Exex offer advice on developing ideas to fruition

Corrections were made to this article on Jan. 27, 2004.

Panelists participating in a NATPE session Tuesday regaled the audience with war stories about what can go wrong in the process of taking an idea through development to principal photography.

The pitch is the critical first step to getting the foot in the door, speakers on the panel “From the Womb to the Living Room,” told delegates. A good idea is still the most important element behind any presentation — and the best ideas often are simple.

“Forget about strippers and balloons and concentrate on making your idea easy to translate. Most executives are part of larger media companies which requires that they sell your idea to 5 or 6 people before it is picked up,” said producer Robert Kossberg.

The next step is to determine if there is any interest in the idea being pitched.

Zig Gauthier, VP of development for Fox Sports Net, said that if you don’t get passed on in the room or have obstacles put in your way, “it’s an indication that they want to do more to develop the show.” And if you’re lucky, he added, “you’re going to get a call from the business affairs people some point down the road.”

Another panelist, producer Scott Sternberg, pointed out that it helps to know what the seller is looking for to find out what the network wants.

Credibility is also essential. Execs who answer to shareholders want experienced showrunners to produce their series: Neophytes with unreasonable financial expectations are quickly ferreted out and easily dispensed with.

Paradigm agent Pat Quinn warned prospective producers that networks are going to check newcomers’ background and quotes. “So be careful with what you tell them.”

All the panelists agreed that people need to learn the craft and rack up a strong credit history to make it in the business.

Or, quipped Kossberg, “you can sleep with someone. That’s the best way.”

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