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.


Anonymous said...

I agree there are many resources in books and the Internet to help you make a business plan for a film. One advice I have is to be realistic about expectations for investors. Leave the BS at home.

Don't draw comparisons to your film against a Pixar or Dreamworks films when quoting gross sales revenues. Find films in the same realm as what you are doing.

Know the business. Gross sales mean nothing to you as the filmmaker.

DanO said...

I'd suggest one thing - if possible. try to accomplish something in the field first. if you can write an entertaining short, then your chances of getting people to invest in you will grow exponentially. if you can write an animated short thats entertaining, then spend some money to have it animated. we're talking 2 or 3 minutes even. put that short in some festivals. create a blog online about making it. put something into the animation community before trying to take out. everyone benefits from this - most importantly you. you learn the ropes of making a series by doing the same things you need to do on a much smaller scale. your potential investors have a complete animated short to watch that is the product of your hard work and the animation community gets more shorts(which we always need). hollywood is littered with people who have spent tons of time and money on a potential series that never got made and they are left looking at the materials that they produced and thinking: for all of this effort i could have made an animated short of my own"
- and even better; you'd OWN it.

Walk Through Money Online Journal said...

It takes a lot of learnings and experiences to plan a business. It's also frustrating unless you are really enthusiast about what you do. Thanks for this very useful article