Lots of folks dream of having their own show – creating their own property from scratch, selling it to a network or production company, rolling around in piles of money like Scrooge McDuck. While there are more ways than ever to get original IP in front of an audience, there are still plenty of hurdles to… hurdle before you attain Scrooge-level wealth.
Hint: don’t do this
None the least of which is figuring out what to do after your pitch is a hit.
CMA held an event Thursday, April 24 to clear up the mystery. “They Loved Your Pitch: Now What?!,” brought together the prodigious talents of Richard Siegmeister (Nickelodeon) and Daniel Victor (Sesame Workshop) to walk the crowd through the do’s — and do NOT do’s — of all things legal.
Look at how friendly and knowledgeable they are!
I wasn’t there (I was hard at work in the CMA Writers Group and my astral projection abilities were hampered by all the pollen) but I was able to wrangle some notes in order to recap it for you. Because I’m good like that… and Nancy Kaplan is awesome.
Without further ado, here are all the juicy pointers we both missed:
• Producers are a unique part of the pitching process: they can produce content and react quickly to industry trends to create content.
• The most important thing you can do is protect your intellectual property
• If you want to trademark, trademark series names, titles, and other assets. And you don’t have to trademark at the beginning of the process; your time (and money) is better spent developing the property.
• You can’t copyright ideas.
• Keep records of all your ideas, including all drafts
• Always put copyright notice on the bottom
• Big companies don’t steal ideas (it’s cheaper, legally speaking, to buy them outright than be tied up in a lawsuit).
Hanging on every word
Depending on who you pitch to, and whether it’s animation or live action, they’ll ask for different documents – anything they think is possible for a pilot (scripts, drawings, storyboards, etc). Make sure you negotiate time to consider the property, pay your money and pay production (usually 6-12 months, and you want the shortest period possible). Remember: your main goal in these negotiations is to build a strong relationship with the company/network you’re pitching to. This process is a marathon, and building trust is key to becoming part of the creative process for your work.
Look how carefully Daniel explained that!
International markets have deals put together by pre-selling properties. It’s easier to partner with someone to put those deals together – particularly if you can get Canada involved. They’re heavily subsidized, producing more content than anyone.
You’re not going to get rich on your first show, but it’s the first step in building your career.
And, for the love of Heaven, do your research! You want some sense of what the company’s track record is for the kinds of deals you want to make.
Richard with our very own Livia Beasley
Check out the full event video on CMA’s YouTube page for even more insider know-how.
And stay tuned for an insider’s look at our Writers Group!