There’s an old saying that Hollywood is like high school with money. Well, preschool television is like high school without money. At least that’s what I thought before I arrived here in sunny Cannes for MIP Junior. For reasons that are beyond me, there appears to be a happy resurgence of interest in preschool shows which, as you can imagine, does not exactly disappoint me. It was only a year ago that everyone was telling me preschool was dead, killed by the double blows of low license fees and warehouses full of available content. Well, apparently there wasn’t much in those warehouses because the belle of the ball on the Cote d’Azur this week is none other than preschool television.
If you’re in the mood to jump on the bandwagon and pitch your own preschool show in Cannes, I have just one piece of advice: Ignore everything anyone tells you about what a broadcaster may or may not be looking for and just pitch the show that is in your heart, the one that you have always dreamed of making, the one that you really love.
Many people I know spend a lot of time trying to gain some insight into the minds of the broadcasters but, if twenty years in the business has taught me anything, it’s that the minds of the broadcasters are virtually impenetrable. They are often the first ones to admit that if they knew what kind of show they wanted, they would simply create it themselves and not bother with pesky indies like myself.
Pitching the show that you want to make and not the show anyone is looking to buy may sound like bad business to some of you, but there are actually many upsides to this approach. Today, as a sort of public service during this steamy MIPCOM week, I have made a short list of just a few reasons to ignore what the broadcasters say they want.
1) Your idea will be original. In my view, everyone is born original and then we struggle the rest of our lives to become as dull as all the people around us. For evidence of this, I invite you to compare the artwork of an average four-year-old with the artwork of an average forty-year-old. If you create your own idea and you do it honestly, I guarantee you it will be more original than anything that was designed to scratch a particular broadcaster’s itch.
2) Your idea will get noticed. One of the many upsides of ignoring popular wisdom is that your show will stand out. Fortunately, there are still quite a few broadcasters who appreciate a truly original show when they see one.
3) You will have more fun. Pitching the show you want to make is far more enjoyable than pitching a show you think someone else will want to buy. And, because you will be enthusiastic about your own idea, you will bring that enthusiasm to your pitch. We have all heard broadcasters say that they are buying into the passion of the creator as much as the show concept itself. I believe that’s true.
4) Your show will resonate with viewers. In my view, all the best creative work is very personal and is rooted in the experiences of a strong creator. Winnie the Pooh, for example, began as a story that A.A. Milne would tell his son Christopher Robin. Whenever you have a deeply personal connection to your project, that connection is captured in the work and your viewers invariably see and respond to it. Conversely, when we make things solely because we hope others will like them or because we think they will sell a lot of merch, they tend to feel quite empty and unloved.
So, for these reasons and many others, I invite you all to create the show that you were born to make rather than the show you think someone else will want to buy. And, if your genre happens to be preschool, there’s no time like the present to be out hustling your bibles on the Croisette. As always, I welcome your comments in my little box below.