Saturday, 21 June 2014

Where can Animators Pitch their Ideas to Producers?

The Big Pitch at TAAFI - the panel
Where can you Pitch your animation ideas? The trick with pitching is to find the folks who are actually in the market to buy new material. But short of camping outside the offices of the Disney Studios and begging for an interview, where can you go to pitch? One place worth trying is "The Big Pitch" at TAAFI, the Toronto Animated Art Film International

On Monday June 16th, the last day of TAAFI, various producers were present on stage and hearing pitches, all from studios describing themselves as “actively looking for content”. Two pitchers got to go head to head for the chance to sell their idea to a studio, and to win a prize.

Pitch Number One:  Christopher Sweeney with “Split Second”. 

Chris Sweeney introduced himself as a "writer, not an animator, though he had "written “A bunch of graphic novels”. His pitch "Split Second" had no images to accompany it, so he relied solely on a verbal pitch, which he delivered with great confidence.

The logline for Split Second was this: “A troublemaking boy named Rory Hubble has to change his ways, be good, do something awesome, and impress his Mom. However, after he goes thru a procedure to make him good, he creates an evil double. “ 

The evil double is called "Double Hubble", and his goal is to try to replace Rory at home. The moral of the tale is this "You are your own worst enemy". The show is about the conflict between Rory Hubble and Double Hubble. Rory tries to tell his Mom about the evil double - but she doesn't want to know, she thinks Rory is just making it all up.

After the pitch, which ran about five minutes, the Producers gave comments, asked questions, and generally tested the writer on how well thought out his material was. One of the first questions was this: What made the main character special and unique?

One producer, satisfied with the questions asked by the other producers, told a story about a science major working on a PHD who had asked if there was a scientific way of figuring out the recipe for a hit show. Could one create a recipe that would guarantee success in devising hit TV shows? The answer, of course, is no. There is no way to tell - it’s impossible to know what will make a hit.

Pitch Number Two: “The Adventures of Zach.”

The second pitcher was Sarp Serter, who introduced “The Adventures of Zach.”. He had plenty of pictures and visual development to help out. Zach is a boy who "lives in a world dominated by evil wizards".  One critic saw Willow and Princess Bride in the pitch. Another asked what he described as a "Standard question – why should this world be animated and not live action?".  Another Producer said that "Adventure is a tough sell right now….unless you call it 'adventure comedy'...and mainly, you have to call it comedy."

The audience and the panel both opted for the second pitch (though I liked Split Second most).  Both pitchers won a license for ToonBoom Storyboard Pro (Toonboom is one of the TAAFI sponsors). But what they really won, of course, was the chance to pitch their ideas to producers actively seeking content, and also the opportunity to test their pitch in front of a large audience. 

After all, the only way to get good at pitching is to practice. For most of us that means starting off by being pretty bad at it, and slowly getting better. Every time you pitch your idea, you will get better at pitching, you will improve the content of your pitch, and you will increase your chances of being taken seriously by the executives whose job it is to buy fresh content.


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