This is a weekly column behind the scenes of Alex LeMay’s latest project, DARK JOEY. DARK JOEY is a collaboration between LeMay and writer Jim Uhls, who wrote the major motion picture, FIGHT CLUB, as well as his writing partner Ric Krause. Follow along here: #Film-School:lemay-makes-a-series
As we continue to our packaging for the Uhls project I realized that over the years I’ve developed a pretty air-tight system for getting buyers to be able to wrap their heads around the show/series idea I’m pitching them as well as be able to get to a yes or no fairly quickly.
One mistake that I see young content creators making when they would come in to pitch me (back when I was in the program development world) was that they over pitched me. They would come in with a three-ring binder with WAY too much information. They would be so well designed and color coded and have backstory of characters down to what they liked for breakfast and their relationship with their childhood puppy.
All that information is useful for when you make the project, but for selling, it’s overkill and most buyers will throw your beautiful piece of work in the trash once you leave. Sad but true, and I know this because I did it when I was first starting out. My guess is it’s an attempt to show buyers how prepared and dedicated you are. The best way to get their attention is:
KEEP IT SHORT
You’ll need to create two pitch documents.
- A One Sheet – a one sheet is just that; it’s a one page snapshot of your project. It contains:
- Project Title
- The project logline – in two sentence you need to cover: who are the main characters? What happens to them? What is the most important moment of the script? How does the story end? What psychological changes occur by the end. All in two sentences. A good example and a classic is Shakespeare’s ROMEO & JULIET: In medieval Italy, a young man falls in love with the daughter of a sworn enemy. They elope with tragic consequences. Here’s a great article on writing a logline from the Final Draft folks (How to Write a Logline that Sells)
- Synopsis: A one paragraph, more detailed explanation of the same things the logline covers. One exception – don’t give away the ending – leave them wanting to ask you questions. If they do, you’re in a good place
- The Talent: List the key onscreen and off-screen talent.
- Shooting Location: Keep it simple – A Farm House or Soundstage will do.
- Other projects you’ve done: They may not like this project, but they might like you. This will be at the end of your more expanded pitch deck too.
- A short pitch deck - This is usually a well-designed PowerPoint or Keynote presentation - 4 pages, MAX. Includes:
- All the same sections as the above document – but with a little more detail (don’t go crazy)
- Series Arc (If you’re pitching a series) - a HIGH-LEVEL description of the first three seasons. No more than 2 sentences each. Buyers want to know the concept isn’t going to burn out after one season
- Why the buyer’s audience will love it- This is a short paragraph that shows you understand the network or platform’s audience. This gets them excited if you do it right. Literally title this section Why Your Audience Will Love It.
Come in with more than one idea – and be prepared to pitch them as well as you’re pitching the idea that got you in the room. The reason for this, and this happened to me when I was pitching a big studio, is that if they don’t like your idea or it isn’t right for them they will always say, “Don’t like it. What else you got?" If you have nothing, you probably won’t pitch to them again.
Make sure your series can play at multiple outlets - If your series can only play at Awesomeness, it is most likely too niche (too narrow). The rule is, it should be able to be pitched to at least three outlets but preferably five. The reason being is that if you create a series that only gets one bite at the apple and they pass, you’ve just spent months of your time for nothing.
Make sure it has a SOCIAL element - Almost every outlet/distributor wants to know that you have an audience. If not, then they want to know that you have access to one. There are exceptions however, STREAM NOW (https://streamnowpro.com) and NETFLIX. Both operate on the filmmaker friendly idea of “If it’s good, we want it”.
I had a chance to connect with Ron Valderrama (@ronVceo) from STREAM NOW and he refreshingly said, “We don’t necessarily factor in whether they have a social following or not, we just want to feature great series created by good storytellers.” The other good thing for people in the STAREABLE community is that they have open submissions on the first week of every quarter and they watch every submission. It’s a great opportunity to get your work out there and demonstrate to the industry that you can get your work distributed by a reputable outlet.
In the end, there is isn’t a document you can make that does all the heavy sales initiatives it takes to sell your work, but having short, fun, and easy to understand pitch material really helps. Most importantly, If they do like your pitch, these documents will help them “sell it up” to their boss(es).