Question for FilmTVLaw.com:
I’ve got a project perfect for Dreamworks. How can I get in the door at Dreamworks? I’m not a first-time filmmaker, got three films distributed already. I’m ready to work at the next level. Thanks for your posts! Keep up the good work.
Answer by Brandon Blake, Entertainment Lawyer:
Thanks to everyone for all of the great questions these past two weeks. I can’t get to all of them but will focus on those that probably resonate with the most readers. Please feel free to check out my Q&A Blog for a wealth of other entertainment related advice and articles at www.filmtvlaw.com/entertainment-lawyer-qa/.
I have had the good fortune of working with Dreamworks Animation on a number of recent projects, and actually represent the estate responsible for such classics as “Dumbo” and “101 Dalmatians”. In answer to your question, let’s first talk about the way agencies and studios work with each other to get feature film and television projects produced in the “studio” system. After that we can talk about opportunities to break in for independent producers and writers.
Major agencies supply a constant stream of scripts and stories to studios, production companies and networks, and often package those projects first before presenting the scripts. Packaging means getting an A-list performer, director, or other celebrity with name recognition and an existing fan base interested in a script or story. Agencies typically shop the project internally first, in order to find current clients who would be interested in attaching to the project.
Once the agency feels that it has enough interest from talent attached to the script, the agency will then present the project to studios, focusing on producers at the studios who are known to be looking for particular stories for production. If there is interest at the studio in the script, a similar kind of internal shopping process begins, where a producer or acquisitions executive will approach others at the studio and try to build up interest in the project at the studio. Eventually the President and CEO of the studio will get involved, deciding to green light projects that have been internally developed.
So, the question is how to become a part of this process, when so much of the development and shopping work is being done internally at major agencies and studios, and television networks. There are a couple of solutions for independent producers who want to bring scripts into the Hollywood system.
The best way is to work on packaging the project during development, and make attaching cast, director, or other celebrities the first step in getting the project made. In one project I represented that later was picked up by a major studio, my client and I worked to create substantial publicity around the story during the development phase, which attracted Keanu Reeves and David Ayer to the project.
At that point a major agency got involved, which began shopping the project with us to studios. Whether I work with major agencies or studios, the idea is to do the legwork for the development executives, bringing them something with not only a great story but talent already attached.
Regarding advice for how to get projects seen by studios and networks, I would offer the following specific ideas:
1) Produce great promotional materials. The look book/ pitch book, website, poster and one-sheet should be the highest possible quality. After 18 years in the entertainment business, I can spot projects that will get agency and studio attention from the poster alone. It really is that important. I get a lot of questions about trailers, demo reels, sizzle reels, and pilots, and my answer is always the same; if the material is broadcast quality and exactly reproduces your intention for the series or movie, then yes, the more material the better. But anything where you are asking the agent or studio executive to “imagine” what you can do with a bigger budget, do not include it. For various reasons, television and studio executives do not have very good imaginations. Show them what you can do right now or do not include it.
2) Package the project. Most producers, after spending a few years in the entertainment business, will have at least one or two celebrity contacts to approach about the project. But due to schedules and the personal taste of the talent involved, only one in fifty of those will work out. An entertainment law firm like ours can help. I have been successfully bringing together cast, directors and celebrities with films in development for nearly two decades. Relationships, the right approach, and industry knowledge are crucial when pitching a project to high level talent.
3) Publicity. Never underestimate the power of some well-placed news articles about the project. There are a myriad of ways to build a story around a prospective film or television project. If your story rights are not strong enough to grab a news headline, then chances are the story will not impress the agents or studios either. Work on ways to make the project newsworthy.
Feel free to contact our office about rates for our packaging and representation services, and please do not decide about complex entertainment legal matters without consulting an experienced entertainment lawyer first. At BLAKE & WANG P.A. I have been representing feature film projects, television series, and recording artists for more than 18 years. Please feel free to contact my office at www.filmtvlaw.com about a quote.
- By Brandon Blake, Entertainment Lawyer