Hi readers. I’m currently at Comic-Con San Diego (why this blog post is a little late).
In addition to being a whole lot of fun, a lot of entertainment business gets conducted down here. There’s a lot of networking - my con roommate, Eugene Son, now running an animated television show, got some of his early animation writing gigs from someone he met at Comic-Con. That’s why it’s important to go to places where the industry gathers to meet and talk to people, especially when you’re trying to break in. Not that I’m saying you have to go to Comic-Con specifically – unless you’re an established industry pro, it’s extremely difficult to get passes these days even if you want to go. But there are other events and festivals where the industry gathers – get out there! The other big aspect of Comic-Con from a professional standpoint is the craft and business oriented panels. I’ve been to several so far and I thought I would report the highlights of a couple.
Studio Production Chiefs Speak
The first panel I went to had three studio production executives talking about the state of the business from a studio standpoint. They described their job as buying, developing and overseeing production of movies from nascent ideas through completion of production. But they also said there job is really one of advocacy. They fight for the projects they believe are good. Other takeaways:
They acknowledge the value of underlying intellectual property (IP). Executive Jim Miller said, with existing properties, “the fans are telling you what stories you’re going to tell.” They said original fare can get made, but there is budget pressure on original product. They also said for smaller projects, the executive is often pitching their vision to the writer, where for big projects they’re looking for a writer or director to come in with a unique point of view. Finally, it is important that someone in the creative process be a fan of the IP, not so much to protect it but because they will know best how to change it to make it filmic.
They agreed that these days they have to consider franchise potential for all projects from the get-go. From a business standpoint they always want something they can franchise. But creatively not every story lends itself to world-building, and not everything has to be a franchise. One of the advantages of working on tent pole projects for the execs is they know the movie will get made.
They said the greenlight decision is as much a creative one as a financial one. They do get financial models done, but since each film is so unique, the models are, at best, estimates. In the current media environment, the biggest question is, what is going to be compelling enough to get people to leave their homes and go to a theate?
Finally, Drew Craig emphasized the importance of passion when working with new talent, saying, “If they’re not writing from a passionate place, we won’t get a good script.”
Animation Showrunners Panel
The group of showrunners (called Story Editors in animation – different than what a Story Editor is in live action), included my friends Charlotte Fullerton and Eugene Son. They spoke mostly about how to break into the TV animation business. Their advice really applies to breaking in to any part of the business, though.
They talked about networking horizontally. There’s a writers group that Charlotte allows to meet in her living room. At the start, none of the members of the group were in the business, but they’ve been breaking in one-by-one and then helping the others in the group to break in. That's the kind of networking that's valuable.
Another big point was, “Don’t be an asshole.” They said you need two things – good writing samples and a pleasant personality. The story editors are too busy to have to deal with a difficult writer.
They also stressed the importance of watching everything in the genre you write in. You have to know the tropes.
Finally, they acknowledged the difficulty of getting anyone to pay attention to you when you have no experience. But they suggested the internet can be a great tool. Producing a stand-out short piece that goes viral will get attention.
That’s it for now – I want to get back to the convention. I’ll report on more next week.