We hit ’em from all three angles. It’s textbook. It’s like the Cubs coming back from a 3-1 deficit. We break out the sizzle reel. They love it.And my voice is holding up. The meeting is my new benchmark for how well a pitch meeting should go! The only thing that could be better would be if they handed us a check on our way out.

We make plans to send deliverables to [our] Agent who will send to the VP and Manager asap. I hop in my Expedition and check Siri. 2.15 hrs of traffic between me and home. Yikes. And then — you guessed it, my throat starts up again. It’s bad this time. Feels like a spiky golf ball is in resting just below my epiglottis. I get home — finally, make dinner for my kids and realize. Uh oh, I’m running a fever.

But you know what? I don’t care. We had a damn great amazing pitch meeting even thought I didn’t feel up to it. All I need to do now is get well before next Friday when we do it all over again.

Signed,

Resting. Recuperating and Working.

 

 

Write what you love

I love drama. I love sci-fi. I love action thrillers. I love cop shows and I love medical procedurals.

So what type of TV shows am I working on now?

I’m working on a cop show, an action thriller and a kickass procedural. I’m still looking for that ever-elusive Sci-Fi drama (please: no time travel, end-of-the-world intergalactic arks, or save-the-world coming-of-age supernatural dramas).

memorial-day-history

I took some time this Memorial Day to draft some notes on my three shows. I must humbly say, I am stoked about these. None come as a spur-of-the-moment idea, for which, that I pat myself on the back prematurely. All have been carefully thought out, crushed under the grinder that is my development process, killed and then resurrected. Yes, they still live. I have hopes for these ideas at my fav TV networks, but they can virtually go anywhere TV goes.

My ideas are affectionately titled… nah. I won’t go that far. I can’t spill the beans about the titles because y’all will never ever guess what the shows are about. But, here’s a freebie. One show is titled, MY NEXT TOUR.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Ideas are still ideal

It’s been far too long since my last post.

However, despite the absence of words here on my blog, there has been a lot of movement and action behind the scenes.

A week ago, Sunday, I attended, my 4th pitchfest with the Great American Pitchfest — now called the Scriptfest. One of my producing partners, Ramona, came down from Northern Cal to lend an ear to the pitches were were ready to hear. This time the event was much slower than usual and I attribute that to updated prodco bio I added to the GAPF directory. In it I stated that I was primarily interested in television concepts and pilots, particularly scifi dramas and new/fresh takes on procedurals.

Aside from the endless stream of time travel and supernatural/alternate universe stories, there were come intriguing concepts that caught my attention. I’ve gone through the 50 or so projects and narrowed them down to 12 that I want to take a closer look at.

Besides that side of the business, lest I forget, I am a creative too. I’ve been reworking some under-developed projects and developing brand new ideas too. One project that I am particularly excited about is a an idea the network loved when I pitched it but passed because the it “stepped on the toes” of another project they were heavily invested in — which has since been delayed and now canceled. Some of you may know it, it was called “Heartbreak.” I hope to get these proposals out and into the network’s hands by the end of June.

I’m also waiting to hear from a potential agent who’s reviewing an unscripted proposal developed by another producing partner, Dionna (from Atlanta) and I. I love this project and its been pitched before, but we hope to get a more receptive audience next time🙂

Lastly, this summer I expect to pick-up where I left-off and continue writing my epic sci-fi period fantasy novel.

Week in Review

My daughter had a birthday on Thursday.  We celebrated at Cheesecake Factory and she had her favorite, Strawberry Cheesecake. The next day she got braces.

Meanwhile, I’d been working hard gathering the best of the best of the best series proposals I have worked on in the last three years — scripted and unscripted — and rewrote as necessary to get ready for a big networking push.  Next week a potential contact is back from NYC Upfronts  and we learn what possible next steps are. In the interim, I’m planning some network cold-calling with my top projects. I’m trying to expand beyond the NBCUniversal universe and breach the walls around other promising networks.

I’ve kept working on my book. I’ve slowed my pacing and I only get to it twice a week, but I’m usually able to hammer out at least five pages or more. I’ve changed the title twice and changed the main characters’ names thrice. I’ll probably do it again at some point, but it’s all a part of my process. Titles and names are super important, as they convey a message all their own, in addition to the logline and synopsis.

i am broken-angelo

Moving-on-the-road-again

Moving-on-the-Road-again.jpg

My “work” with another producer who had aspirations on working in TV are over.  There is no more business to be had and I am relieved. This marks the end of a six-month period when I thought I was going to have to get medieval on his ass. It was the dirty ugly side of the business that shows its head when money gets involved. A huge opportunity to set records and create new benchmarks at an up-and-coming network was lost.

Luckily, this also marks a time when some amazing friends came out to support me. Not with tweets and Facebook “likes” — although I did appreciate those — but with text messages, IM, emails and phone calls. They talked me down from the ledge and helped with deal with the BS one more day, and again, and again, until it was all over.

And in the midst of it all, guess what? I made a new lawyer friend who’ll be getting all my business for the next few years. Actually I knew him for a few years after following him on Twitter. When I had serious contractual questions he returned my calls. Enough said.

On the flip side, because I’d gotten so dismayed with the business, I turned to writing narrative fiction from a literary perspective. I started my first book. I am now deeply one-third of the way into the story and it’s going amazingly well thanks to a 100+ page outline I created (by way of a screenplay!). Each time I think I’ve hit a troublesome patch during the literary process I’m amazed out how efficiently I can move past it. All I need to do is take my time, focus on the story, not the words, and remember my outline is there for a reason.

Lastly, the RCWD Team is in full force and effect. The access we have to TV networks has moved past and beyond our dear friends at NBCUniversal. Time to take this show on the road. Again.

#pitchtime!

Me? An Author? First 3 Chapters

AuthorA week before the New Year I opted to get a head-start on one of my goals for 2016: Writing a book. I always said that I write “everything” but truth was, I hadn’t written anything destined to be a book in many years. The last time I tried,  I lost 16 chapters due to a defective floppy disk (wtf is a floppy disk?). The experience was extremely painful.

As I started my goal to become an author I was happy to use one of my completed screenplays as an outline and it has served me well. I am now one-third of the way through the first month of the 2016 and I am midway through my third chapter, approximately 16,000 words so far.

Moving into the author realm has rejuvenated my love for writing. I crave each and every moment available to me when I can sit down with my MacBook, launch Microsoft Word and write. Luckily, I have experienced no challenges “getting back into the groove” after a few days away from my story. It has been fairly simple to reignite the emotional context under which I prefer to write, to create the content I am most comfortable developing.

I have to admit that using my screenplay has presented some challenges and advantages. My screenplays are written in present-tense. I describe what is happening as it is happening. My book, however, is written in past tense. On more than one occasion I’ve reviewed my work to see that the most recent pages I’d written were plagued with conflicting tense issues. Small price to pay for having much of the work already done. And this brings me to one of the advantages.

The advantage of using my screenplay as an outline is that I spend more time rebuilding than creating. The idea is there, and the dialog is there. The emotion is there, and the conflict is there. Now, I can embellish freely, and I have the room to do so. In the screenwriting world, we learn to stifle our narrative voice in order to keep our action and description short and concise. In the world of narrative fiction writing, it’s best to give our voices room to move, expand and  sometimes even touch on the minutia of details. While writing the first three chapters of my book, there have been several times when I remembered all the details I’d surgically removed from my screenplay because I’d gone over a certain amount of lines or pages while writing a description. Now, I can include all the visceral elements that typically only actors,  directors, cinematographers and production designers are allowed to infuse into a story.

Specifically, there are two instances that stand out. One instance involved three lines of the screenplay that I hoped would be emotionally compelling action. In screenwriting you write what’s on the screen, not what’s in someone’s thoughts, so I left a lot of emotion to be “included” by the actor and director.  Not so in the book. I was free to expound on those three lines, which ultimately became three pages — three pages of all the things that were in my head when I wrote the screenplay but couldn’t use in the script. Three pages of inner dialog, inner voices, inner thoughts, everything that we as people go through when faced with decisions, dilemmas or crises. It was there and it was a joy to read every word and know that it was perfectly acceptable to leave the pages just like that.

I am starting to feel like an author.