Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Pitch Package

I've been getting quite a bit of emails lately from individuals or groups trying to get animated television series off the ground. More specifically, they are asking what to have ready in order to enhance their project's chance of getting traction.

I'm not an expert in television animation. However, my vague knowledge gathered over the years combined with knowing how and why investors invest leads me to the following conclusions (this advice goes for film as well).

Business Plan
If you are approaching individual investors or investor groups or any source of money other than a studio or producer, it is very likely you'll need a business plan. While I cannot say that this is always the case, it would suck to be in a situation where you meet this investor who is interested in your idea only to have to tell him that a wait is required while you put one together. Be prepared. If you don't ever need to use it, then fine. However, if you are serious about doing such an endeavor that requires so much money, the cost of a BP is a small price to pay. If you are pounding the pavement trying to find money sources, there is nothing sweeter than having a BP with you that you can just slap down in front of them. Wealthy people or companies do not waste time. If you don't have what they need, they will simply move on to the next investment. There are no shortages of people who need their money. Don't lose the opportunity.

Here are some common questions I get:

Q: Can we hire you to write a business plan?
A: The short answer is no. I'm trying to remain anonymous with this blog and if I start doing work like this, I will be spilling the beans. Besides, my wife keeps telling me I don't spend enough time with her as is.

Q: There are people on the internet that I can hire to write a business plan. Should I do that?
A: That is a possibility. Although a business plan for a film or television show is a little different from a BP that sells your average widget. With enough research, these people can educate themselves to write a good one. However, I personally wouldn't take the chance. Get someone that knows the business. If they take the time to learn what's involved, they are just going to have to charge you that much more for their education. There are also people that claim to have knowledge in the film industry and write film specific business plans. This is closer to what you want, however, again, animation is a specialized subset of film and you may want someone that has knowledge in this specific area. Maybe it could be a combination of one of these "Film Business Plan" writers and an animation business consultant that can check over their work. However, I have the feeling that these BP writers use a template and just slap new numbers in for each client.

Q: If you won't write me one, can you at least recommend someone?
A: Yes. I know of a couple of people that are capable of doing a good job.

The next important attribute to include in your pitch to investors is artwork. The more the better. You really need to spend some money in this area if you can afford to. Many investors won't consider dumping money into your project if they don't see that you have done the same. And I don't just mean man hours, I mean - they want to know that you have invested quite a bit of your own money into the idea. Artwork is a good way to do this. Employ someone to do character designs, some background artwork, etc. Eye candy goes a long way. If the final product will be CG, try to include actual finished CG character artwork. At the very least, have someone draw the characters to immitate what the CG will look like (shadows, shading, etc).

If you can afford it, animation tests would be icing. If you can burn some DVDs and include them in the package, you are going to get more attention. Investors want to get an idea of what the final product will be like. However, this is not necessary and the cost is often prohibitive.

Sell the Story
You'll need to include a script for the first show, and if it is a series, you should outline a few more. I recommend outlining a seasons worth. Further, I would go as far to list each character (with artwork if possible) and tell us who he/she is, their personality traits, and what significance they have in your story.

Finally, you need to package all of this together nicely. You should have both a CD version that can be loaded onto a computer and a hard copy for those old timers. Put the plan in a nice three ring binder at the very least. If you really want to impress, have it bound. The artwork should be printed with no scaling artifacts. I've seen some pretty ugly packages in my time, it never amazes me that people do not take the time to make sure the artwork is reproduced well. Another idea that I've seen implemented well is putting artwork into the BP. It spruces it up and breaks up the pages and pages of text. It also ensures that it will be seen by everyone who reads the plan. Finally, put all of this together in some sort of nice folder with your contact information clearly visible.

This post is only my opinion of course. I've seen projects get financed that are ugly as sin. However, I think that your chances are increased if you take the time and effort to do these things.

Horton Hits $45

Just wanted to take a second and congratulate Blue Sky for Horton's $45+ million opening. With the recent spate of lower performing animated films, this was needed.

I have not seen the movie yet, but hope to get a chance soon. The visuals look great along with the animation. I don't want to expect too much out of the story or I may go in with too many high hopes.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Good, Bad and the Ugly

Hi ho, hi ho, off to work we go... That has been my theme for the last few months. I've tried to find enough motivation to write for this damn blog, but I really couldn't muster it. Until now.

Here we are in March and the CG films are about to begin. Horton Hears a Who opens today! I have to say the film looks awfully pretty. This may call for an actual trip to the movie theater. I'm hoping for an over $50 million weekend for this latest Blue Sky offering. The animation industry needs it!

Kung Fu Panda is being polished and will be kicking its way to a theater soon. Jack Black can be really annoying or really funny. I have my fingers crossed that the latter is the case. I'm somewhat eager to see this.

The Disney folks have just released another Wall-E trailer. You have to hand it to Pixar for such gorgeous imagery. I'm especially delighted (did I just use that word?) by the camera work. Not wanting to be mistaken for a Pixar kiss-ass, I'll throw in that obligatory "I'm not so sure about the story" comment.

Hold on a second! You are probably asking why I'm so oddly positive about everything written so far. Keep reading my fellow smack talkers.

When I made my post many months ago regarding the Space Chimps trailer and how ugly it looked, you wouldn't believe all the emails I received. After about the 15th message, I got the point. It wasn't a real trailer, nor were those the final character looks. Because I'm such a nice guy in non-blog life, I thanked those that wrote me. Well, except for the rude and obnoxious ones. I gave them the business.


To those rude ones, I dedicate the rest of this paragraph to you. The what I'm assuming are the final character renders that are being parlayed out recently, look almost as crappy as the ones I saw in that trailer. The chimp in the poster over on Latino Review makes me want to vomit. He looks like one of those ugly plastic faced monkeys I had as a 4 year old. Anyone over the age of 35 probably knows what I'm talking about.

I'm fairly certain that there was a conversation at some point that started like this: "Boy, that monkey looks an awful lot like a real monkey. Can we instead make him look more like a furry boy? You know, just like that kid in the super-awesome movie Jumanji?" No doubt this comment came from the same guy that said "I've got an idea for an animated comedy! What does the world like more than World War 2? Pigeons! Everyone loves pigeons AND war. Let's combined the two together!"

Maybe the story is funny and endearing and all the good things in life. However, those monkeys look like hell.

If that doesn't stir the hornets nest again, I don't know what will. Send me those loving emails! Deep down inside, you know I'm right.

Why stop there? I'm on a roll! I might as well offend even more people while I'm at it. This time it's pointed at DreamWorks and the teaser trailer for Madagascar "The Crate Escape". I ask, does this movie really deserve a sequel? I hope that it focuses on the penguins because that was the only thing worth building on. Okay, so this wasn't really that venomous of an attack. I just wanted the Space Chimps people to feel like I wasn't just picking on them. When in reality I am.

There you have it. Some positive and some negative comments. What a well rounded post. I'm so proud of myself!