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!!