Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lessons from The Big Guys

Its been a crazy year with lots of pitches. I am finally seeing some results from my hard work. I have pitched my way all over Hollywood - meeting with some of the best and brightest Executives in town. We pitched last week in NYC at A&E and TruTv and LA for NBC. Now, its back to LA and set for another two big meetings today and tomorrow.

One great lesson that I learned this past month. I've created lots of shows over the past two years and learned a lot from the Talent. When creating a show around a talent you MUST make sure you do one thing with your Shop and Pitch Agreement...make sure that you have your talent sign an agreement that is longer than three months with a clause that will cover you when you are in the middle of pitching!

See the problem with Reality TV is you are dealing with newly found talent and they don't necessarily know our industry. They might think they know. They don't realize that any pitch takes time to move up the ranks and get a green light to start production. There are so many roadblocks, that you could never imagine. Russell Simmons has a great story about this very subject. I have blogged about him in past blogs. He states in his book "Do You!" how long he fought for MTV to take a chance with "Runs House," which did end up on MTV. BUT they told him NO over and over again - and he fought hard for his project and he believed in it 100%. He worked hard to get the end result - a show on the AIR!

What I got was "something should have happened by now." Mind you we pitched two weeks ago. Sometimes people are their own worst enemies. This business is all about who you know, who likes you and is your stuff good and LUCK! Glenn Larson, who had like nine series on the air at once once told me that there are so many factors that go into getting a show on the air. (From IMDB: Glen A. Larson is the man behind some of the world's best known primetime shows. His highly successful productions (successful both financially and popularly, less often critically!) include "Knight Rider" (1982), "The Fall Guy" (1981), "Battlestar Galactica"(1978), and "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century", "Knight Rider" (1982) and "Magnum, P.I." (1980). His venture "One West Waikiki".) He said "There are lots of office politics and you have to have LUCK on your side! It isn't just one factor like a good show that will get it on the air." So, for anyone who thinks that they will land a show with one pitch is crazy. You have to pound the pavement and you are going to get a lot of Passes or No's before you get a YES. And look - you can even get a YES and then someone up above changes their mind and says NO! You could even have a check in your hand - and shows in the can - and they still cancel it!

Everything takes time. Nothing happens over night in Hollywood. Patience is your friend. Having good Producers pitching you is also key. And Producers who know everyone in town is even better!

Friday, October 23, 2009

What I learned at Digital Hollywood

This week Digital Hollywood was put on at the Lowe's Hotel in Santa Monica, CA. What a great event! Even though the printed program was probably the most difficult program book to follow, I made my way to see several content summits that were held.

Day 1: My first round table was the luncheon where Mark Koops spoke. As many of you are aware Mark is a superstar in the TV world. He is co-creator of the hit series on NBC "The Biggest Loser" and managing director at Reveille. If you don't know that production company you should. Its got some major hits under its belt (the Office, Ugly Betty).

Next I hit up the Advertising Platform: Social Networks, TV & Video, Broadband, Mobile and Games. All things about understanding what advertising in the next generation will look like. Moved on to the Master Class workshop "Comedy: Superstars and Hidden Gems." Good stuff from Mike Polk from and Andrew Steele from Funny or Die. We ended up leaving it was a packed room and stuffy and hot - standing room only. Then I moved on to the Digital Hollywood Pitch Camp. This was a goodie - one of my favorite topics of course! 5 people got to get up and pitch while a panel of elites (Alex Barkaloff - EP Digital Lionsgate, David Gale - MTV, Mark Vega - Luce Forward) gave feedback on the pitches. Here is a breakdown of tips they gave in no particular order:
  • Know what is it you are conveying?
  • Audio & visual tools are a plus!
  • Have a pitch that is intuitive and subjective.
  • Innovative idea that understands the marketing of it.
  • You get it!
  • Know your audience.
  • Have a great one liner. (your logline)
  • Good idea that is adaptable.
  • Have energy and excitement.
  • You have to have a good idea, interesting characters are not enough!
The day ended with a nice cocktail reception by the pool and who doesn't love free drinks!

Day 2: I am still looking in the program trying to figure it out. The program is the worst piece of literature I have ever TRIED to read. I make my way to the Celebrity Media and Reality Shows Transforms to Broadband, Mobile, Social Media and TV. This one was a good one as well. Then on to the Video on the Smartphone Jumpstarting Revolution. Made my way to the Moguls, Indies and Youtube Stars hosted by David Gale and a few other great players. Last but not least, The Hollywood Real Deal Reinventing the Strategy the Platforms and Revenue Stream. This was a great session with Justine Bateman, Frank Nine, George Ruiz, Paul Kontonis. Here is a breakdown of tips this session provided:
  • Keep your web content to 3-5 minutes. 3 minutes = 3 pages.
  • Every episode has a mini cliffhanger that will demand attention.
  • Characters have their own social media networks.
  • Production/Writing Staff = key!
  • It involves the audience.
  • Demo/audience very important.
  • Its an added benefit if you have stars that can talk with major outlets because of their celeb status.
I would recommend Digital Hollywood next year to those of you who didn't attend. Its a great way to hear from the experts what is going on in the industry (changes, future). Its also a great way to network. I met so many new faces and some old friends too. I feel as a producer its important to be cutting edge. So if you don't know about what's ahead in the industry your stuff is going to suck.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Performance Pitching

Two Tuesday’s - November 10th & 17th

2 Week Bootcamp with Producer Nicole Dunn & Motivational Speaker and Author, Eli Davidson...

Most times you only have one shot to pitch you, yourself, brand or your book. You’ve got to get their attention in a short amount of time. This workshop is for anyone who has an idea and wants to pitch it. Authors, Experts, Brands, Business Owners, TV Show ideas, Segment Ideas, Book ideas…You’ll pitch and we’ll give you tips and suggestions to help you brainstorm to create the perfect pitch.

In this workshop Motivational Speaker and Author Eli Davidson teams up with Team Emmy Nominated Producer & Creator Nicole Dunn, to help you get into the pitching game. Television Producer Nicole Dunn has personally pitched in over 200 meetings (Network Executives, Development Executives, News, Show ideas, Experts, Authors, Directors, Producers, Publishers) Put Jet Fuel in your pitch!

Being able to write a good pitch is an important business tool to have, no matter what line of work you’re in! You’ll learn to craft your pitch to be unique and stand out from the rest of the crowd. People will respond and return your calls, and book you! You’ll be able to pitch something that people care about hearing more about.

With a well-written pitch you will attract the interest of almost anyone (Producers, Directors, News, Editors, Book Publishers – even your boss!)

Each class will focus on your pitch. We’ll hear everyone’s ideas and help you make them spectacular. The first class is hands on! Everyone must come with a pitch. Not only will you learn from other people’s pitches, you’ll learn from your own.

• How a great logline will book you every time.
• How to be relevant.
• You’ll learn that doing research about who you are pitching and their target audience will land you the job or not.
• How to spot a news trend and piggyback off of it.
• You’ll hear examples of good pitches vs. bad pitches.
• You’ll hear examples of good tips vs. bad tips.
• You’ll work on perfecting a 30 second elevator pitch that you can use to pitch anyone with.
• What Ideas are worth pitching?
• What problems are you solving?
• What solutions are you offering?
• How to Deliver.
• How to follow up.

Two Tuesday’s - November 10th & 17th 2009


2 Weeks for $249.99
$1000 dollar value!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Reality Soul Searching

With the recent tragic events that transpired last week regarding reality show contestant Ryan Jenkins, production companies will be reassessing not only the casting process but also relationship shows! VH1 and it's series of "Love" themed reality shows will no doubt change because of what happened.

What did happen? I know that every reality series I ever worked on, we vetted every possible contestant/person with a fine tooth comb. We had a background check done on everyone, we interviewed the persons "mother, brother, father, cousin, co-worker, childhood friend" before they were ever even presented to our bosses or even the Network. Anyone that had any history of drugs, behavior issues, arrests, etc were declined. We even had people that would have made great reality Television with all of the drama that surrounded them, but they had a mark on their law record that made for an easy decision of a solid NO. We once had a guy that on the phone was funny and kind of charming. BUT on paper he was a drug user and was arrested at 19 for sleeping with a 15 year old, who's mother had him arrested for raping a minor. The now 40 something man pleaded his case that it was all a misunderstanding when he was younger. He never made it even close to my boss seeing his casting profile!

Not only did we do a full background check - we also had a full time psychologist that assessed each person's "true well being" from a psychological standpoint. He had the final word on whether the person being considered was considered to have a "sound mind." They were also assessed on whether or not they could withstand the Reality TV process before and after the shoot and its airing. To sum it all up, its a rigorous process where not just one Producer, Executive or Network has the final say. It's a multitude of folks that are involved in getting one person approved for a show. So really what did happen over there at 51 Minds? It's not one person that is responsible for the loss of life here, there are so many people involved in the process, so to blame it on the company that did the background checks is really not fair.

In a Times article today, VH1 President Tom Calderone stated "that VH1 was "trying to get together" with production company 51 Minds Entertainment to figure out where the vetting system went wrong and "fix this problem and never ever let this happen again." I certainly hope so. A woman was killed. Even worse, both parties put reality star Megan Hauserman's own life at risk. What if she had picked him? (We will never know because the show was immediately taken off the air). She could have easily have become victim to his hidden past and dead too. How sad for the family of Jasmine Fiore and tragic that such a beautiful woman's life was cut way too short at the hands of a jealous psycho, that hid his true identity to everyone involved.

Its a wake up call for our industry. I thought about what happened for nearly a week now. It's all very sad. I thought about all of those creepy people that I too had interviewed for past shows that we didn't pick. I always did my detective work along with the background company to vet them out. In reality we need to do better detective work in the beginning so that this never happens again. It can never be one persons fault, but in the future we can help each other decipher the bad eggs from the good.

Friday, July 31, 2009


I got to thinking yesterday about all of the short lived TV shows out there. Don't you hate it when you totally get into a show, and then suddenly it gets CANCELLED!? It seems to me that the networks rarely give shows a chance these days. With so many channels and so many shows, its more than just a fad to cancel a show after one or two episodes. I understand that these execs have a bigger person to answer to, but come on guys give shows a chance!

So where I am headed is - when you create something you never know if people are going to like it. And in TV you never know. When you create something you are guessing that people will like it. Nobody really knows what the public will end up liking in the end anyway.

I wonder how shows like "The World According to Jim," "America's Toughest Jobs," "The Baby Borrowers," "Celebrity Circus," "Cupid," "Harpers Island," "Secret Millionaire," and "Stilista" even got on the air to begin with. Someone obviously had a good pitch and a good relationship with someone to make that happen. At one point I even met a writer on "The World According to Jim," who said the show was stupid and how he couldn't believe it was still on the air! The other side of the coin is they cancel something as successful as "Samantha Who?" People actually watched that show. Who made that decision? The show won Emmy's! Were these shows cancelled because the public didn't like them or were they network execs who gave them the ax?

Anyway, you just never know what people are going to like. So create your heart away. In the end what really matters is if you like it. If you believe in your work, its all that matters anyway...Well, I guess another thing that matters is making the moola.

What favorite shows do you miss? Write and tell me!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Holy S*^# Factor

I have been getting a big influx of people coming to me with pitches over the last two weeks. My head is in a virtual spin which is a combination of my own projects and everyone else's creative stuff colliding into my world.

The problem I am having with everyone else's projects (and one of my own) is how do you make the show have that important twist that has that "Holy S*&# factor," and stand out from the rest of the crowd in the marketplace? #1 - there is a hell of a lot of competition out there. #2 - if it doesn't have a "Holy S*&# factor" you may as well go back to the drawing board before you go out to pitch. The buyers are rarely committing so you better have something so great that it basically knocks them over like a big gust of wind and they can't get back up right away.

Before I even attempt to go into the marketplace, I address every single angle including research and development of what's been done, what's being pitched and who I can align myself with. Even when I hit the market and do my pitches, I am constantly tweaking utilizing the constructive criticism on every pitch to perfect mine for the next pitch. Its always a work in progress. Its hard work and its dedication!

Not only am I constantly tweaking my projects, but I am also finding other avenues to dip my toes into. Now, I am exploring the Digital marketplace because web based projects are a great way to get something off the ground as well. And there is money and advertisers to partner up with. Build the base and get the hits and fans and then you have content to hit the TV marketplace with. Small mini episodes, that eventually can be formed into a sizzle to pitch networks with. I know that the market is still in exploration mode, but it is where its going. If you can't sell a show to a network, why not align yourself with some partners and go the digital route first.

Think about it before you set out to pitch - does yours have that "Holy S*&# Factor?" Because, they are undoubtedly going to tell you that its missing something if you don't knock the wind out of them with an angle they have never heard before -- and in this town that is difficult to do!!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Are You Working with Your Head or Your Heart?

I was reading Bob Leftsetz's column that he writes for the music industry. He talked about something that I have thought a lot about. “The question is, are you working with your head or heart? At some point you've got to stop being who your parents want you to be and start being who you are.”

Very nicely stated. I have been earning a living working on other people’s shows as a television producer since 2001. I have been dreaming up show ideas since I was about seven years old. It happened each morning at the bus stop with my best friend Katie. (I have blogged about her before.) She told visual stories of the previous nights viewing of her favorite shows “Charlie’s Angles,” “The Love Boat,” and “Fantasy Island,” to name a few. I salivated at every juicy morsel – we couldn’t watch television after a certain hour at my house.

In 2003, I started pitching reality TV ideas. I made my own “hot lists,” from reading Variety and cold called people and got my own pitch meetings without a manager. While I worked on shows, I would “go to lunch,” or “the doctor,” just to pitch production companies.

In 2008, I began pursuing my dream full time - creating and developing television shows and pitching them. I started out developing something around Christopher Titus. Since then, I have learned a great deal and have not only increased my contacts, but I am closer than ever before to selling something. It’s officially been one full year.

It wasn’t until this year that I realized there’s been one thing in the back of my mind that I somehow could not let go of. It was a seed planted a long, long time ago in the depths of my blueprint. That seed was my mom telling me I needed to have a job with a 401k plan = job security. Which in today’s marketplace means nothing. There is no security any more unless you own your own company. In my mom’s career height, jobs offered not only financial security, but retirement benefits, health benefits and so much more.

What I am doing for a career is so unconventional “Creative Producer – Pitching Reality Concepts,” not your average career. It never will be. Most people in Los Angeles understand. BUT if you live anywhere else you probably won’t understand the scope of what I am doing. God Bless my Mom. She is a wonderful woman, who is now finding things that she loves to do in life after retiring. We couldn’t be more opposite – I travel a risky route with no guarantee, and she travels a safer route.

When I think about it, it’s as if I had an angel on one of my shoulders and a Devil on the other. My angel (aka my mom) on the left telling me that the route was to be secure and safe. The Devil (aka me) on the right, telling me the route was risky so go pitch and sell a television show! One thing I am certain about is what I did learn from her - that I think with my head and my heart, because I am truly doing something I love. I sleep, eat, drink, and dream about coming up with television shows.

Friday, June 26, 2009

What Defines Success - Michael Jackson

I was watching Kathie Lee and Hoda on the 4th Hour of The Today Show, and Kathie Lee was talking about how Michael Jackson had so much success but died billions of dollars in debt. She then asked "what defines success?" I believe that you define your own success no matter who you are.

Michael was about to embark on a Global Tour and had sold out 50 shows with a kick off in London (more than 750k tickets were sold!!). For A guy who in the media's eyes went from the "King of Pop" to "Whacko-Jacko," I would say Michael is an ICON that will continue to have success even in death.

I have written several posts in the past about success. In June I wrote "I got to thinking about Success and what makes people successful. I feel like its a formula. There is a big difference between people who achieve and people who don't. People who achieve approach things differently than those that don't. They also use lots of common sense, are consistent, have confidence and most importantly - they have PERSISTENCE. And they won't be defeated."

I've also written about Talent, you know when you have it. And MJ has had it since he was a little boy. He was a musical genius, with a complicated life. The whole world has been shocked and saddened by his untimely death. Millions of fans all over the world will be celebrating his success in the music world. Big success like Michael Jackson's comes with such things that you and I could not ever begin to understand. He lived oftentimes a very lonely life and spent way beyond his means. Tears and tributes are all we have now for the man with a gentle soul that touched people all over the world with his gift to music.

While Michael had many bumps in his road map, his blueprint for success can't be matched. Was he desperate to prove to the world that he could still have super star status? I worked with Michael Jackson back in 2002, when I was a Talent Producer for Dick Clark's American Bandstand's 50th Anniversary Show. I was able to attend a private rehearsal where Michael Jackson was dancing with his dancers. There were 5 people watching, and I was one of them. At the end of his rehearsal he got down on his butt and started fussing with his foot. When I asked Larry Klein what he was doing, he told me he had a broken foot. I was amazed - because I would never have known by the way he danced. I was privileged to see what really went on behind the scenes when Michael Jackson entered the building! Fans followed him in packs, oftentimes putting their own lives at risk (like jumping in front of one of his caravans in the middle of the road or hiding out inside the theater for a chance meeting with the King of Pop). Cher spoke about that show on CNN yesterday, and how odd his behavior had become. I remember thinking "why is he covering his kids up with blankets like he was?" Quite possibly for their own safety.

In my eyes, he still is #1 and he is the definition of SUCCESS. But we each as individuals define our own success. You don't have to be a superstar in the music industry to be a success. Success means different things to different people. You define your own success, so create your success the way you see it. We salute a musical legacy.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

My Reality TV World: How do I get pitch meetings?

My Reality TV World: How do I get pitch meetings?

How do I get pitch meetings?

How do you get pitch meetings once you have a reality idea that you think is sellable in the marketplace?  Its harder than ever before to sell an idea in Hollywood.  (Movies or TV) There are so many obstacles, a lot of competition and now with the recession, its even harder than ever to 'break in.'  It takes more than knowing the right people, its determination and sacrifice to create and sell a hit.  You could have all the knowledge and the skills, but if your blueprint isn't set on Hollywood Success - you could very easily FAIL.  Giving Up is not an option in my world.  It isn't enough to be in the right place at the right time - you also have to be the right person with the right idea in the right time.  

When I first started pitching my ideas in the marketplace, I didn't have someone booking my meetings and introducing me to key executives in the industry.  It was all ME!  And if you are reading this, there is a chance that you don't either.  What did I do?  I came up with my own strategy to stand out from the rest of the world trying to pitch.  

Here is what I did.  I got and still get a daily subscription to Variety.  I would read all about the reality shows that were being bought and sold in the marketplace, as well watch key executives moving from place to place.  I created my own HOT LIST of up and coming executives and production companies that I wanted to get a meeting with.  (I still have a HOT LIST) 

I would then pick up the phone and call their office, introducing myself and try and set a "meet and greet."  (This may be easier for me, because I have Producing credits and do know a good amount of people in my industry).  This can be a simple coffee meeting or a lunch meeting. What this did is it enabled me as a Producer to meet executives and find out what they were looking for in regard to Reality TV Concepts.  It also gave me a chance to introduce myself and give them my background and talk about some of the projects that I was currently developing. After my meeting, I would immediately send out a Thank-You note in the mail.  This gave me the leverage to be able to set a future meeting to pitch my ideas.   I did this with Evolution USA and now I can get a meeting there anytime if the idea is something that they are interested in. In fact we pitched there with Jose Canseco.

Since then the tables have turned, and I have a great management team as well as a great lawyer.  I have been pitching so much that I now get any meeting, with just about anyone I want in town.  Well, I take that back...Mike Darnell is a hard one to get a meeting with even if you have a big star attached (Christopher Titus).  Last year I blogged about how he cancelled 7 times, even as I was pulling into the Lot for the meeting.  

I do a lot of homework to see what is being bought and sold in the marketplace. That is one of the benefits of having a manager (and Variety subscription) to help guide you with all of the inside information.  Every three months we update our list of what the networks are looking for.  It dramatically changes. We recently pitched a big NEW network and what we found was that they loved all three of our concepts.  The next day they called and said "wait, we only love one," and the next day they called and said "scratch that - we love a nugget of what you had in that one that we decided we didn't like."  So what was a makeover show is now a reality game show.  Its crazy.  Now, we are in the process of pairing up with a game show runner who's agent is friends with my connection at Sony, and who knows where it will go from here.  I think it could be a big one.  But, then again it all goes back to "being in the right place at the right time - and being right person with the right idea in the right time."  

There are so many ways to get introduced and have an in...I've used friends of friends, networking groups, cold calling...How are you getting your meetings?  I'd love to hear all about how  your creative plan worked to get a meeting with a top executive.  Inquiring Minds want to know!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

My Reality TV World: Digital Trends in the Reality TV World

My Reality TV World: Digital Trends in the Reality TV World

Digital Trends in the Reality TV World

Is Hollywood going Digital?  There are lots of websites that offer content that isn't available on TV.  And there are TONS of choices that Americans have!  Computer vs. Television Screen.  I personally love watching stuff on my television screen - its big, its clear and it takes me away from my computer for awhile.  (My wrists kill after typing so much).  But that doesn't stop me from checking out the latest video fad on the internet.

Web audiences are growing bigger by the minute.  So are the number of talents that are hidden gems or the flower beginning to blossom into a big brand. The more pitch meetings I am in, the more people are asking what I have for Digital Projects.  Its cheaper than producing a reality series on television.  If a network is interested in an Internet project, they obviously know that it works.  Otherwise people wouldn't be flocking to see just what all the fuss is about.   And they wouldn't decide to sink any money into bringing it to the masses.
I have had many people come to me and ask "when is it right for me to have my own show?" When I do media coaching for experts and budding stars, I always tell them that "Oprah and Martha didn't start off as media moguls."  Martha started off with a catering company that catered her husbands company party.  It just so happened that the company was a publisher. After the event they approached her about writing a book about - catering.  Its taken a number of years to get to where she has and it didn't happen over night.

But we have one BIG advantage in our generation...  The Internet.  More people can easily see you or your brand in an instant.  If you have something that is popular, fun and timely - you could easily create your own reality website and show - all you need is a camera and the know how to upload it to your site!  Your show can be anything you want to showcase what you've got or your idea!  Anything.  I have personally come across a few that I think are brilliant ideas and have the potential to be Brand Gems.  Take a look at my favorite Mutha Mae...

This woman has the spark and the fun and the humor tied all in one that makes her one hot Missouri housewife and stay at home mom - that has her own show.  Its on the Internet.  Its here where she shares the hilarious and often absurd side of parenting.  Go have a visit to her world.  You will be seeing a lot more of her!

In my opinion Hollywood is going digital.  Its a big learning curve, but everyone is always on their computer so we are all adapting.  Even me as a Producer.

Got any Digital Stars or Gems that you know of?  Comment on their link in the comments box!

So does this mean that Reality TV is dying?  Nope.  It's not going anywhere soon.  But what is growing is Reality on the Internet.  In many cases I am hearing in pitch meetings that if something is a success on the Internet networks and the Sony's of America are more likely to invest in making that show a reality on television.  

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Changes in Reality TV in Europe, Next Up the States

Working in Reality TV has brought up some big issues on the Production side as employees (Producers, Writers & Story Producers) and also on the Contestant side (TV Reality Stars).  

"In the past three years the WGA has tried unsuccessfully to play hardball by demanding that network and studio CEOs no longer make deals with Reality TV producers like Mark Burnett Productions, Fremantle, Endemol etc unless those companies become signatories of the WGA. This is part of the WGA's continuing campaign to ensure that Reality TV writers -- often referred to as the story editors or story producers of the shows -- start to receive the same benefits and pay and protections as guild members." (taken from

This past week In a ground-breaking ruling, the supreme court in France awarded three contestants on the French version of the programme Temptation Island compensation of about €11,000 (£9,500) each. The judges ruled that the trio were entitled to full employment contracts — including overtime, holidays and even damages for wrongful dismissal upon elimination from the show.

These decisions will in fact bring Reality TV to a new cost level.  First in Europe, next in the States.  I believe that our Producers, Writers and Story people that have been fighting to get what scripted TV writers and producers have been getting all along, will come to fruition.  Its only a matter of time that our savvy Reality TV Stars, will too get paid for taking time out of their schedules to be paid for entertaining our audiences.  

They said Reality was going to die...that was over 10 years ago.  Its not going away.  What do you think?  

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Is Success is a Formula?

I got to thinking about Success and what makes people successful. I feel like its a formula. There is a big difference between people who achieve and people who don't. People who achieve approach things differently than those that don't. They also use lots of common sense, are consistent, have confidence and most importantly - they have PERSISTENCE. And they won't be defeated.

I think about what I am doing and how persistent I have been with my pitching, development of a concept into a show, networking, meetings - and then there is TIMING. I am a true believer in being in the right place at the right time with the right idea. I am also a big believer in listening to your inner voice; its telling you something. If you feel you should jump on something you should do it right away. For instance, when Sony asked me for a my Promoter package and said on a Monday that they needed it for their next week's Monday meeting, I jammed to get it all together. I had it in their hands at 5:45 PM Friday night. Hand delivered. If you feel you should hold out for a better deal, then hold out for a better deal. For instance, one of my partners and I pitched a great show (which seems to be a popular concept) and we made a deal. The deal went through our lawyers and the production company's business affairs department only to come back with a number that was insulting. As a Producer, I could have worked on a show as a Producer and made better money. So we decided to hold out for a better opportunity. Look at us now, we have OWN interested.

Winners are made. I mean look at Oprah. Her first job was a reporter for radio in Nashville, TN. Martha catered a party for her husband's publishing company. After the party, they offered her a book deal - for a book about catering! We all start somewhere. Oprah and Martha kept going, they were persistent. If you have a good product or a good idea or a good show or a great brand, people will tell you. And if you don't believe in you who will?

The company Lillian Vernon, was started in 1952 by a woman named Lillian Hochberg. It sold for millions and millions of dollars. Lillian said that she was persistent and she never listened to the naysayers. Lots of successful people make the same claim. I have talked about it in past blogs. If you have good ideas and people tell you, keep at it. Keep going. Sometimes it gets bad before it even gets good.

I would love to hear about success and if you think that there is a formula to it? I know that its just a matter of time with all of my great meetings and great ideas and great talent - that a show will be sold. Its hard work. Its a lot of time. Its a lot of networking. Its a lot of an uncertain economy too but I know my team will make it happen!!

Friday, May 29, 2009

The State of Hollywood

Most people in Hollywood right now are seeing RED. I'm not talking about the pretty red tulips above either. After weekly pitching for the last year, what I'm finding is that Networks don't want to spend money right now.

We have lots of interest in our projects but no real money offered up front at all. We have development deals with no money, and I think those days of getting money up front are over. Networks are really going to be very careful about what they pick up from here on out. There are fewer and fewer pilots being shot and even fewer reality shows being picked up as well. BUT there is work out there. And there are Networks still buying concepts and shows! Until I have a solid contract and check in my hand I am going to continue to pound the pavement and pitch!

I recently did a great Media panel in front of members of the National Speakers Association. I got to hear lots of pitches. These pitches ranged from experts pitching themselves, people with a new product pitching the product, and people pitching ideas like reality shows. In general, I really feel like people think that pitching a reality show is easy. Its not. And there is a lot of competition out there. And not to mention the fact that if yours isn't clever and different, its probably already been pitched a hundred times already!

From what I have seen - people just don't do their homework. There is no hook, no substance, and it doesn't differ from anything else on the market. I had a gentleman show me his three pitches on reality shows that centered around the job market. He told me he went out pitching them with a known producer in town and wondered why he got a no thank you. I was shocked that he hadn't done any homework to see if there was anything else currently out there like it on the market. I was also horrified that within his three paragraphs about the show, I still couldn't figure out exactly what the show was about! Really?

When we put our shows together we research, test, talk about, discuss with networks about what they are looking for, finding something unique every time we even think about taking something out into the marketplace. I consistently coffee with key players in the industry and run new ideas by them, if I don't get a "that's fresh," I know there won't be an interest to take it further.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

CW Here We Come

CW... Here we Come...

We are ready for our pitches, so bring it on!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Pushing Past Your Limits

I thought I would never get through this week. But I did. I pulled it off, even with a terrible cold. Last week one of my talents that I have developed shows with, had an initial meeting with Oprah's new network - OWN and their talent division.

If you don't know it, Oprah inked a deal in January 2008 - (from Variety)

OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network will bow in the second half of 2009. OWN will take over the Discovery Health Channel distribution platform, which guarantees it a strong subscriber base of 67.7 million cable and satellite homes, according to Nielsen. Winfrey will be chair of the network.
OWN will dive deeper into the lifestyle, self-help, entertainment and spiritual themes Winfrey mines on her daily show, which has been daytime's top syndicated yakker for 20 years, and in her successful monthly magazine O: the Oprah Magazine, a joint venture with Hearst Magazines.

So this week, we had our big pitch meeting with OWN for our three shows we have been developing around the talent. There was one slight problem before the meeting; the talent had pitched a show that we didn't have. We had thoughts for it, and we had ideas around it but nothing solid. So this left me completely worried that the talent had pitched something we clearly didn't have and they liked it and wanted it. This meant that they wanted it in the pitch meeting. Right.

Aside from me freaking out on the talent, I managed to compose myself and managed to apologize and move forward. In fact - we flew by the seat of our pants and came up with something so brilliant at the last minute - that we were laughing in the car on the way home about it. As I thought about it further, we in fact have on all three of our concepts, come up with each one "by the seats of our pants." Literally.

Our meeting was great. My manager was late, and I had decided that as a team we should wait for him, but we should have just gone in right away. After 5 minutes we decided to go in (not realizing that the secretary failed to tell us that the big head honcho could only stay for 5 minutes in the meeting) so this was our only black mark. My decision to wait could have cost us - next time we always go in right when they are ready. One new lesson learned. We had 3 VP's and one talent Exec in our meeting. As far as I saw, they loved all three of our pitches. We will find out next week as to how well they really loved them. I know that they are still searching for a clear direction to go with their shows that will air on their network. My partner and talent has since been in to deliver a case of books and have lunch with the talent exec. She told me how great it was to walk in to the network and see everyone reading her book! We love this!

My second big deadline was getting my final pitch together for Sony. I have an unofficial development deal with them, bringing them reality projects with a quote from an exec saying that they will do what ever it is to help me get one of my shows off the ground. So with that said, when an exec says that they want something and the department coordinator says that the exec has been talking about it for three have to get it in! I was told that they had a big meeting scheduled for Monday and that my materials (Sizzle reel and treatment) would be best in to Sony by Friday at 6 pm.

If everything couldn't go wrong on Friday it did. I mean from the printer to the DVD labels to the font to me driving! Plus I was sick! So, I had to force myself out of bed to complete all of the tasks. Luckily, my partner on this project is so friggin fantastic, that he really helped make it all happen. Not to mention the fact that he is a great editor, but he is also a great thinker and he's from my hometown in Sudbury, MA! Big thank you to him for making our project friggin great. So, I made it to Sony after rushing to his edit bay, sitting bumper to bumper on the 101 and the 405 in the nick of time. 5:45 pm I rushed through the gates and on to Building B. I handed it to the Coordinator who said that the exec could not WAIT to have this project for the big Monday pitch meeting. So now we wait...for good news on Monday!!

It wasn't over yet. I had yet to prepare for my big speech on Saturday and serve as a media panel expert at the Los Angeles chapter of NSA for May Media Mania! Oh my goodness what a great event, with some great pitches and a great panel! Sending all my thanks to the other media experts on the panel, NSA LA Chapter members, Event Organizers Eli Davidson and Judith Parker Harris. I had a great time, met some great people and heard some good pitches.

To check out the participants:

All in all I got it all done, but now I am super sick in bed with probably one of the worst colds I have had in a long long time.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

You Can Never Stop Networking!

I realized that with all of the developing that I have been doing with my many reality projects, I got out of the loop of networking to get a job on a show. I have for the last year and a half networked with the other kind of people in my business. Development people. I know that they handle a completely different end of the business and oftentimes you are dealing with an arm that solely deals with developing shows and getting them on the air and not staffing them. I never asked, but when I did inquire with a huge company I was told that they usually had no pull in getting people work even if they help to develop the show. They can recommend, but due to the amount of parties involved, everyone usually has their own people that they continually staff over and over. I know a hell of a lot of people, but these days its development people. I like them too!

I have worked at several companies that I know use the same folks over and over. Even those folks - some of whom suck at what they do - BUT there is a likability factor involved on some level and also a trust that has been built up that can't seem to be broken.

The last two weeks, I have put into full force a mission to find and get work. With the economy like it is, its time to build funds up and work on a show until a few of my own babies get the green light. It seems that many Producers do this, they juggle working on someone else's show but also their own shows.

Hmm. Seems easier than I thought. I find that it's easier to get a pitch meeting with my ideas than it is to get a job! BUT alas, I had two job interviews and one I know that I didn't get (BUT they did tell me they want me to pitch them stuff, LOL) and the other I am on hold for. The first sign (they want me to pitch) leads me to believe the UNIVERSE just wants me to pitch and sell a show.

I have several projects once again in Network LIMBO. But Good Limbo.

So, its in a Producer's best interest to always have your hands in both sides of the biz - Development and Staffing - Knowing as many Executive Producers and Line Producers in Hollywood that you can.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Talent Do You Have IT?

Last time I wrote about red flags.

This week talent. One word. You see you either have it or you don't. Yes or No. One word. Sometimes you have it and sometimes you don't. There are people who have it - but - red flags swirl all around them - and for what ever reason everyone can see the flags waving - but them. Difficult and terrible to work with. I once worked with a host that had the worst attitude and it just made them very ugly on the inside and the out. Nothing was ever good enough. This person had an amazing opportunity with something way bigger right around the corner - and they BLEW IT - a National Daily Show - Blew it! The universe delivered the message...GET OUT OF the Television Industry!

I love talent that just hasn't been discovered yet. With a lot of hard work and determination they end up making it. One of the reasons I love this business is that there is always something fun, interesting and exciting around the corner. I can't imagine working in an office doing the same job year after year and seeing the same people every day. That's why I love the Television Industry and being a Creative Producer.

I have cast over 100 makeover episodes and numerous shows and found talent in corners out there that may have gotten passed over. The gem. I look at TV and see many whom I gave a chance to that are now WAY all over the TV and looking great I must say. Success.

Five talents that come to mind that have come a long long way since my early producing days that I said "Let's take a Chance on them":

Devin Alexander - NY Times Best Selling Author and Veteran Chef

Lissa Coffey - Author & Lifestyle Designer & Relationship Expert

Eli Davidson - Best Selling Author - Coach - TV Expert

Paul McCullough- Next Food Network Star - Caterer and Owner of Paul's Kitchen

On the up and up:

Yasmin Spain - Actress

Brad the Love Coach - Love Coach - Host of the Male Room

I just love finding a gem. Recently, someone referred a great undiscovered individual to me who helps place people in homes - from foreclosure victims to huge celebrities like Puff and Kanye. I am excited to work with him. I also found a woman who builds skyscrapers! She does a job that most women would throw the towel in after one hour! If you know someone great that you think is undiscovered talent - do drop me an email - I would love to hear all about them!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

We've all Encountered a Bully

I have to admit I have a secret...I am loving the show "Bully Beatdown!"

Ok, I watched a marathon of MTV today while I was nursing a migraine headache. Call it what you will, I call it research.

"Bully Beatdown," stars Jason "Mayhem" Miller a veteran of mixed martial arts who started his career in high school, and has over 30 wins to his credit against some of the top fighters in the sport. Basically he taunts competitors (the bully) in pre-fight festivities for money against one of his cronies.

I caught episode 1 "The Family Favorite," and episode 2 "The Roommate from Hell." Both episodes were equally great seeing the "Bully" get his ass beat.

It brings back sad memories of the "bully" I once dated in High School. Funny thing is this show would have been so PERFECT for him. He bullied everyone (including me) and no one ever challenged him. Looking back, I think that he may have in fact been a big pussy and all talk for we even knew. I don't recall one scrap, or one punch thrown on any guy that he taunted! It was all a verbal assault that could have very well been hu you guessed it--ALL SHOW. Well, "Bully Beatdown," gives the other side a chance to watch a total professional BEAT the BULLY! The nice guy gets to watch and win money. Its such a win-win situation.

I even love the fact that its a Mark Burnett production. They certainly have the market cornered in regard to boxing, the Contender was another good one that fizzled out on the NBC network but seems to be continuing on another network. I have a market that we are about to pitch that isn't cornered and the reality is going to be good.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Red Flags

Red Flags. In this business you have to learn quickly just when to say when. A red flag may pop up at any time and you don't even realize that it is and its TOO LATE! What is a red flag?

I am glad you asked. A red flag is a warning. A red flag alerts one that danger is ahead, looming, very close and for the body and mind to take notice and fast. One should take note when more than one flag waves. Red flags have been used since the 15th century when the "red flag" was used as a "flag of defiance."It was raised in cities and castles under siege to indicate that they would not surrender. The color red became associated with patriotism early in the French Revolution. Did you know that the United States has some state laws that forbid flying a red flag (OK, MN, SD), where it is a felony with a possible 10 year prison sentence and a $1,000 fine to fly one.

A red flag in motor sports is used to stop either a practice session or a race due to conditions been considered too dangerous. A red flag waiving while someone is boating and taking part in water sports signifies "man down in the water." There are also red flags that a therapist will talk about when "sensing danger within relationships."

You are probably wondering what the hell it is I am getting at about "Red Flags and Pitching TV Shows." I am so glad that you asked. A red flag in the pitching process always raises "questions" and is a good indication that things are not right or there will be some sort of problem that WILL come up - if you don't do something about it and fast! You really have to have a trained ear to listen to what people are saying and doing, these are clues and are a good indication of RED FLAGS, waving all over the friggin place!

Here are two big things to consider up front to spotting red flags in the starting stages of the pitching process.

1. Talent. If you have trouble right off the bat with talent who won't sign a basic pitching agreement or can't commit to meetings or doing the work that it takes to be part of a team...then you better think twice about going out to pitch a show with them attached. Lots of changes to a basic agreement up front can signal huge troubles, later down the road. I say really consider the talent as a whole and assess whether or not making a show with them will be effortless and easy. If you get a red flag up front, follow your instincts and cut the cord.

2. Body Language. This is good to observe during a pitch. You can tell a lot about the mood of the executive and the room just by observing the way they are sitting in the chair, expressions on their faces, are they tense, bored, happy...take notes and adjust your pitch accordingly - you only have a small window of time to blow them away, so if you see "funny body language" its a red flag.

3. No's. If two or more companies give you a NO, its a red flag. Find out why. Was it because it was a bad idea? Good idea but they didn't like the talent? Loved the pitch but have something similar in development? Its in your best interest to find out more details than the NO. Then you can decide whether or not to continue pitching or not. If you do continue and decide that its just your pitch you need to refine then OK. BUT its a good idea to get all the red flags out of the way before you hit any of the big players. If you are not sure about the pitch, pitch some of the smaller companies and use their feedback to get all of your red flags out of the way!

Learn to spot your red flags quickly.

I have learned that projects that are effortless, are usually the projects that GO...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Pitching - Your Own Personal Art Form

With all of the meetings that I have had - I know pitching is an art form. some ways its been my very own personal art form. I say this because I have such a creative mind and things are always popping into my head in regard to show ideas.

I started pitching at a really young age. I can remember going to the bus stop in second grade and listening to Katie Lanigan's stories from the previous night's TV watching. They were the most wonderful stories about Charlies Angels, Fantasy Island and the Love Boat. Katie told every detail as if it was the most exciting thing she ever saw. She remembered every juicy morsel, even what they wore, said and what the major plot of each show was.

You see my parents let us watch the nightly news, but anything after 8 p.m. was off limits. Big drag for me as a kid. Move over "Brady Bunch" Katie was my own entertainment reporter! It was a love/hate relationship; me loving to hear Katie's stories and me hating the fact that I couldn't join in on the conversation. Instead, I went to school, and embellished her stories about her TV time into my own stories, like I had watched every episode described at the bus stop that day. If I look at it clearly, this was the start of my pitching - in second grade mind you!

It really didn't materialize into anything until 2004, when I had a great writing partner. We thought that with the crap reality that was on TV, we could come up with great shows! And we did. I remember our first pitch out, we got a development deal for an idea. While that show didn't ultimately get a green light, I learned a ton about the process of developing a reality show for television. It's given me part of the foundation for where I am today.

I have found that I can think of an idea very easily. Lots of ideas. But its like playing the Roulette wheel with Networks and production companies. I found that my art form has been enriched and perfected by many factors in my life. I know now you have to work and color the room... paint that picture so that they can see it inside, like I did in second grade. The fact is that you have so little time to do so!

I am thanking Katie for what I learned in second grade. We still talk once a week and she still remembers every detail about our childhood and about all of the shows she watched and retold to me. Thanks Katie!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Girl Powder

Go Team Girl Powder! We had our first Network pitch this past week. For the first time since we started mapping out the treatment, I did realize that there were some confusing parts to our pitch.

I do believe that given the right feedback and direction, anything can be tweaked and fixed to meet a network or Executives needs. I know that this show has great potential for the '2010 Olympic Season,' to premiere on a major Network. During our pitch we got to show 2 of the girls that we loved from our "cast of characters," that I feel really sell the show concept along with the amazing brand "Girl Powder." They loved them! We had over 500 Casting submissions and we had many submit videos and we picked the 10 we loved the most! We are still searching for the African American snow girl, Latina Snow goddess - so if you know of Girl Powder!

This particular network asked us for more - a casting sizzle reel. So, off I went into my friend Nick Termini's Edit bay and BAM - 10 girls that rock in a little over six hours on the reel! All different character types, competing against each other for a golden prize and all together in one house, the tension will mount and personalities will collide!

My partner and the owner of Girl Powder, is such an amazing person, go getter, very creative and I just have to say thank you to him for giving 100% to get this project off the ground! I just wish that everyone I worked with was more like him - he has a certain drive that is rare!! Together we worked really hard and we are "GOING to the 2010 OLYMPICS with this one!!"

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Looking for Ad Rates and Foreign Distribution Info

It's been a while since my last post. I have been super busy with wall to wall pitches. We are temporarily on hold with any Jose Canseco pitches until my lawyer can work out a few details. His window to buyers will close if his team doesn't facilitate things quickly.

I have a big pitch coming up on Monday with my Girl Powder show at a network. We are so pumped, we had over 500 casting submissions from girls in the snow sport from all over the world! It was so fun getting their videos and picking 10 that we LOVE!

What I am looking for at this moment:
  • I am looking for any contacts in the Advertising World of TV - specifically regarding ad rates - cable & network.
  • Information about Distribution for TV in foreign markets.
  • My next reality projects! Do you have an idea that you think is great? I want to hear it!
  • Anyone who has a direct contact to any of the following people: Marion Jones, Mickey Rourke, Pete Carroll, Michael Vick, Maurice Clarett, Daryl Strawberry, A-Rod.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Jose Canseco Pitches

We are out shopping the concept! First couple have gone very well and I am proud of our team! I am late to a pitch so more on how it goes later!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Honest Credit - I'm on Page Six with Jose Canseco

As you know I am out pitching a show with Jose Canseco & Heidi Northcott and we made Page Six of the New York Post it is.

From the The New York Post and Page Six:


Page Six Photo

February 11, 2009 --

WITH Alex Rodriguez finally admitting his steroid use, and Barry Bonds facing trial for denying it under oath, Jose Canseco (above) is starting to look better. Canseco admitted he was juicing during his home run-hitting years in the bigs, and titled his memoir "Juiced." After a pathetic attempt at a boxing career, he hit rock bottom. But now he and a producer, Nicole Dunn, are said to be pitching a reality series that will feature himself. One insider wonders, "Do you think Americans are ready to forgive him?"

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Do Your Research Before You Pitch

I felt compelled to write this blog today. As a Creative Producer, I hear pitches all the time. At least once a day someone pitches me an idea. I have to be honest very few are good original ideas. And I would say almost 90% of them, the person has not done research about the idea or if the concept has been done or pitched before.

Oftentimes, the concept has been pitched, optioned, purchased and shot! If you are going to pitch a Producer something, see if it has been on TV before you pitch your idea! And if it has been done before and you feel compelled to pitch it, you better have some sort of amazing twist or turn that's gonna rock whomevers world your pitching. Yours needs to have the big guns twist that so-and-so's didn't have. Most often, people outside of the reality genre are pitching me, because they think they have a GREAT idea, and they just may think so in their world. I get embarrassed telling the person that there were 3 shows like it already out on the air! So here are some suggestions for those of you who want to pitch or think you have a good idea:

1. Once you think of an idea - hit GOOGLE to see if it's been done before!
2. If it hasn't, how is your idea going to stand out from everything else on TV?
3. Have your logline ready for your pitch. You should be able to tell me what your idea is about in under three sentences. If I don't get what your logline is, I probably won't get your idea. So work it out before you attempt to take up some one's time.
4. IF you have done 1-3 then have a one sheet ready to be able to send to someone who wants to read more than your logline. If they are interested in your logline, and ask for more they will want a one sheet or a meeting.

Be prepared, do your homework! Because... you may just pitch someone... like me, Nicole Dunn a creative producer that will partner up with you and get your idea out in the marketplace!