Ack sorry about sending another pitch question (I know you said something about people sending those) but you mentioned you pitched a show twice, and since I'm a creeper, I read the tags and you said the pitch wasn't how we'd think they'd be; how were they, then, out of curiosity? If I ever pitch a show, in your position, what should I expect? What exactly happened? Sorry for asking all these questions; you've been my inspiration for a while and I hope I can pitch my own show someday!! Thank you
Oh no, that’s fine! I don’t mind telling my experience with it, and I’ve even given pitching tips before, but this post is about the extent of my knowledge. (You can also just search my blog for “pitch”, ‘cause I’ve reblogged stuff from other people that actually KNOW what they’re talking about, haha) I just don’t want people under the impression that I’m super experienced with it, or that I’ve ever pitched to a big deal network or producer. I absolutely haven’t.
I have exactly 2 pitching experiences. The first one was a few years ago at an event in Nashville called “Film-Com”, which is an annual trade show/expo event for financing and distributing filmmaking projects. Basically you get a booth, and you set up in this convention center with all these other aspiring creators (filmmakers, documentary people, a few video game/new media folks, all sorts), and they’ve invited a WHOLE SWATH of producers and industry professionals to come
mull around the show floor with you so you can make connections and get your product out there EAT FREE MEALS and then idk, maybe fuckin’ walk around a bit and look at your dumb shitty projects if they fuckin’ feel like it but they probably wont, so what ends up happening is all the creators just walk around and look at each others’ shit, which for me—being the only animator there—means that a bunch of other jack-knobs who have some vague idea for a shitty cartoon end up giving me THEIR card so that maybe in the future I can work on THEIR dumbfuck ideas.
ANYWAY, to get to the point, they selected certain projects and scheduled them to actually go up and pitch in front of a whole room full of producers. This happened over the course of the whole day, so I suspect the reason none of the producers were walking around interacting with people is ‘cause they were stuck in a room all day hearing 30 different suck-ass pitches and when it was all said and done they were probably exhausted. I was scheduled as the last pitch of the day. I enter the room and wait patiently; the person before me is running about 10 minutes over their allotted time. I scan the room… everyone is MISERABLE. They’re anxious, they’re uninterested, they’re sighing… the main guy who’s sort of monitoring the whole thing is pinching his brow and trying his best to keep up the pretense of politeness in telling the current pitcher to wrap it up. NONE of these people want to be here anymore. It seems like everyone’s spent the whole day “warming ‘em up” for me, but now they’re all sweaty and miserable, so I can either go up there and give another mediocre pitch, OR I can go up there and try my goddamn hardest to make them laugh.
I go up on stage, just IMMEDIATELY force myself to get over any fears I have, and I pitch W2H. I screen a short mock trailer I made (no way I’d force them to sit through that whole fucking thing), and it’s sort of like a fever dream, because I can see all of the life returning to their faces, they’re WAY into it, I’m doing fucking GREAT somehow, despite literally zero experience… and when it was all said and done, it became abundantly clear that even though they all LOVED it, not a single one of them could help me. None of them were animation producers. None of them KNEW animation producers. One guy suggested I go into comics, because “comics get turned into film and tv shows all the time”. I just had the PERFECT fucking pitch, and I pitched to people who couldn’t fucking help me. As I was leaving, many of them came up to me and actually thanked me for sending them off for the day on a good note. There was a big dinner at like, the fucking Governers’ mansion or something that night, and again, some of them were coming up to me and thanking me, wishing me the best and all that. I guess if nothing else, I learned what I’m capable of.
The second pitch was an ACTUAL disaster. When I’d first graduated I thought I could pitch W2H to Frederator, ‘cause it seemed like a good fit. They told me (understandably) that they couldn’t reverse-engineer a show from something I’d already produced, and also that it was inappropriate (despite having a show at the time called “SuperFuckers”, but whatever; language and subject matter are different things). Later on I got an email from them, saying that someone in their office was familiar with my work, and they invited me to come pitch them something that wasn’t W2H. They also said that I was free to swing by their office any time, even “just to hang out”, and that if I had any questions “whether it be pitching or where to get the best burgers in Burbank”, to hit them up. How friendly! How perfect! I was JUST about to move out to L.A., so I started working on this idea tentatively called “Gayliens”. I swung by their office once, you know, just to pop in, like they said; thought I’d make myself known or whatever. They looked at me like I was nuts. They still invited me in and we chatted for a bit about the history of early Disney studios, but when they asked why I was there, and I reminded them about the email they’d sent, they seemed to have no idea what I was talking about. I told them I was working on a pitch for them and that I’d be in touch so we could schedule something.
When I finally finished putting my pitch together, I went in for a meeting with them. It was just 2 folks, we were in like a board meeting-type room (which I imagine is probably standard). They made some small talk with me first, which I’m sure was an attempt to loosen us all up a bit and set the mood, but all of their questions really caught me off guard. (I guess they asked where I was working, and when I told them I didn’t have a studio job, they asked how I was making money, and I’m sure it wasn’t meant to put me in an awkward position, but people asking me how I make money literally ALWAYS puts me in an awkward position, because my income sources are scattered and weird. Try explaining how youtube ad revenue works to your social services worker, it’s a blast.)
SO okay, I let myself get tripped up a bit. I go on with the pitch; they don’t really want me to pitch the concept, they just have me show them my storyboards and read through the whole thing. They’re DEAD silent the whole time. I can’t get a read on them at all. When it’s over, they ask me some more questions that trip me up. Some of them are 100% my fault; they asked for a title, and I wasn’t ready to say “Oh, it’s tentatively called GAYLIENS,” out loud to people who I couldn’t get a read from.
It’s all kind of a blur, but the few topics of discussion I remember them bringing up were that “the storyboards look almost TOO good”, like it was TOO polished or well-developed (which is sort of a backhanded compliment I guess???), because see, “when they made Adventure Time… blah blah blah it just started off as this loose idea, and once they were a season or so into it, they started expanding on the universe and developing the characters a little bit more…” — AS IF ANYONE doesn’t understand why AT got so popular??? You don’t have to TELL ME, I WAS WATCHING IT, I FUCKING KNOW. No one gave a shit about AT until they got Rebecca Sugar and all these talented writers working on it a couple seasons in, and doing all this character-heavy shit. I tried to present them with something that had all that character shit baked into it already, ‘cause I knew they were gonna’ use AT as an example. But it seemed like they’re not looking for something that’s already developed with it’s own voice or sensibility, they’re looking for a vague idea that they can mold into something as they go.
They also told me–and I still can’t get over this–that they’re looking for “”””””characters that people will want to cosplay as””””””, which is funny to me for a plethora of reasons; namely that they have no way of knowing that PEOPLE DO COSPLAY AS MY CHARACTERS, but also that I spent half of my time in college working on ridiculous magical girl Adventure Time crossover group cosplays (don’t fuckin’ laugh) like trust me I’m ALARMINGLY familiar with cosplay, and ALSO, that looking for a new property with the guidelines that it should be “the next big thing that some fucking nerds will dress up as at comic con” just seems like such an out-of-touch-but-trying-to-be-hip, capitalize-on your-fandom-doing-all-the-legwork-for-you, fucking executive thing to say. I know I sound like a whiny art school kid saying that but my animation instructor was so anti-establishment, and I carry a lot of that with me still, and something about that statement–insignificant as it may be–kind of epitomizes how I feel about the industry? It’s a hard thing to explain.
I walked out of that pitch with my mind feeling like TV static. My friends were waiting for me next door at a bakery and they were super excited, asking me how it went, and I was just like “I mean… BAD, for sure, but I don’t know where to even start.” Hahaha. I don’t know. It just seems like everyone wants to play gatekeeper I guess. They want This Thing™, but it can’t be too This Thing™. They want the thing to have A Fandom™, but they don’t really understand fandom ‘cause they don’t participate in fandom. They want Your Idea™ but they want to make it Their Idea™. I don’t know. I’m just angry and bitter and that’s my experience with pitching. Admittedly some of what went wrong in these pitches was my fault, or there were circumstances beyond my control, and regardless of how that pitch went, I don’t actually dislike Frederator (I’m on their youtube network), and Fred Seibert has actually done a ton of iconic shit.
I don’t think I’ve ever AIRED MY GRIEVANCES in such great detail before, but there you have it. If you want some tips on pitching, you can check out the links I provided at the beginning of the post; there’s tons of people out there who actually know their shit too, and they’d probably give more proactive advice. I don’t know if this helps at all, but hopefully you can glean something from it! That’s just my limited experience with it. Haha. Good luck!