Last night I went to another JHRTS event. This time it was a panel called From Pitch to Pilot: Exploring the Relationships, Writers, and Responsbilities of the Development Process. It featured writer Rob Thomas (Veronica Mars), producer David Nevins (president of Imagine), Christina Davis (SVP of CBS Network) and Jonathan Davis (SVP of 20th Century Fox). It was also moderated by CAA TV Lit/Packaging agent Kathy White - who was a really enthusiastic moderator who kept the talk on topic well. It was really interesting to hear all the different perspectives, each person a script or idea must stop at on its way through the pipeline. Highlights:
-Testing isn't always indicative of a show's success. CSI originally tested poorly because it was so gory; once they snipped it, it was great. "Maggots don't test well," Christina said. Rob Thomas chimed in: "But dogs do!"
-Pitching is really about conveying the heart of your story and its characters, not going through the story from Fade In to Fade Out. Christina explained that execs hear about eight pitches a day during the season, so you have to be able to jump in and tell your story in thirty minutes. You have to get to the heart of your idea and characters. Don't go through the plots of every act; if they go forward with your idea, they'll pay you for that part.
There was also a lot of discussion about preserving a writer's idea, and how it can be difficult to take notes from producers, studios and networks - though producers and studios really are your allies, trying to help you sell your idea to the network.
I think sometimes the downfall of these kinds of events is that the panelists are a little bit out of touch with their audience. I think the JHRTS crowd is very educated and many are aspiring studio execs or producers who understand how it works, rather than kids "fresh off the truck from Texas" (Rob's expression) - but still, I don't think a lot of us were sitting there thinking, oh man, how do I deal with conflicting notes from the studio and the network? How do I know which producers to trust? How do I approach casting my project? We are a few years behind that. We are thinking, how do I get an agent? How is assisting a producer different than assisting a studio exec? What do I do when studio execs don't call me and ask me to write screenplays because they like my young adult novels (again, Rob)? So that's where I hope I can bridge the gap a little. It's hard to go from clueless newbie to well-versed Hollywoodite. There are a lot of steps - and questions - in between.
By the way, I don't have to go to work til Tuesday. I took off, because I haven't taken a single sick day or vacation day since I began working in October. So I'm going to write, hang out at the beach, and go shoe shopping. And it's going to be everything I thought it could be.
Coming soon: Summer TV preview. Woo!