How do I pitch a show to a cable network? - Page 2 at DVinfo.net

Go Back   DV Info Net > And Now, For Something Completely Different... > Taking Care of Business

Taking Care of Business
The pen and paper aspects of DV -- put it in writing!


Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old December 12th, 2009, 10:35 AM   #16
Go Go Godzilla
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Scottsdale, AZ USA
Posts: 2,739
Images: 15
Adam,

I've been following your posts about the not-so-obvious show-submittal process and have come to this conclusion - you tell me if I'm wrong on these two points:

1. DSC, NatGeo and others all have the disclaimer in their "sign up to submit" process that basically says (and I'm paraphrasing) that, "... the chances are good that your idea has already been submitted by someone else or, we've already thought of that idea in some form or fashion, so if we don't pick your exact concept and later release a show very similar to yours, you can't touch us with a lawsuit...".

2. It's my impression that those disclaimers are nothing but cleverly disguised legal mumbo-jumbo that gives them and their preferred short-list of producers a method to view show submissions and legally steal the ideas outright, allowing them to claim "similar idea already in the works" if someone did attempt to sue.

Basically: Get an agent to aid in the show concept submittal process or don't bother.

Is that an accurate overview?
__________________
Producer/CEO
Reel Lane Films LLC
Robert Lane is offline   Reply With Quote
Old December 12th, 2009, 12:27 PM   #17
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Woodinville, WA USA
Posts: 3,464
I'd say that's a completely accurate bottom line, at least based on my experience.
__________________
"It can only be attributable to human error... This sort of thing has cropped up before, and it has always been due to human error."
Adam Gold is offline   Reply With Quote
Old December 12th, 2009, 12:48 PM   #18
Major Player
 
Join Date: May 2008
Location: HI, USA
Posts: 622
Any agents you'd recommend?
Bill Thesken is offline   Reply With Quote
Old December 12th, 2009, 01:15 PM   #19
Wrangler
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Boulder, CO
Posts: 3,012
Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert Lane View Post

2. It's my impression that those disclaimers are nothing but cleverly disguised legal mumbo-jumbo that gives them and their preferred short-list of producers a method to view show submissions and legally steal the ideas outright, allowing them to claim "similar idea already in the works" if someone did attempt to sue.

Basically: Get an agent to aid in the show concept submittal process or don't bother.

Is that an accurate overview?
I think the conclusion is correct, but the assumption seems to offer a very one-sided perspective...

Say you submit a concept to a network, and they don't put this protection in place...say they have already spent $100K developing a similar idea with another producer. Just by having your proposal cross their desk, they lose their idea and the money invested in it, they have to pay for the expenses of a lawsuit, and the chances are that you have a good chance at nailing them for a settlement.

It seems to me that they have very strong incentives for including this boilerplate. I know one producer, non-network but very successful with a fairly high profile, who tells me that every time he produces something new, he gets sued. By someone claiming that he is stealing their idea - which is never actually the case. It's a little phenomenon called the zeitgeist.

There is a reason that they stick with producers with whom they have pre-existing relationships. It is much less risky, and networks are risk-averse entities -- they already have huge legal bills involved with high-profile productions. What incentive do they have to add more risk by giving an unknown producer a hearing? It's the opposite - they have no incentive, because they usually have a stable of existing relationships with producers who they trust and who deliver products they know that they can sell.
Meryem Ersoz is offline   Reply With Quote
Old December 12th, 2009, 01:18 PM   #20
Go Go Godzilla
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Scottsdale, AZ USA
Posts: 2,739
Images: 15
We all know how important it is to protect any entity or individual from a potential lawsuit especially with one with little to no merit, but the point I was hitting on, was that it's not wise if not downright futile to attempt a show submittal unless you have an agent or an "inside track".

Glad I did my due-diligence on this before I attempted the same process.
__________________
Producer/CEO
Reel Lane Films LLC
Robert Lane is offline   Reply With Quote
Old December 12th, 2009, 01:32 PM   #21
Wrangler
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Boulder, CO
Posts: 3,012
How many acquisitions editors have you actually tried to contact? I've spoken with five of them, with minimal effort on my part (I don't aspire to network TV, it really doesn't fit well with raising a young child, which is something that I learned, through these little talks...). But I did have to go through channels that had nothing to do with the web or the internet submissions to do it. A lot of networks are still very old school - tapeless workflows scare them, viral marketing worries them. They like to deal face to face, with people.

Acquisitions editors aren't as hard to track down as you would think. I think most people are afraid to call or contact these people.

It is never too early to think about distribution, for any project, whether it is a network production, a film, an instructional video. The beginning is always in the end, for film and video.

We know this in our commercial businesses and our wedding businesses - getting your arms around the delivery can save you a million headaches in the end - but somehow when it comes to making a TV series or film, the creative process is so much more complex and absorbing that we hope someone else will deal with the distribution issues. But the song remains the same.

One piece of smart advice given to me, once I started working on larger productions: "The easiest thing about the production is the production"
Meryem Ersoz is offline   Reply With Quote
Old December 13th, 2009, 09:58 AM   #22
Go Go Godzilla
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Scottsdale, AZ USA
Posts: 2,739
Images: 15
"How many acquisitions editors have you actually tried to contact? "

None, since I don't know any nor have the slightest idea how to find and contact them.

But I'm also highly skeptical and distrusting of the usual methods for proposing and submitting a show concept.

My gut tells me that Adam is spot-on, in that getting an agent is tantamount to being taken seriously and having an extra layer of protection from boilerplate disclaimers providing the big networks a method for cheating on show ideas.

I may abandon the concept of going to a network altogether and go a completely different route for what I'm working on, but if I found an agent that considered my idea pitch-worthy I'd go forward. But finding a willing agent is probably no easier than the pitch itself, so again I'm thinking I'm going to stay completely independent from the process.
__________________
Producer/CEO
Reel Lane Films LLC
Robert Lane is offline   Reply With Quote
Old December 13th, 2009, 10:55 AM   #23
Wrangler
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Boulder, CO
Posts: 3,012
Adam does give good advice. There's not a note that he has sounded that I would disagree with...

I was merely trying to elaborate on why things are the way they are. You're characterizing the networks as exploitative of new producers' brilliant, fresh ideas -- and that's simply not the case. I'm sure that there are instances in which that happens. But most of what makes network execs a challenge to deal with is -- they operate within a system, and that system is limited by what it can and will do.

The other thing that you're probably not considering is the ways in which network formatting requirements will hamstring your creativity. National network producer's specs are a baptism by fire, if you are outside of the stable of their trusted producer's -- and they will vet your work and hold it to a much more particular standard than if you are a known quantity.

A show that I had on Versus, for example, was initially rejected for soft dissolves that I put in an interview - they wanted all of them patched over with b-roll. So all five masters had to be re-done. The show aired, but it was a nail-biter to hit the deadline, and get all of the masters re-edited, re-close captioned, re-transferred, and shipped. Two days later, I was watching a regular series on the same channel, and another producer had used the exact same technique -- and theirs passed without notice, because, as a producer of a regular series, rather than a one-off (which is what I produced), they had already been vetted by the network and were able to submit their weekly without the same degree of scrutiny.

Discovery is the ultimate snack TV, and their specs are geared very strongly towards preventing their viewers from surfing at the commercial break. This mandate dictates and shapes all of the available editorial and creative choices.

Those are just some examples of the types of snags that you will encounter. My experience is that people often think that they have a great idea for a show, but once you try to mesh that idea with networks' expectations, it isn't always the best fit, for a variety of reasons.

Finding an agent is not really where your due diligence begins or ends. There are a lot of invisible expectations and unearthing these, as much as you can, will save you a load of headaches. That's why speaking directly to the acquisitions teams will be very educational and save you a lot of hassle - even before you consider pitching them, knowing what they are looking for in a project and a producer is absolutely invaluable.
Meryem Ersoz is offline   Reply With Quote
Old December 13th, 2009, 11:47 AM   #24
Go Go Godzilla
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Scottsdale, AZ USA
Posts: 2,739
Images: 15
Thanks for the insights, much appreciated. But everything you've just shared bolsters my gut reaction that if I'm ever going to launch a project built around my vision and creative style then it's going to not involve any network and be completely independent. And quite possibly just not even be for broadcast!

Ah, the times are a-changin'.
__________________
Producer/CEO
Reel Lane Films LLC
Robert Lane is offline   Reply With Quote
Old December 13th, 2009, 12:05 PM   #25
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Woodinville, WA USA
Posts: 3,464
You're both absolutely right, of course. Networks aren't evil -- just part of a system and they have to protect themselves. At the same time, the suspected abuses you mention can and do occur.

The problem with trying to go completely outside the system is, where are you gong to show your stuff to reach a wide audience? Unless you're happy selling DVDs at the local dime store -- and many people are -- you need some channel of distribution.
__________________
"It can only be attributable to human error... This sort of thing has cropped up before, and it has always been due to human error."
Adam Gold is offline   Reply With Quote
Old December 13th, 2009, 12:59 PM   #26
Go Go Godzilla
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Scottsdale, AZ USA
Posts: 2,739
Images: 15
I've got some ideas but unless they prove themselves worthy and find an appropriate audience for funding I'm keeping that close to the chest for now. Believe me, if it works - and I'm prepared for the possibility it won't - I'll share it openly.
__________________
Producer/CEO
Reel Lane Films LLC
Robert Lane is offline   Reply With Quote
Old December 16th, 2009, 10:51 AM   #27
Wrangler
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Boulder, CO
Posts: 3,012
As I mentioned, it isn't hugely difficult to access network acquisitions folks, but it does take time, money, and energy...

MIPFormats - Fresh Talent Pitch - MIPWORLD

I've never attended this, but putting yourself through these types of processes and events can teach you a lot and answer a lot of your questions. And help you to refine your audience.
Meryem Ersoz is offline   Reply With Quote
Old December 17th, 2009, 12:05 PM   #28
Major Player
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Carlisle, PA
Posts: 451
Have you heard about this "one in a million" (or should it be one in $30 million) success story:

BBC News - YouTube video leads to Hollywood contract

the direct video link:

YouTube - Ataque de Pánico! (Panic Attack!) 2009
Kevin Spahr is offline   Reply With Quote
Old December 29th, 2009, 06:41 PM   #29
Major Player
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: All over, USA
Posts: 512
Hey, I have this great play for the NY Giants that is sure to work. How do I get in touch with the coach?

You will not get past the door with the major networks.

The only way to make it is by working up the ladder. You can do it from the inside by starting near the bottom working for a network or a production company that does work for a network and over the years, gain experience and connections. The other way is by producing your own work on a small scale for local markets or the very small networks and make a name for yourself and climb that ladder.
To think you can start at the top and go from there is ...
Ed Kukla is offline   Reply With Quote
Old December 30th, 2009, 04:12 AM   #30
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Belfast, UK
Posts: 4,121
If you currently haven't got a relationship with one of these broadcasters, it may make sense to approach a producer who has. This is extremely common because of the broadcasters tending to want with known producers. However, some of these people have gone directly with their next project and have had them commissioned. Much of this business is about building up relationships, so you just can't not put in proposals in case someone steals your idea, you have to find the best means of getting it through the commissioning process.

BTW A well known British broadcaster does have the reputation of in house producers stealing documentary ideas. I do know of instances where the only source of the idea was the independent producer's proposal. Not always the case, but it does occasionally happen.
Brian Drysdale is offline   Reply
Reply

DV Info Net refers all where-to-buy and where-to-rent questions exclusively to these trusted full line dealers and rental houses...

Professional Video
(800) 833-4801
Portland, OR

B&H Photo Video
(866) 521-7381
New York, NY

Z.G.C.
(973) 335-4460
Mountain Lakes, NJ

Abel Cine Tech
(888) 700-4416
N.Y. NY & L.A. CA

Precision Camera
(800) 677-1023
Austin, TX

DV Info Net also encourages you to support local businesses and buy from an authorized dealer in your neighborhood.
  You are here: DV Info Net > And Now, For Something Completely Different... > Taking Care of Business

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

 



Google
 

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 03:56 AM.


DV Info Net -- Real Names, Real People, Real Info!
1998-2017 The Digital Video Information Network