My name is Elyse: I’m a producer with BSI Films a subsidiary of BlueStar Studios Inc. A few months ago I attended a private event in Belgium held by U.S. and international TV and film executives and investors, and asked, how can independents get their TV projects submitted to networks, 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: Actually they have not made it more difficult… they just changed the rules. Also, the reason they won’t go back to the old way can be summed up in one word… Money!
Networks/cable stations 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.
As for going back to the old system, no one wants to make changes to the current process. Networks/cable stations now reach global markets by using multiple platforms to broadcast content. The combined revenue from reduced overhead, domestic and global markets licensing fees enables them to pay millions to creators and writers whose shows get sent to series. Therefore, networks don’t want to take on that cost for staff and overhead again to review independent projects and insiders like the deals they’re given for mediocre shows. So I don’t see anything changing anytime soon.
However independents can make this happen. John talks about options independents can pursue, his suggestions are below.
Elyse: But what about independents that don’t have the resources, access and ability to edit, develop and submit their show to a network?
John: As stated before there are potentially millions of dollars at stake and the people they’re competing against are not sympathetic to their dilemma. This business is open to those who play by the rules and there are very few options for getting around those rules. There are no secret formulas, no shortcuts or tricks that I know of.
In my opinion independents have 2 options. Make it happen on their own with the help of friends, contacts through making calls, joining groups or taking a job within the industry. Or, partner or co-partner with someone or a company willing to work with them.
Elyse: What 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? For investors and networks, ticket sales and ratings are the only judge of how great a script is. It’s also important to remember, network executives receive the greatest scripts ever written, every day by every writer on the planet. In today’s industry having a script is no longer the only factor networks take into consideration when reviewing a show. Other factors include development, production costs, can the show compete against a competitor on a specific day and time, and most importantly can this show increase their market share of a demographic their ad sales department needs to reach.
The mind set of insiders is not convincing executives how great their script is but how it will help their ratings and ad sales. If independents want to compete for getting their “great script” licensed or sent to series, they will need a show-runner, executive producer or someone that knows how to edit the script to fit the programming and inventory needs of that network it’s being submitted to.
Also, who said they have to pay someone? Look, independents are finding ways to produce projects with the help of other independents who exchange their time and equipment for part ownership or percentage of future revenue. That combined with online streaming and free platforms to broadcast the content, they don’t have to pay anyone, anything. But if they want to submit to networks/cable stations, there are standards and guidelines they will have to meet.
Elyse: You and I both know that it’s not that simple for independents to get a company or professional to help develop and submit their projects. Independents can spend months trying to get someone just to talk to them, least of all help them develop and submit their project… so what’s the best option for them to pursue?
John: If independents want professionals or a company to divert time and financial resources from their own projects or those of their paying clients, to go work on outside projects and absorb 100% of the cost, then you’re right… it’s not simple.
However if they want to submit to networks/cable stations and they don’t have an individual or a team with access, then they will need help. How they get the help is not important. It can be friends, contacts, their own team or if they’re lucky and can find professionals or production companies with access and resources willing to take their project, any or all will be helpful.
As you know, we’re an investment group: we’re not writers, producers or show-runners and just like the networks and studios, we will retain your group or groups like yours to do script, project development and produce it if needed. This is not an endorsement for your company or companies like yours, but this industry outsources work all the time they’ve been doing it for decades. With the restructuring of staff and reduction of production personnel the networks and studios have made it a standard operating procedure.
Elyse: If they want to retain someone to help them, how will they know who to hire and trust?
John: Unfortunately this business is not an exact science. Therefore I can only speak to how we hire someone. If I have not worked with them before, 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’ve 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.
Submitting to networks is an opportunity that is there for all to take advantage of, independents just have to determine if they want to treat this venture as a business opportunity or a hobby.
BSI Films / a subsidiary of BlueStar Studios Inc.