My name is Elyse: I’m a producer with BlueStar Studios Inc., and a Director with Independent Film & TV Association. A few months ago, in my capacity with IFTA, I attended a private event in Belgium held by U.S. and international TV and film executives and investors. I had the opportunity to interview domestic (North America/U.S.) and international network/cable station executives and industry executives about how can independents get their TV projects submitted, sent to series or licensed.
Below are some excerpts from my interview:
Elyse: So tell me, if there is such a demand for content by networks and cable stations, then why have they made it so difficult for independents to submit their TV shows? Why not go back to allowing independents to simply submit their shows directly to a network?
John: The short answer to your question can be summed up in one word… Money! For the networks it’s cost effective to receive projects that have been edited, developed, meets their production standards and programming needs, versus paying staff and overhead to perform work on projects that need editing and development.
More information: Networks have reduced their costs and overhead by eliminating staff and budgets that were assigned to review and develop independent projects when they arrived at the network. That development cost is now the responsibility of anyone that wants to submit a script to them. Also, to ensure the script and development of the project meets both the business and entertainment needs of their network; they only accept projects from professionals, credited production companies, prime vendors and agencies.
It’s all about the money… Networks/cable stations now reach global markets by using multiple platforms to broadcast content. The combined revenue from domestic and global markets enables them to pay millions to creators and talent whose shows get sent to series. Therefore no one wants to make changes to the process. Networks don’t want to take on that cost for staff and overhead again and insiders like the deals they’re given for mediocre shows.
Elyse: But what about independents that don’t have the resources, access and ability to edit, develop and submit their show to a network? You and I both know that it’s not that simple to get a company or professional to help them develop and submit their projects… so what’s the best option for them to pursue?
John: The short answer is, don’t make excuses find a way to get a showrunner, executive producer or company to help you compete on a professional level. Your competitors are counting on you to try and take short cuts and not use professionals or give up. Don’t give them that satisfaction.
Also, Professionals or a company will not divert time and financial resources from their own projects or those of clients that are paying them, to go work on outside projects and absorb 100% of the cost.
There are a lot of companies out there that can help independents… if they want it.
Elyse: If an independent has a great script, why should they have to pay someone to help them submit it?
John: first of all who told them it was a great script? The viewing audience is the only judge of how great a script is. But if no one ever sees it, the writer will be the only that knows how great it is. And by the way, they don’t have to pay anyone, for anything.
However, if independents are looking for professionals to stop working on their own projects and work on a project they don’t own for free, it could happen… but the odds are not in their favor!
It’s important that independents understand that in today’s industry, a script remains a factor in executives decision making process, but no longer is it the only factor. Some of the other factors that networks are looking at are, development / production costs, content that can compete against a competitor on a specific day and time, and/or increase their market share, and ad sales.
Once they build a team or hire someone, these are factors that will be taken into consideration during the edit and development of their script and producers package.
Elyse: How will they know who to hire and trust?
Unfortunately this business is not an exact science, so if I don’t know them I start by checking their IMDB. It does not tell me everything I want to know but, if I see what studios, networks and projects they’re team has worked on and/or awards they’ve received that tells me something about their capabilities. Everything else is subjective i.e. can they articulate a plan that makes sense to me, are they understanding what I want done and do they sound like someone I want to work with.
In my opinion, getting your script submitted, licensed or sent to series is an opportunity that is there for all to take advantage of, you just have to determine if you want to treat this venture as a business opportunity or a hobby.