Past experiences with the pitch

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Posted by Charles on April 24, 1999 at 18:46:03:

I thought I'd bring this to everyone's attention as it may be helpful for those of you who are developing their own projects and plan on making a presentation in the industry.

Years ago, when I developed my first concept, I prepared a comprehensive and ambitious presentation which I subsequently showed to a major network. It was my first experience making a pitch and I made it at a very high corporate level. The concept was timely and I believed then, as I still do now, that it would have been an excellent Saturday morning cartoon.

I was very naive and I had no real idea what to expect or what I was dealing with. The experience was educational to say the least if not traumatic.

I made my pitch to the executive vice-president of children's programming and two of her assistants. She was rude, obnoxious, arrogant and hostile. She had a difficult time pretending that she wasn't impressed with the project or the idea as she squirmed around in her seat, jotting plenty of notes, occasionally glancing at her watch to make it seem as if I was wasting her time.

What struck me as odd were several tiny microphones hanging from the ceiling of this conference room and a patch of tinted glass high on a wall through which I could make out a camera lense.

She dismissed my project on the basis that it was not a pre-sold concept. She gruffly suggested that I secure a toy license first and then come back with a $16 million pay off.

A year and a half later, a character almost identical to the one I had pitched to her was prancing around on the televsion screen in an episode of a Saturday morning cartoon airing on her network. A phone call to my attorney led to an agreement which the network signed, under the threat of a lawsuit, which prohibited them from making future use of this concept without a production deal or a court battle.

My second pitch was to a prominent writer/producer at a large animation studio. He gave me a big, drawn out lecture about how "pretty pictures just don't cut it." Then, a little more than a year later, a suspiciously similar concept aired in syndication that was produced in part by this studio. So much for pretty pictures.

A word of caution to those of you who plan on doing something similar. I learned a big lesson back then. One that I put into use years later.

Produce it first, then make the pitch. Even if its just a few seconds or a few minutes of animation. You're ahead of the game and they'll tend to take you more seriously (unless you've secured a major toy license and $16 million beforehand). They'll be more inclined to deal with you than steal from you. You won't be so dependent on their imaginations for them to visualize what you have in mind. Your property will be much more intertesting and entertaining and your chances of success will be greatly increased.

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