The Art Of The Sell (Part 2): Winding Up For The Pitch
Hey, all you Shonda Rhimeses and Jerry Bruckheimers in the making: I can now answer the burning questions at the end of my last column on NATPE PitchCon: Did I attend PitchCon and learn the secrets of the perfect pitch? Yes! Did I score a major TV deal and forget the little people who got me there? Keep reading.
FADE IN: Yours truly is doing some final research before attending the conference, where I may pitch ideas for three original recovery-themed TV shows I'm developing with my producing partner Deborah Gairdner. I call up Jenean Atwood Baynes, NATPE Pitch Pit Coordinator, to ask her the most important question of all.
“At the risk of sounding like A Real Housewife of Beverly Hills," I say, "what does one wear to PitchCon? First impressions are critical, aren’t they? Should my outfit match my pitch?”
Atwood Baynes answers, “If you had an interview with Subway, would you show up dressed as a sandwich? ” Cue the canned laughter as I yell, “Yikes! Cancel ‘The Lost ‘ period costume! Calling Rachel Zoe instead.”
CUT BACK TO: Me, on the phone with one of the "catchers" (the Hollywood pros who receive the pitches), Joshua Cozen-McNally from GetawayTV. I ask for his take on what makes a good or bad pitch.
“A bad pitch is someone who shows up on a lark, completely unprepared. He or she is basically taking up valuable time that could be better used by someone who is serious about getting their show produced,” says Cozen-McNally. “As far as I’m concerned, the rest are all good pitches.”
Cozen-McNally tells me he’s looking for “something in either short or long form that engages, educates, and entertains the viewer wanting to 'get away' for even a few short moments.”
Say no more. I quickly seize the chance to pitch him one of our ideas. “How about a comedy webisode where people get away to their favorite rehab?” I ask. “It’s ‘28 Days’ meets ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous’ meets E!’s ‘Wild On’!”
“I’m listening…,” he says—and that’s all the encouragement I need to continue talking as we FADE OUT.
FADE IN: It’s 9 a.m. on the first day of PitchCon at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. This is where I will sit for eight hours, listening to 11 sessions and 41 presenters.
INSERT HUMOROUS MONTAGE: Nervous pitchers meet poker-faced catchers while popular contemporary song plays on soundtrack.
CUT TO: Clock. It's 5 p.m.
The sessions emphasize a number of similar themes, but each comes at it from a different perspective. One theme is that the digital space—particularly YouTube—is the entry point for fledgling producers.
QUICK CUTS: Sound bytes from enthusiastic digital-media proponents.
“We’re excited for creators of all shapes and sizes to build great audiences and great businesses on YouTube.” —Jamie Byrne, Global Head of Content Strategy for Google/YouTube.
“If you think that there is a lot of content on YouTube today, it pales in comparison to what it will be in the near future. Whether you are a celebrity or someone just getting started, you will be disproportionately rewarded by getting in early—and today is actually early.” —Chris Williams, Chief Programming Officer for Maker Studios, Inc.
“It’s not uncommon to find that the economics for some producers and talent are actually better in digital than in traditional broadcast media. Right now, we can figure out how to make producers and talent more money in digital media than we can in TV.” —Chris Jacquemin, Head of Digital Media, William Morris Endeavor
CUT TO: Me. The presenters like to use the word “brand” a lot. In fact, if I had a nickel for every time the word is used, I’d have enough money to finance my first YouTube series. The cool thing is that the word is used in many TV-centric (as opposed to the usual marketing-focused) ways.
QUICK CUTS: Sound bytes from enthusiastic producers and marketers who specialize in branded entertainment.
“We consider ourselves brand showrunners: We come up with an umbrella concept, partner with production companies and talent, package it all under that strategic umbrella, then go to market in all media.” —Steven Amato, President and Chief Content Officer, Omelet LLC
“We have [heads of film studios and TV networks] say they believe their show ‘X’ is perfect for brand ‘Y.’ But they’re looking at it from the consumer’s point of view. They don’t know what the brand’s objective is two years, five years, 10 years or even six months from now.” —David Adamson, Executive Vice President, United Entertainment Group
“For us, it’s not about 'a can in the hand'—we produce content and move it through all of our channels to create an experience for those who find the brand to be something of a lifestyle.” —Greg Jacobs, Head of Distribution for Red Bull Media House
CUT BACK TO: Me. This last comment really resonates with me. Deborah and I have a lifestyle concept that’s rarely portrayed on television yet it’s highly entertaining and brand friendly. So, it’s finally time to answer the question from the opening graph: Do I pitch our ideas and score a major TV deal?
No—and that’s the beauty of PitchCon.
After Day 1, I quickly realize I’m not ready for the Pitch Pit. Maybe next year—but I'll need some practice first. So, here goes. I'm pitching:
A show about teens in rehab—“Less than Zero” meets “The OC” meets “Girl Interrupted.”
Or dating in recovery—“Valley of the Dolls” meets “Real Housewives of Orange County” meets “Enlightened.”
Or ask-a-convict, an advice show about DUIs, drug possession and distribution — “Intervention” meets “Judge Judy” meets “Life After Lockdown.”
Okay, who's catching?