I know this is a marketing entertainment column, and my expertise is in that area, but today, I’d like to play the role of aspiring television creator instead. You see, it’s always been on my bucket list to work in the production side of the business.
Maybe some of you can relate. You’ve been fortunate to handle PR and marketing for numerous hit TV shows over the years and have watched great producers in action. They’ve inspired you to explore your own programming ideas for either the airwaves or the Internet; and you’re hoping that some of your skills—writing, handling talent, multi-tasking, budgeting—will translate to a possible career move.
So, if we’re serious about this endeavor, what’s our next step? Go back to college for another degree? Too time-consuming, too expensive and for some of us, uh, older folks, too much like Rodney Dangerfield in “Back to School.” Send in a spec script to every agent in town and cross our fingers? That only works out for the characters on “Entourage.” Refinance our homes to produce our own series? Even my hero, the ever-passionate multi-hyphenate extraordinaire, Liz Lemon of “30 Rock,” might think twice about that one.
Luckily for us, my colleague Beth Braen, SVP of marketing at NATPE||Content First, has the perfect reality to match our fantasy: the PitchCon conference on June 7 and 8 at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.
Let me say upfront that I’m a huge NATPE fan. I’ve collaborated with Braen and her team in the past as both an agency rep and as a publicist for various exhibitors, and they’ve always been a class act. Not surprisingly, they are particularly adept at organizing high profile events, so when I read about this year’s PitchCon, I called her to learn more about it.
Q: I already know NATPE can deliver on its promise to provide “Real Access, Real Tools, Real Producers” but what exactly happens at PitchCon?
A: PitchCon is your chance to learn the art of pitching that brilliant TV-show idea you’ve been nurturing for years—and then to actually pitch it to a Hollywood executive who may “catch” it and score a win for both of you!
The conference is two-days of well-orchestrated industry panels, master classes, hands-on advice and access to a network of influential media executives. On the 7th, we provide eight hours of intense preparation for the pitchers. They can choose between small workshops on specific subjects, like budgeting and branding, or larger sessions on broader topics like basic pitch mechanics. Our goal is to motivate and educate the pitchers so they are polished and ready to go before the catchers on the 8th. We even offer one-on-one critiques with industry pros if a pitcher wants some additional personalized feedback before meeting with the catchers.
Q: You have some pretty impressive names involved. Care to namedrop?
A: Our keynote speaker is Marc Cherry, creator of “Desperate Housewives.” Other speakers include executives from Comcast Entertainment, E!, Embassy Row, Freemantle, Google, ICM, Kickstarter, McCann Worldwide, Pilgrim Studios, and William Morris, among others. As for catchers, we have more than 50 companies represented including ABC, Bravo, Electus, Fox Television Studios, Lionsgate, LMNO, Oxygen, Telepictures and WE.tv.
Q: Who are the “pitchers” who attend PitchCon? People who have never worked in the entertainment business before but want to—or veterans who need some goosing?
A: While it’s an eclectic group of people at different levels of their entertainment careers, no one is a complete newbie to the business. Some may have just graduated with a degree in TV production for example. Others might be more like you, with years of experience in the industry but in a different area. Still others might have untapped talents as a writer that they’ve only recently started using again after years in another field.
Q: What kinds of shows are the catchers looking for?
A: We have catchers in just about every genre conceivable: action/adventure, animated, celebrity-based, children’s, comedy, competition, DIY, documentary, drama, dramedy, educational, game show, gaming, lifestyle, reality, and vérité. And they come from various areas of the business, too, including agencies, broadcast, cable, digital and studio development departments. Every pitcher is guaranteed at least two one-on-one pitches, but at the end of the day, most people get four. That’s a pretty good at-bat record!
Q: What materials should I bring to PitchCon?
A: Every year pitchers come armed with everything from fancy video clips and expensive marketing materials to oversized props and even live actors to perform their scenes. We try to tell them in advance that none of this is necessary but it still happens. What is necessary are things like a unique voice, original ideas, compelling characters, and a strong synopsis with loglines to complement it.
Feel free to leave behind a brochure about yourself and your company, too, but please keep it simple. And be sure to have more than one idea in case the first one doesn’t fly—you don’t want to be left with 10 minutes of time and nothing to pitch. That’s what we call a tragedy and I don’t see that on our list of genres covered this year!
Q: What can I expect to get from PitchCon?
It’s a win/win for everyone. Everybody—even the speakers and the catchers—network and make new connections. Above and beyond that, the pitchers get an invaluable education and a foot in the door, and possibly even a first-look or development deal. So what do you say, Alison? Want to learn how to pitch?
TO BE CONTINUED. Will Alison attend PitchCon? Will NATPE teach Alison the secrets of the perfect pitch? Will she score a major TV deal and forget the little people who got her there? Stay tuned for her next exciting episode of Marketing:Entertainment: The Art of the Sell.