Like all areas of the entertainment business, preschool television is full of disappointment. If you’re a creator and you’ve poured your heart into your show, it hurts like hell to get a “no” from a production company or a network. Anyone who says it doesn’t is lying to you. And it hurts even more when they don’t even bother to respond. I know.
Though there’s nothing I can do to turn that “no” into a “yes,” I do want to share a few thoughts that might give you some solace in this very difficult market.
When someone says “no” to your project, don’t assume that it’s because either you or your project aren’t “good” enough. That’s most likely not the case. There are so many factors other than “quality” that determine whether a production company or network will take your show. And with the bigger companies in particular, quality usually takes a backseat.
So, if quality is in the backseat who’s in the front seat? Consumer products and the show’s ability to be sold to international channels. I certainly don’t fault the big companies for taking this approach. They are businesses and it costs a lot to make a preschool series and they have every right to recoup their investment and try to make a profit.
But if you know that licensing is a primary factor in how decisions get made in preschool TV, then you should never wonder if your project was passed over because it wasn’t “good” enough. For all you know, they could have passed because it was too good, too beautiful, or too clever to be a global hit. Now, you could think to yourself, “Perhaps my show did not have enough vehicles in it,” or “Perhaps the songs in my show made it too expensive to dub.” Those might very well have been reasons that your show was passed on.
So, does this mean that you should just make shows that are “toyetic” and easy to sell internationally? Certainly many companies are taking this route. They are churning out various combinations of CG trains, dinosaurs and dinosaurs on trains in the hopes of making a global licensing hit.
I would encourage you to take another path. A more deeply personal path. Jennifer Oxley, Little Airplane’s wonderful Creative Director, was talking about character design the other day at our daily staff meeting. She showed a beautiful photograph of A.A. Milne and his son, Christopher Robin with his stuffed bear, Winnie the Pooh. Jennifer talked about how important it is that good characters be rooted in one’s personal experience and how this helps the characters connect with the rest of us. I believe that Jennifer is right. And the fact that Winnie the Pooh remains one of the most beloved characters in history is proof of this.
If the original Winnie the Pooh were pitched today to a publisher or a broadcaster I suspect they would pass on it. But this is no reason not to pitch the next Winnie the Pooh.
I believe we must continue to create personal work and we must continue to hear the “nos.”
But we should not interpret the “nos” as failure, we should interpret them as success. Success because each “no” simply confirms that we are succeeding in making something of our own, something unique, something that is not driven by the narrow and cynical demands of the profit-driven licensing business.
And if we do persist and if we are brave in the face of rejection, then I feel quite certain that our work will find its way to the audience we have created it for.
It may take time but we will meet that rare development executive, that new publisher or that iconoclastic film producer who recognizes our unique vision and embraces it. They may be off the beaten path a bit and the money may not be the best but I know they are out there, right now, waiting for someone just like you (or me!) to walk into their office and say, “Look, I made something!”
As always, I invite you to leave your comments or thoughts below. I very much enjoy hearing from you and I’ve always wanted this to be more of a forum for discussion than a platform for just me. And if you can guess where the title of today’s blog comes from I will be pleased and impressed.