Since numerous people, too many for me to communicate with individually, have expressed an interest in the complete story behind Sweet Glory’s TV contest win (April 2013), I thought I’d build my first several posts as a new member of the “Five Scribes” around my journey through it. In this first post, I’ll get right to the results of my movie pitches. For those of you who want more, I’ll include an interview with Former MGM Director of Creative Affairs who groomed me to make successful pitches to Hollywood, the contents of my winning pitch in the contest, and other goodies.So here it goes…
First—for those of you who are clueless as to what I’m talking about, here’s the background:
It took me completely by surprise when after the publication of Sweet Glory (hereafter referred to as SG) readers suggested that I consider writing its sequel and pitching it as a movie. I’d never given either a thought. At the time, I had already moved on to another writing project.
You know the saying: Even the best-laid plans go awry. Well…I switched gears! Figuring I should write SG’s sequel before readers forgot its characters & plot, I temporarily put aside the other project.
Simultaneous with this change, I was “Googling” published-book contests for SG when up popped the TVMe! Contest hosted by the Sarasota County Film and Entertainment Office (SCFEO). Hmmmm…again, I remembered my readers’ suggestion. Once I discovered that this contest does NOT require ideas to be submitted in screenplay format, I leaped to enter (Fall of 2012).
Fast-forward to March 2013: I received an email that SG had won either 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or Honorable Mention of its category, but final placement wouldn’t be known until the following week when it and the Grand Prize Winner across the 3 categories of entry were announced.
FYI: I had entered SG in Category C: Long Format/One-Offs (single standalone programs such as a mini-series, a movie-of-the-week, an award or sporting event, a special televised gala, benefit, tribute, fundraiser, concert, staged performance, etc.). I built my 14-page, double-spaced treatment around a movie-of-the-week (MOW). I didn’t consider billing it as a “mini-series” too, but later the judges and other industry professionals with whom I became acquainted would mention it in the same breath as a MOW.
For further information about the contest and its rules and requirements go to: http://www.filmsarasota.com/tv-me-contest/
Unable to concentrate and burdened by a ton of nervous energy, I scrapped writing and research and attacked my house even though it really didn’t need cleaning or rearranging or anything else for that matter. Anyway, I turned it upside down and inside out, and then I put it all back together again very much like the havoc “Things 1 & 2” wreak in Dr. Seuss’s Cat in the Hat.
I had calloused my hands and worried by fingers to the bone by the time I got the phone call that I was not only the winner of my category but the Grand Prize Winner! I cried until I dried up my lacrimal ducts and whooped until I could hardly whisper. I was a mess by the time I flew to Sarasota, Florida to accept my award and prizes and make my winning speech.
As the GPW, you forfeit the category win, but really cool is that you still reap all of the prizes for it plus those for the GPW: a cash award, gifts from multiple sponsors, pitch meetings set up with multiple TV networks and/or producers (either in NYC or Los Angeles, depending on your idea and its genre) with training beforehand by an industry professional to successfully pitch your idea to Hollywood, and advice from an entertainment attorney.
Okay…FINALLY…on to the outcome of my movie pitches. First, let me qualify that the Sarasota County Film Commissioner felt that since my winning idea rooted from a published novel, I was better suited to pitch in NYC where abound literary agents who scout books and book-to-movie adaptations.
Three solid meetings and two potential fly-bys were set up for me:
On the first day in NYC, I met with two literary agents; the first leads the Film Department at Franklin & Siegal Associates, Inc. and scouts for AMC Networks and Universal Pictures and Universal Studios; and the second works for Gersh Agency and scouts for 20th Century Fox, Paramount, Sony, MTV, NBC, Warner Bros., HBO, Nickelodeon, Lionsgate, Dreamworks, The Weinstein Company, etc. The former was not a match for SG, but she promised to put in a word for me if I hooked up with anyone she might know in LA, and she knows mucho professionals on the West Coast. The latter was a match for my project—he’s reading my book and will get back to me.
On the second day, I met with the Vice President of Reality Programming at Lifetime Networks; although, we knew he was a mismatch for my project, he kept the meeting with me, giving me sage advice about pitching in the industry and a contact in the scripted department out in LA with permission to use his name. On this same day, although we could not schedule a meeting with the President of Lifetime Movie Network (LMN) because she was new to her position by two months, I was charged with dropping off a gift bag to her executive assistant to begin building rapport for a future meeting—our interaction in an upstairs lobby really turned into a mini-meeting as I was able to squeeze in a short pitch, and after a kindred spirit sparked between us, she promised that I was on their list and they'd definitely be contacting me once their departments were organized and staffed.
Trivia: You’ll never guess the given name of the new President for LMN. The same as SG’s main protagonist—Jana! (Only she pronounces her name as Jane-uh; I pronounce my Jana’s as it rhymes with “wanna”). Perhaps serendipitous? I’ve got my fingers crossed.
Anyway, in tallying it up, I have two parties on the line and one to contact. Also, more meetings—TBA—are forthcoming, including one potentially with strong ties to The Hallmark Movie Channel.
Tip: Two important things I learned for and from the pitch process:
1. To create a lasting impression of myself for future contact, I gave a gift bag to every party with whom I met. I even gave one to their executive assistants, if they had significant involvement in bringing about the meeting. Rule of thumb in Hollywood is that the executive assistants are today’s gatekeepers to your getting through to their bosses, and they are tomorrow’s top executives. Anyway, the reaction was the same for every recipient of my present: Even though they insisted a gift was not necessary, they tore into their bags and their expressions glowed with the thrill of a kid in a candy shop tasting their first twizzle stick when they found Sweet Glory, a bookmark, a business card, and a thank-you note inside. They were especially enamored with SG, and it turned out to be a very wise decision to gift it at the start of the meeting—several times during the meeting either their gaze shifted back to it or they picked it up and thumbed through it. Perhaps this was subliminal advertising and a way for them to remember me? Again, my fingers are crossed.
2. Movie/film professionals, especially in NYC, love novelists! Apparently, they do as I was congratulated multiple times during the course of each meeting on SG’s publication.
In conclusion, although I’d love to see SG made into a movie/mini-series, I discovered something very important about my career goal: I love being a writer of YA historical fiction, and I won’t lose sight of this as my primary focus.
Please feel free to drop by with a comment or question—I’d love to hear from ya!