With any luck I’ll be able to tell you what it’s like to successfully sell a show one day. But, for now, and since it’s on my mind, I thought I’d share a little about my experiences pitching. Thusfar, I think I’ve pitched…at least 7 concepts. I happen to be situated (for the past 8yrs!) adjacent to the steps that leading to the loft where most pitches are held in our studio. I never purchased any spy gear, but based on observation, I can tell you that there are many “types” of people offering their IP ideas; from well known Shatner personas to meek, wiry artsy types; seasoned animation professionals to boisterous, obnoxious types; from gifted orators, to ordinary mortals. I think they have seen it all! The most perplexing question is who are “they”- the ones with the keys to your fate? ”They” are typically Development Team members or producers. Depending on the situation or clout of the persons pitching, “They” can either be a ‘lieutenant’ type who digests and parlays to their superiors, or the actual development heads. Occasionally, high ranking execs participate in pitch meetings; typically, that’s when there’s “star” who’s pitching. The problem (for the one pitching) is that each development person is different. You can’t encapsulate the type of person who takes pitches. They even have disparate educational backgrounds. If you’re unfamiliar with who they are, you couldn’t predict what they’ll be like. It’s natural to speculate about them based on whatever information you gathered. But, that’s really a futile usage of time and energy. Though…in theory, the more factual insight you have about whom you’re pitching to, the more prepared you’ll be. Best to give them the benefit of the doubt, because irregardless of how they actually are, you want to have a rapport if possible. The last thing you want is to leave a bad impression. Usually, they tend to be warm and welcoming. If the pitch goes well and you hold their interest, it’s generally a good experience with ideas being exchanged. They tend to be poker-faced for obvious business reasons I suppose. After the pitch, they will hold on to your offerings sometimes indefinitely (the limbo can make you mad). So, you can expect some time (1 week to 2 months!) to pass before you really know the outcome of your pitch. If the material you offer isn’t appreciated from the get go, they’ll likely be direct about it for better or worse. If your pitch is bombing they might not be so warm. They might actually be annoyed that you’re wasting their time; and you in fact might be. Imagine how many bad or tired ideas they listen to. So, first rule is to be prepared: know your own material. Sounds obvious. But, you might overwhelm yourself with material that isn’t pertinent to the pitch. Try to stay on point. All that colorful in-depth, anal backstory, or stuff that you went through to arrive at your concept could be held off for a more appropriate time. The first pitch I ever did at Fox bombed. I didn’t know what to expect. So, when we walked into a “boardroom” full of apparently important people, we were taken aback. I was expecting one or two people, not 10 or so. I got self-conscious and resorted to reading the copy from our “Show Bible”. Undoubtedly, we lost them at that point. I was no longer engaged. It was sad and palpable from my standpoint. You should expect “failures” and mentally prepare yourself to bounce back: perserverence is an important component of pitching. Part of the whole pitch as I’ve come to understand, is actually selling yourself. In addition to the material, they are assessing you, and whether or not they want to deal with you, or even like you. That’s human nature, and it doesn’t magically become irrelevant when you pitch. Take a moment to think about how you’re presenting yourself compared to what you want to project. When I stumbled during my second pitch due to feeling self-conscious (again), I reached out and received good advice. I was reminded that sometimes it’s wise to be pragmatic and partner with someone who can deliver material well. I’m a somewhat confident, so the next time I tried to overcome my hangups and did another solo pitch to two execs. It went better than before. That was because it was a more relaxed and informal pitch. Incidentally, the pitches I’ve done since that first high pressure one comprised one or two development figureheads. For the next pitch, I took that good advice and teamed up. It went much better. I felt far less pressure, and it was actually a joy to collaborate with people who were great at pitching. And, the pitch itself was more fun to do, and dare I say actually entertaining! Besides the eased pressure, I actually learned some of their delivery techniques - primarily rehearsing. The only downsides of partnering I’ve seen are: that the show is no longer entirely yours, and I know of at least one situation where there was a falling out and ownership became an issue. I suppose clear agreements about ownership, or a contingency plan are advisable…Anyway, the effect of the last pitch I mentioned was that it went well (it felt good). We received positive feedback, despite being passed over. (Aside: Just recently, I was watching video about screenwriting and the author/teacher mentioned that the sure sign of an amateur is that they don’t take rejection or criticism well. A professional knows better.) Anyhow, we took that feedback, retooled the show premise and took it to a different studio. We successfully addressed the issues raised the first time around. That pitch went even better! In fact, it was the best one to date. But, sadly we created new issues with the redirection. So, that one was passed on also-despite the great feeling we had about it. And, that’s okay. When you have a good pitch, you walk away feeling like you did your best. And, if they pass, it isn’t as painful as when you know you didn’t try your best. You glean what you can and apply what you learned to your next pitch. After a while you accumulate show ideas and characters, and even if you never get a show, it can be somewhat gratifying to look collectively at what you’ve created and know there’s inherent value in that. These days, I’ve heard from panel discussions that it’s becoming more common for prospective show creators to have representation. So, I think it’s probably more difficult today to cold call and set up a pitch date than it was in the past. I presume development execs are hoping to vet the talent somewhat by using agencies and such as screeners. I’m kind of all over the map here, aren’t’ I?…Anyhow, I’m more or less at the present day now. Since that last really good pitch, there have been three others. One was for a short that fell short. Shorts are a different animal that normal show pitches. You have tighter constraints. It needs to be that much more concise. Even if it’s just a one minute short, there needs to be a story (They liked my character, but I didn’t really have a story). The other two pitches were for a new show idea with a new partner. We pitched it once, got feedback. Then, tinkered with it and pitched again; got the rejection and presently are still massaging it, because we like it and think it can be refined further. And that’s another important component of pitching: you should enjoy the process enough to want to work it through, while being willing to shelve a project and start anew. I’m not fond of the phrase “kill your babies”, but it can feel that way if you poured a lot of yourself in it. That’s what stings when you get rejected. Also, if you are pitching for the wrong reasons (i.e. just for the money), that will be apparent. Man! There’s more to talk about here: like how frustrating it can be to see new shows crop up that you hate while you’ve been working your ass off. That kind of thing makes you dig deep and question your existence! That’s hard to avoid, but another waste of energy. Of course, you have to sign a non-disclosure agreement which essentially states that they’ve heard it all, and that your idea might already be in development in a similar form-with potentially the “exact same designs” - I kid you not! Remember: a good portion of the pitch is selling yourself - it’s not just your idea (that’s supposed to reassure you a little). Another frustrating thing is comparing everything you think you’ve learned about pitching to what gets picked up. Often times what you’ve learned seems contradictory to what they do. And, there’s no way to figure out the rhyme or reasons. That can also make you insane in the membrane. The most rational reason is that they are constantly in flux and dealing with ever-changing business variables (remember: benefit of the doubt). Apparently, timing is another magical factor to pitching. If you’re lucky your concept is in line with what they are looking for. What they’re “looking for” changes periodically. And, it can change on a dime if you astound them. I’m sure you’ve heard by now that comparing yourself to someone else is pointless. I know personally that I’ve had more fun and satisfaction pursuing my own ideas than when I compare myself and try to compete with others. And, enjoying it all is paramount. The problem with competing is that someone has set a bar, and when you compete you’re engaged with others who are focused on that one particular bar and the one who already established it has probably moved on. You’ll never be in the same league with that first guy. You can’t really win at that. At best you’ll be compared favorably, but you won’t stand out. One thing our former studio manager imparted in his “Words of Wisdom” address was to not be jealous. I think that’s another human emotion that’s hard to constrain. But, I think the wisdom in that idea is not to harbor negativity. That’s similar to the money thing: it’s apparent and ultimately annoying. Finally, if you’re totally green to all this stuff, you’re probably wondering what you include in a pitch or a “Show Bible”. In a nutshell, you have an idea and you have to express it as succinctly and simply as humanly possible. If your idea is like other similar ideas, you have to contend with that problem. For presentation you basically need: a simple show premise (a paragraph or so). You should be able to sum that up into a log line - that very brief sentence that entices you to click on a program. Then, you have descriptions and ideally representations of your characters and their world. Those characters should stand on their own. They should be intriguing enough to make people want to see them come alive and interact with each other - at least, that’s my opinion right now. The world they live in helps you distinguish your show and hints at the show’s complexity ($). They also generally want to have a half dozen or so show premises (individual episode summaries) to indicate the viability and texture. They may want to see an entire outline of a script. That is probably unnecessary up front, but can’t hurt to have on hand. Another good thing to have is basically a poster-type image that captures the show. It doesn’t need to be poster-sized. If you can’t do it justice with your iconic image, then it may not help you. Most development people have said that over-the-top props and posters aren’t necessary. They actually feel bad that you spent the money. That’s pretty much it. Hopefully, you have an idea of what pitching a cartoon is like now and aren’t as intimidated as I was my first time. -Waveybrain
Saw “Frankenweenie” this evening. It’s my favorite Tim Burton film! It was so funny and meticulously crafted! Few movies are worthy, but It might be worth seeing the 3D Imax. I saw a regular screening, but I imagine in 3D it’s even richer, and in Imax you’d be able to appreciate even more of the nuances and textures throughout the movie. We laughed out loud for about the first 20 minutes straight at the absurdity of it and the set ups. Just getting acclimated to the film was a joy, never mind the great storytelling and direction. -Waveybrain
There is hope: one day Walmart will re-introduce “humanoid” cashiers. You’ll be able to pick from: Pamela Anderson, Michael Jackson, Senatra…as your cashier.
“Toothlesss” and “Stitch” had a baby. -Waveybrain
Armadillo lizard.It’s a fucking dragon. I want one.
An original, signed Genie drawing-by non other than master animator, Eric Goldberg could be yours! Eric and his wife Sue have long been known for their generosity and mentorship among artists who have been fortunate enough to know them. Truthfully, the field is full of great people, but few are as experienced a willing to help as the Goldbergs have proven. Visit the auction benefiting Japanese Tsunami victims (see link posted below). -Waveybrain
Just skimmed through cartoonbrew and saw a bunch of interesting posts: UPA tribute at LACMA (in LA), Fri., March 30th @7:30; Mary Blair Golden Books being reprinted come Aug.; Glen Keane resigns/retires? from Disney after a long, industrious career-check out (http://www.arludik.com/oeuvresE/Keane/kean.htm); Butch Hartman launches “Yoo Toon”, another channel looking for animated content to produce; and this one: Pete Doctor heads up a series of flip books showcasing the animation of “The Nine Old Men”. I had to pre-order this one (you get a discount). So, a lot going on in the biz these days. -Waveybrain
The Archive Series—Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men: The Flipbooks will release on September 18. This pet project of UP director Pete Docter is among the more unique book concepts, and pays tribute to the work of the Nine Old Men in the best way possible: by displaying scenes their animation work. Amazingly, none of the […]
“It’s a world of laughter a world of tears…” RIP Robert Sherman. If you haven’t seen the documentary about the Sherman Brothers, “The Boys”-you should! They created so many timeless and memorable Disney classics (and they hardly even got along!). Many of those songs affected me as a kid and probably lead me in into the field of animation to some degree; from the “Jungle Book” soundtrack to “Mary Poppins”, and much of the Disneyland theme songs…One of the great highlights in my life was seeing and hearing the Sherman Brothers perform some of their songs in a small theatre when I worked at Disney. Their love for Walt was palpable and they shared some insightful stories about their experiences with him that only they could tell. -Waveybrain
We saw Miyazaki’s latest film, Arrietty aka, “The Borrowers” this past weekend. Amazing! The way the scale and sound was depicted; the incredible detail; all the subtle acting nuances and keen observations typical of Miyazaki; the lush backgrounds and beautifully rendered textures…there is so much to enjoy. Non-animation people might not appreciate how difficult it is to depict such scale in a hand-drawn medium, but Miyazaki does it masterfully. Some of the characters are pretty ugly looking, but I like that. It’s more true to life. And, he manages to make them compelling and fun despite that. I found myself thinking about the study and observations that goes into his movies in comparison to the details and study that goes in to an american animated features like: Tangled , Kung Fu Panda, Dragons…each are lush and full of observation. But, Miyazaki’s sensibilities stand apart for some reason. I think his films are like an Eyvind Earle painting: incredibly rich and full of detail across the entire canvas, making Miyazaki’s movies feel more dreamlike with a heightened sense of reality. Whereas, most american films are lit in ways that stage the action theatrically and downplay the background elements. In a Miyazaki movie the background is as much a character as the “actors”. The only thing I was a little disappointed by was that I thought the movie was going to be more about conservation. That is what I was hearing in the media/see: asinine “news” clip: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RuFcWkFJZgk). The movie was more about symbiosis than conservation. I was hoping my kids would understand conservation better after the movie. But, instead they probably understand borrowing.
I’ve probably mentioned this before: I remember getting my Tarzan book signed by Glen, and asking him to write something to inspire me. I thought I caught him off guard when he decided to write, “If it’s comes too easy you’re doing something wrong”. It’s been one of those thoughts ingrained in me ever since. Of course…I also spoke to Walt Peregoy about his art and approach. He didn’t contradict that. But, he said basically ‘just draw’. Much of his work wasn’t planned or over-thought, but spontaneous. I think when you’re very experienced that idea makes even more sense-trust yourself. Anyway, you can see Glen applying those ideas right here in this “pencil test”. -Waveybrain
And here’s a fun clip about Glen Keane’s process for improving the animation on Tangled. He would draw over the shot as a reference for the animators so they could push the animation to be as good as it can be.
You know how when you see someone else drawing in a sketchbook or something that sparks your interest, it’s next to impossible not to doodle? Well, that link I reblogged earlier today got me wondering how I might have approached that scene. Since I used to play goalie, I thought it might’ve been cool to have him leap and catch the falling guy like a goalie leaps to stop a goal. Anyway, here are the sketches that sprang from that idea. Btw, if you haven’t done an exercise like this-rethinking someone else’s choices, I recommend doing it for fun. The more you realize how much better the other artist is, the more you realize how much there is yet to learn.
Here is a rare treat. You don’t often get a glimpse of all that goes in to an animated scene-let alone a good one, from a great movie like “The Incredibles”. Check out what animator, Carlos Baena of Pixar went through to bring this quick sequence to life. The most interesting thing to me is how tight the animatic was to begin with. It seemed like it was practically timed and animated before he even added his touch. So, it’s kind of amazing to see all the additional study and steps it took to breathe more life and believability into that scene.
This study by Carlos Baena gives great tips on how to plan a scene for animation, from script to the final cut. Definitely worth a read!
I wish I could suck up his talents. I could use them right about now. Nice work Mr. Bodner! -Waveybrain
Alan Bodner, Art Director: Kim Possible
Saw a posting on Cartoon Brew about this Donald Duck T-Shirt contest (http://atrium.threadless.com/donaldduck/submissions/). I should’ve read the timeline before I wasted my time scribbling away. It’ll probably be seen more here anyway.
Some nice development art from Pixar’s UP! I love to see stuff like this that shows the stages of development. It’s some of that secondary art that makes Pixar movies so enjoyable-the stuff you press pause to look at. -Waveybrain
Omg omg omg a huuugeeee amount of Illustration and Design work by Paul Conrad for the movie Up!
Sooooo much Awesome!!!