It always breaks my heart when I hear someone at a conference say, “What are the networks looking to buy?”
I just feel like it’s the wrong question.
If you’re a show creator, the question you should be asking yourself is: What is the show that I was born to make?
If you pitch that show, they will come.
There’s a great scene in “Walk The Line” when Johnny Cash first sings a song for a record producer. The record producer looks bored, then he asks Cash, “If you could sing only one song before you die, what song would that be?”
Cash sings “Folsom Prison Blues.” The rest is history.
I believe that human beings are inherently original. If we are honest with ourselves and we trust our instincts, I believe we make original work. It’s only when we look outside ourselves and imitate others that our work becomes dull and predictable. And in a saturated marketplace like preschool television, you must be original to capture the interest of a production company, a network, or a child.
This is why you have a better chance at succeeding if you pitch the show that you want to make rather than the show that you think others will want to buy.
The sad reality of trends is that by the time you have identified them as trends they have already passed.
There is a John Updike quote I love that always goes through my head whenever I’m at KidScreen Summit, Brand Licensing Europe, SPAA or any similar industry event:
“Funny, how what makes you move is so simple and the field you must move in is so crowded.”
Yes, the impulse to make a show for young kids is simple and, yes, the field of broadcasters, licensing people and toy companies that we all move in is very, very crowded.
But, remember, without the original ideas from show creators, there is nothing to sell, no DVDs to release and no new episodes to air. So even though you might feel quite small walking around the Javits Center during Licensing Show, you’re actually quite big and important. You’re the source. You’ve got them right where you want them.
So rather then letting yourself get overwhelmed by the bigness of it all, and rather than asking, “What are the networks looking to buy?” focus instead on your own idea.
Which one? The idea that has been haunting you for years. The one that you just know is great but that you always put on hold because it’s not “commercial,” or you’re too busy, or perhaps (and more likely) you’re just too afraid.That is the idea you should be working on.
That is the one that will keep you up all night, burning like a Roman candle in front of your computer. That is the idea that you were born to make. And because it comes from such a true place, it will be original. And that is why the networks want you.
A Personal Note to My Readers
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