What I tell myself everyday.

To all the people watching, I can never ever thank you enough for the kindness to me, I'll think about it for the rest of my life. All I ask is one thing, and this is.. I'm asking this particularily of young people that watch: Please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism - for the record it's my least favorite quality, it doesn't lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen. I'm telling you, amazing things will happen." - Conan 'O'Brien

August 23, 2016

Mark Mayerson's "Don't Pitch to Buyers, Pitch to the Audience"

I came across Mark Mayerson's blog posts about creating IP and the negatives of pitching your ideas to others a few years ago. And it resonated greatly  with me. The links are below and I heavily recommend those interested to have a read and see if you agree with them.

There is also a video that I linked to below via his blog post.

But below are what I think are the important issues that he highlighted in his blog posts. Again, please read them in their context. I do this for my own references.

Part 1

- The ability to pitch is a wholly separate skill from the creation of ideas
- Too much depends on the budget, the schedule, the crew, input from investors and chance.  
- Without people willing to pitch for free, the listener has no job.  
- If the people taking pitches were genuinely creative, they would be creating their own projects for the company and would not have to listen to ideas from anyone else. 
While a creator sees a work as polished and developed, the buyers see it as raw material to be shaped to their own needs. 
If the owners decide to revive a project in the future, they're under no obligation to get the creator involved.  
Pitching does have an upside. It gives you the opportunity to meet people in positions of authority.  Enlarging your network is always a positive thing.  Pitching may lead to job opportunities if the people you are pitching to are impressed by you, even if they don't like your idea.

From the comments section.
"Visions are worth fighting for. Why spend your life making someone else's dreams?"  (to pay the fucking bills. Pay the bills then live your dreams.)

- "I wish someone had grabbed me by the shoulders much earlier in my career and told me to start pitching by building relationships with other producers, content-creators, distributors, financiers, broadcasters, investors, and so on. Having a good idea is great, being able to animate it into a pitch is great, but developing it into a pitchable product that fits into the market is both costly and time-consuming-- and the cost is often your own time and money."
What people don't often realize is that content producers are generally the lowest income lot of the bunch.. . we sell developed ideas which includes work by a writer, a producer, and artist(s)... and usually we foot the bill ourselves. Anyone interest in joining this club, need only have a never-ending desire to do whatever it takes to get their ideas off the ground while earning next to nothing for doing this. But it sure is fun! And yeah, its kinda rewarding when it actually works.

The success or failure of an idea rests with the audience and until its judgement is known, the outcome is just speculation.
- Creators should  focus on pleasing audiences rather than focus on pleasing buyers.  
- What engages the audience and what do they remember?  Characters.  "We start with strong characters and build the movie from there." 
Characters are more memorable than stories.  
Artists love looking at art.  It's a hard truth, but audiences don't care about art or animation.  They want characters that entertain them..... audiences are not interested in a high level of craft unless it is accompanied by something that entertains them.  Given a choice between art and entertainment, entertainment wins. 

 Q "But what if I fail?" A "You will. "  
- "Your first try will be wrong.  Budget and design for it." 
- The faster and cheaper you can get your idea in front of an audience, the more likely you are to survive the failure and come back with something better. It may be a revision of your original idea or it may be something wholly new, but it will be closer to what the audience wants.
The fact is that creating something that an audience likes is hard.  Sustaining it while you grow a business around it is at least as hard and is going to take time.

Marketing and monetizing your work are the great challenges, but the distribution challenge no longer exists.  Computers and software have also greatly reduced production costs.
It takes time to build an audience, but everyone with internet access has a network of friends, no matter how small, and that's a starting point.  
The difference between a hobby and a business is income.  
Maybe you'll charge for your work.  Maybe you'll finance by selling advertising.  Maybe you'll give the work away and sell merchandise based on the work.  Maybe you'll charge for special access to you or to your work in progress.  There are multiple potential revenue streams.
Building and monetizing an audience are not simple things and they have no instant solutions.

- First, there is advertising.  YouTube is owned by Google and Google places ads and splits the revenue with Tofield.
Then there is merchandise. There are mobile games available and there's user generated content helping to keep the site fresh.
Simon Tofield is doing many of the things mentioned in these articles.  He's built the films around a continuing character.  The shorts are comparatively fast and cheap to produce. There is no dialogue, so the films can be understood internationally without subtitles or dubbing. The films are short, usually less than three minutes and sometimes less than two.
He uses Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest to stay connected to his audience and let them know when something new is available. 
Tofield has taken advantage of another thing: an existing community.  Millions of people have cats as pets.  They are a ready-made audience for these cartoons.  (Find something that people can relate to.) 

When it comes to producing something fast and cheap, animation isn't high on the list.  It takes time, and in the current media environment, the audience wants a steady stream of new material or it will lose interest and move on. (Create a series of short animation rather then one every few months)
The skills used to make animated films -- the ability to write, design, draw and stage situations -- can be applied to other things.
Should an idea prove successful, it can always be done as animation at a later date.  
There are more opportunities available now to reach an audience and generate income than have ever existed.  That's not to say it is easy.  Creating work that is popular is hard.  Most creations simply don't generate much interest.
Keep ownership of your work.  Nobody will care about it as much as you, so you're the only one who can protect the heart and soul of your idea.  Get it to an audience as quickly and cheaply as possible and take audience feedback seriously, even if the feedback is negative or indifferent.  Like it or not, success depends on the audience.
If you can satisfy an audience, monetize it.  Even if you can't earn enough to live on, it's a nice supplement to your day job and will prevent your income from ever dropping to zero if you are unemployed.
Until an audience has passed judgment on your work, the value of your idea is unknown.  If you choose to do business with a larger company without proof of value, that puts you at a great disadvantage.  You never want to be negotiating from a position of weakness.  (That is why you want to make sure you have a content that have some leverage. Either through a fan base or value add, like minimising production costs by doing it yourself. Even co-producing if you actually run a studio)
 If you are a creator, educate yourself.  If you're going to pitch to companies, get yourself a good entertainment lawyer and don't let your desire for a sale blind you to what's in your long-term interest.
- Companies don't create hits, people do.  Don't ever forget that, even if many companies have.

I really liked this comment from a commentator in the comments section. 

"I think animators should be more like musicians. Musicians form bands, they get together and jam and create albums together and tour. People with the same tastes and skill levels team up, form a little family and make their dreams happen under one name. It's a team, it's a chapter of your life." 

I mean animating does not cost money. Coming up with ideas does not cost money. Find mates who have common interest or people who you can work with and just do it.  

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