Posted tagged ‘Menehune movie project’

Proof of Concept

April 3, 2015

Before I pick up where I left off about my nearly disastrous presentation at the Global Virtual Studio Transmedia Boardroom Pitch in Kona, here’s some script sales news you can use: in the past couple of weeks I’ve seen at least two movie and TV deals that were attributed to “proof of concept” — a term I first heard in conjunction with high tech startups. But now that TV and film projects are becoming more franchise-driven commercial enterprises, it makes sense that investors are embracing the same “show, don’t tell” demo model for movies and TV shows.

An example of this would be THE LEVIATHAN teaser posted on AICN. You may recall that Neill Blomkamp, who is attached as exec producer, did the same thing with his DISTRICT 9 short, which then became a full blown feature. Proof of concept is just another term for movie teaser or short film that is meant to entice producers to invest in the filmmaker’s vision. I think all aspiring screenwriters — even book writers — should be thinking the same way, and coming up with their own creative, doable proof of concept pitches to promote their projects. It could be as simple as a sample book cover or movie poster. Or as elaborate as a short high def video with all the bells and whistles of a feature film. It might be a combination of text, images and video… say, a Powerpoint presentation.

Which is what I did at the GVS Boardroom event. Some of the other presenters had actual film footage to show. Others made short trailers to partially pitch their multimedia or transmedia projects — smart because they didn’t have to fumble through as much “live” talking as I did. The allotted five-minutes is not a lot of time to include everything they wanted: the elevator pitch (logline or premise); a synopsis of the story; how you would monetize the franchise; why you feel the market “needs” your product; and something about yourself. Still, I thought I had it all covered in the Powerpoint I put together the week before the pitch.

First mistake: just because you write something and read it to yourself, do NOT assume you can wing it when the lights come on. My excuse for not memorizing my pitch and practicing it out loud was lack of time. Another dumb excuse was that I didn’t want to sound too “rehearsed.” I figured if I got stuck, all I had to do was look at my PP slides and read the “notes” section on my laptop that the audience doesn’t see on the big screen.

Except when we did our practice run-through in the Kona studio, they had their own set-up for any media being used. There was no laptop screen on the podium, just a keyboard or clicker to advance the slides. They did tell us we could use our own laptop, but my screen was too small to read the notes and I didn’t want to put on reading glasses, since I already look old enough as is. However, I did print out my PP notes in large type just in case I couldn’t use my laptop PP Presenter’s View option.

So I’m standing at the podium facing over 5o empty chairs, plus two long tables in front of me for the panelists who would be giving us feedback and asking questions about our franchise pitches. To my right, slightly behind me is the big screen to display the PP slides. To my left, sitting at the end of the panelist table is a GVS staffer holding a digital clock showing us exactly how much time we have left. Also, there are cameras that are going to be trained on us since we will be shown on the video screens as well. The first three presenters get through their practice pitches without much problem.

Then it’s my turn. I hate public speaking or getting in front of groups. That’s one reason I’m a writer. My gut is churning, I haven’t eaten for hours because I’m afraid it might come back up at an inopportune moment due to nerves. I purposely wear an aloha shirt with a black background to hide my armpit sweat stains. Yet I smile and exude fake confidence as I recite my opening from memory while clicking to the next slide… I turn to look back at the screen — that’s not the right slide! Click again. No, no, no. Try to back click. There is a delay in the clicker that I didn’t know about, and now I’m off track. I glance to my left and see the staff holding up the clock, and I’m running out of time. I try to jump ahead in my presentation, but it’s hopeless.

I can feel the pity from the other seven presenters and the GVS staff who watch helplessly as I flounder. After I step down, they all assure me it will be okay. The remaining presenters get through their pitches just fine. I’m the only one asked to stay after they’re done to try it again. This time I ditch the clicker and use the keyboard arrows to advance the slide, which works better for me. Still, what I’ve written in my notes is way too long now that I’m reading it out loud.

For a few moments, while the panelists and audience members took their seats, I considered bailing. My excuse would be I wasn’t feeling well. But years of rejections, being picked on as a kid, being told I wasn’t big enough to play sports (then making the football team) or good enough as a screenwriter to advance in contests (then winning and placing in a bunch) had prepared me for this. I got up and did it. It wasn’t perfect. Still, the panelists said they loved the concept and that once I stopped reading from my notes, my passion and knowledge came through very well.

And here’s the kicker: the Boardroom pitch wasn’t meant to be anything other than a means to get feedback from people with investment backgrounds, which could help the presenters when it’s time to apply for the GVS Transmedia Accelerator program later this year. However, the following day after I returned to Oahu, I got an email from an audience member. It turns out she loved the pitch for my Menehunes movie franchise — and she has connections in the entertainment industry. Stay tuned!

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Filmmakers, Inc.

March 17, 2015

Years ago, when I began writing screenplays I had no ambition to be a director or producer. I wasn’t interested in getting a camera or learning how to edit on Final Cut Pro. All I wanted to be is a writer. But times have changed, and to make money I started my little Career Changers TV show, which airs daily on Oceanic Time Warner Cable in Hawaii. Although I hire cameramen to shoot our segments, I had to become an editor out of necessity. The money is decent, but more importantly it taught me to think differently about writing for television or films, and it opened my eyes to practical realities such as, “How the heck are we gonna shoot this?”

Since my show is about career opportunities and entrepreneurial types, I became familiar with the start-up world about four years ago. It was mostly driven by high tech applications for computers and mobile devices. When we shot segments about events such as Startup Weekends (groups self organize to vote on ideas and create a new biz in 48 hours) and new “accelerator” programs (essentially incubators that provide seed money and other resources in exchange for equity), I was struck by the similarities to things we do as screenwriters: the “elevator pitch” was pretty much a logline for the proposed business; followed by a more detailed outline or synopsis of the business strategy; then the actual pitch to investors — grab their attention up front, reel them in with a story about why the market needs this product, and why they should fund it.

The biggest difference though is the panel judges — often venture capitalists and “angel” investors who might actually pony up money — grilled the presenters on how they would monetize their project. As writers, I think a lot of us focus on the art and don’t like the idea of bean counters controlling the creative process. Well, get used to it, because there are now accelerators for TV and film-driven franchises, and they are using the same model as tech startups. If you know how to package your project — especially multimedia type stories that can go from webisodes to TV or be spun off into video games or apps for smart devicees — this can be a very good opportunity for writers.

On the Big Island, we now have the Global Virtual Studio Transmedia Accelerator program, which had its first cohort last year. They select up to six teams that receive $50,000 over a six month period to develop their project, and provide work space, mentoring and business advice in exchange for 10 percent equity. You have to be incorporated to give shares of your project to GVS, and to receive payment.

The founders have solid experience in the movie and television industry. But when I was invited to pitch my Menehune feature film-driven franchise to a panel for feedback, none of them actually had hands-on experience making films. They were money people, not creatives. That’s not to say they weren’t creative or very smart and very good at what they do. However, it was more like pitching on “Shark Tank” than pitching to studio heads.

I was one of eight project creators that was selected to take part in the GVS Boardroom Pitch last month in Kona. Originally, they were going to have video-conference sites set up on Oahu and Maui, but decided a week before the event to fly us all to the Big Island instead at their expense.

To get in, I adapted successful e-queries I had sent out to promote my Menehune script — queries that got me a manager, an option, and many script requests (including Dreamworks Animation). So I felt good about my chances, especially since I was able to include visual images to go with my synopsis that showed spectacular shots of Kauai for my proposed IMAX 3D movie.

I’m not sure how many applied, but the other seven chosen were pretty impressive as far as their credentials and proposed franchises. Some had made short films to be shown as part of our five-minute pitches (to be followed by 12 minutes of questions/comments by the panelists). Although our presentations were not part of the application process for the next cohort, the intent was that feedback from the Boardroom panel could help us hone our project pitches for the real thing. It was a no lose situation.

Except I almost blew it. I’ll tell you about that in my next post!