Posted tagged ‘TV and movie accelerators’

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!