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PGA at Realscreen 2012

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Realscreen Day Three: So You Think You Can Pitch?
By Renee Rosenfeld

Katy Jones in session
Realscreen Day Three opened with PGA on the Hill hosting the Insiders Breakfast for PGA members and delegates attending Realscreen.  More than 40 guests listened to insider Elaine Frontain Bryant, Senior Vice President of Non-Fiction Programming at A&E Networks. She gave a frank talk about the development process at A&E, and what the network looks for when commissioning programs: When pitching to A&E bring big characters and high drama because the barrier for entry is entertainment value. The breakfast was organized by National Capital’s Katy Jones.

Sessions ranged from informational sessions with agents to trends in popular genres but the highlight of the Realscreen Summit is the very popular "So You Think You Can Pitch?” a pitching competition hosted by the one and only Howie Mandel.  Five brave Realscreen delegates pitched in front of a packed house for a five-minute presentation to be critiqued publically by the panel of judges, including representatives from the National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, NBC & Universal, and CABLEready. While entertaining for the audience, it was certainly informative to hear feedback from the judges as to what they were looking for and why or why not a pitch might work for them.

The most unscripted moment came when Howie Mandel invited a pitch from a would-be producer who attended the Summit decked out in pirate garb to bring attention to his show idea.  He was a natural! 

The Takeaway: Be sure to lead with your characters and exclusive access - If you are pitching an issue-specific program, be sure to make it personal, and always lead with confidence!

Lynn Hughes recruits prospective members
NPR’s Neda Ulaby was on hand and interviewed several producers including PGA member Evan Marshall about what they were pitching at Realscreen.

PGA members continued to fill us in on their experiences at the Summit.  Katy Jones enjoyed a very lively panel discussion from "The Ownership Question: You’ve Got to Fight for Your Rights.”  The panel featured Kaki Kirby of Atlas Media Group, Jane Millichip of Zodiak Rights London, Greg Jacobs of Red Bull Media House, Richard Hofstetter of Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz and one lone representative of broadcasters, Germaine Deagan Sweet of the National Geographic Channel.

The Takeaway: The more leverage you have as you walk into a business deal, the more room you have to negotiate ownership over the IP, but it’s really vital to be conscious of the value of the rights you want, and not overvalue yourself and your product in such a way as to kill the deal outright.  If you are just starting out, you’ll probably need to take commissions as a straight work-for-hire to build up your relationship with the broadcaster.  As you have more hits under your belt, you’ll have more leverage, says Greg Jacobs. Jane Millichip stressed the importance of owning the IP on your format, which can be very valuable to a producer.  Germaine Deagan Sweet was careful to point out that exclusivity is vital to the broadcaster in building their brand, but that they aren’t in the business of destroying producers—channels depend on producers.  The other takeaway: Have your talent signed up BEFORE you walk into a negotiation with a broadcaster.

West Coast’s Harlan Freedman reports that he closed a deal last Friday to become the Head of Development for Leopard Films. Harlan is a seasoned veteran of the Summit. In his view, it’s a great opportunity to build relationships because network players let their hair down. He finds the yearly market very similar to Sundance ten years ago where producers have more access in a fun environment.

Realscreen 14 wrapped up with The Great Original Programming Debate on Wednesday morning. With a "if you don’t own it, clone it” attitude prevailing in non-fiction, the panel agreed that if you live in a derivative world, you must find a way to break through to originality.

Themes of character and story ran throughout all the sessions but the prevailing buzzword was AUTHENTICITY!

PGA on the Hill looks forward to hosting members from around the country at Realscreen 15 in January of 2013. We’ll see you in the Nation’s Capital.

Tags:  non-fiction  PGA National Capital 

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