Monday, October 6, 2008
80% of Success
If we are to believe Woody Allen’s quote, “80% of success is just showing up…” then in the world of pitching projects, we can assume that developing and pitching projects frequently must be fundamental to success in that arena. Until this post, I never compiled an exact count of all the pitches I juggle year-to-year (see image above showing a blitz of pitch meetings a couple of years back). For fun, I’ve labeled each pitch that went nowhere with a “DUD!” and each pitch that led to a deal of some sort with a “SCORE!”
one animated preschool idea ended in a year-long option/development deal at Playhouse Disney in 2007.
one animated older kids (age 6 to 11) concept has failed to find a home even after three years of redevelopment and repitching.
My idea for a stars-of-animation live action TV interviews show fails after 3 pitch meetings with various networks.
pitched an animation pitching and development book, which ended in a deal to write my second book for Allworth Press. The manuscript was finished and delivered in early August 2008 and the book’s publication date is September 2009.
SCORE! and DUD!
my deal with Playhouse Disney stalls after we complete scripts––before we get a chance to go to pilot. Still, it was a great experience to have a project optioned at a major network.
two animated pitches for adult animated series. One has more legs than another, but is still on the back burner until I can put some energy and resources together to make a 2-minute test film to help sell the show. A 2-minute test film seems especially necessary with adult projects.
I pitch a children’s book agent five children’s book ideas. All are rejected.
two weeks after the Disney deal goes south, my network contact recommends me to be the creator/writer/developer of a new project for an independent production, giving me my second paid experience as a TV writer. This project remains active and is likely a pilot (if not a full blown series) will be ordered soon.
I pitched a third concept for an adult animated series, which goes nowhere.
pitched a third “animation” book for Allworth Press, which ended in a deal to write the book. The contract was signed last week. Writing begins January 1, 2009.
after seeing my short “Good Morning,” National Geographic Kids development hires me to direct an internal pilot, allowing me to contribute on the ground floor of a new project.
pitched two old concepts to a new shorts program at Cartoon Network.
after showing clips of my work-in-progress, an independent producer hires me to animate/direct/develop her self-funded pilot, which I start in mid-October.
***Note that the only consistent successes on my pitch roster have been my book proposals to Allworth Press, where I am (miraculously) 3 for 3. Not every pitch on this list has become a major creative priority in my creative life. There’s NO WAY that I would ever devote to pitching and development full time. This is a speculative business with no guarantee that any project will take off. Instead, pitching and development has been a side-bar to my career, offering a chance to reach for the moon (sorry for the cliché), while I happily toil away in the animation industry.
As we move into 2009, my pitch sites are set on another personal film, a new children’s book pitch, and three proposals for an animated feature film. Hey––you never know, right?
Posted by David B. Levy at 5:27 AM
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my limited pitching experience has allowed me to meet new people and keep on my toes idea-wise. the process is quick and relatively painless.
I also enjoy hearing pitches for cartoons and movies from my mom.
When pitching is it better to have a clear vision so that you can answer any questions thrown at you? Or does this come off as seeming like you're not open to suggestions?
Is it better to have a strong concept with a loose knowledge of what you want, leaving the idea permeable to change?
Also how does one even get to pitch?
Is having a nice series of films under your belt important? Or having a history as a talented worker? I assume both help either way.
Sorry for the barrage of questions, I'd just love to pitch at some point.
RE: Stephen's Mom
I can't tell you how many times I've been told by other lifeguards how I should do a show about "wacky lifeguards"... any takers? :)
Good questions... the term "creator-driven" cartoon implies that there is a creator's singular vision at the helm of such shows... but, because a TV show is a collaborative art, the need to collaborate with the network and other creatives is part of most any show's experience.
The best bet is to have a strong vision, but also be open to suggestions and directions that might help make the project stronger and more successful. But, this is all cart before the horse... first you gotta get an idea in pitch-shape and shop it around.
Anyone can set up a pitch meeting... development execs are easy to locate. Do a little research on line, and go to festivals and events where execs and other creators congrigate.
It is a HUGE asset to have a body of films to your name. With that in place, execs/opportunties may come to you... making the process of pitching much more kind.
...but, for the FULL story, check out my new book in sept 09! : D
There's another "80% Rule" that I like. It says that 20% of what you do, both for individuals and larger organizations, accounts for 80% of your successes. It might sound depressing if you're thinking 80% of what you do isn't so important, but if you can identify the 20% that matters most then you can focus on working that for all it's worth.
the paradox you present is, that if you could identify the 20% that matters and then focus on that, then your 80% rule wouldn't hold (unless, perhaps, while focusing on what used to matter, another 20% which seemed insignificant is now the new 20% that matters, in which case, your advice does not hold).
Hi George. It's not so much advice as a business principle (one that small and big businesses alike use— ex. Ebay has definitely applied this to their work). When you start to look at real world examples——which I won't bore anyone here with——it's surprising how much it holds true. This principle doesn't suggest that when you discover the 20% of your work that matters most you would discontinue the other 80% of your work. Instead, it's a way of identifying a part of your work that you can focus in on. Another way of putting it is that 20% (roughly) of your work produces 80% of your results. It can be an aid to figuring out how to allocate resources like people, time, and money. If you're interested in reading more about this and some other really great business concepts, get a copy of the book "What Management Is". Highly recommended read.
80% WOW GREAT!!!!
I am currently taking notes on a Super idea I have for a cartoon series. I have never done this before and REALLY want to pitch my idea. Can you please give me any advise on how to get started on doing this? I also wonder about if the idea sells who takes over the writing and how do you get paid, do they just take over the idea?
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