Blog

Mar 7, 2018

Pitching to Cartoon Network


The experience of pitching to a network executive.

The topic I’ve been asked the most about is pitching to Cartoon Network, so I’ll cover that in today’s blog. After I had written enough material for Spirit Warriors, I really wanted to show it to a network and see if I could get a TV deal. I didn’t know the first thing about how to get a meeting, so I asked the attorney who trademarked my series if she could help. She was able to obtain some phone numbers at Cartoon Network and set up a meeting. I think the fact that a lawyer was calling on my behalf was one of the reasons Cartoon Network agreed to hear my pitch, it was more formal having a lawyer set up the meeting. Usually that’s the role of an agent, but since I didn’t have an agent it was the next best move.

            Once the pitch meeting was set, I immediately started practicing how to pitch. I had about three weeks to prepare so I figured that was more than enough time. I read two books about pitching, as well as every online article I could find. I also asked Bruce Faulconer if he wanted to be in the meeting too. I was honored when he agreed, I felt his amazing resume and work experience would really help to balance out my lack of experience. The meeting was going to take place at Cartoon Network’s studios in Atlanta GA, so I had to fly from Massachusetts just for the meeting. If you’re planning on pitching your own series, there are two things you need to bring. First, you need some business cards. This is pretty standard, anyone looking to have their own series should invest in a couple hundred business cards and keep a few with you at all times, you never know when you might need them. The second thing you need is a booklet that showcases your series, this is generally referred to as a “Pitch Bible”. I had a booklet that contained colored pictures of all the main characters, as well as a quick description of their personalities. The booklet also contained information about the series in general, covering things like spirit energy, Ozana School, and the martial arts tournaments.

            To say I was nervous before the first meeting is an understatement. I can honestly say I’ve never ever been more nervous before anything in my life. I had practiced my pitch so many times, but I really had no idea what to expect. So Bruce and I left the hotel we were staying and went to the Turner Studios building where Cartoon Network is located. After briefly waiting in the lobby, a Cartoon Network representative led us into a conference room. Bruce and I were supposed to meet with the manager of Acquisitions and Co-productions, however, to our surprise a different person entered the room. She was the Director of Programming for the entire channel, and said the person we were supposed to meet with was out sick. This was a curve ball, but really it wasn’t a big deal. It probably was a bit of a blessing in disguise, as we were now meeting with someone even higher up in the company.

            After a tiny bit of small talk, the Director of Programming looked at me like she was waiting for me to start the pitch. So I started at the beginning of the booklet and began to walk her through the concept. She didn’t ask a lot of questions, she just listened to what Bruce and I said. After about 15 minutes, she paused the meeting and said she wanted to give us her business card, which I took as a great sign. She left the room and Bruce gave me a thumb’s up. When she came back we exchanged business cards and kept talking. I also noticed that she was starting to nod at the points I was making, this was great to help calm my nerves. I specifically remember a moment where Bruce was talking about the series’ potential and thinking to myself “this is going well, they’re going to say yes!”. I had a mental checklist about all the points I wanted to make, why the characters were relatable, why the action and comedy would appeal to a wide audience, and more. The funny thing is, during all of my practice sessions I would forget one or two points each time I practiced the pitch, but in the real meeting I remembered every single one. I’ll never forget the moment the meeting ended, we had gone through the entire booklet, and discussed a few topics after that was finished, and Cartoon Network’s Director of Programming said “This looks great. We don’t have anything like this, and we have room on our budget.”. In my own vast in-experience, I took that as a “yes” answer, I thought my work would be produced. The reality of pitching came crashing down on me shortly after that, and the Director of Programming then said “let me pass everything along to my bosses and we’ll see where things go.”. So I left some booklets and business cards with her to pass along, and that was the end of the meeting.

            A week went by and I didn’t hear anything back, then two weeks, before I knew it a month had gone by with no contact from Cartoon Network. Again, this was all new to me, so I wasn’t sure if I should panic or if things always take this long. After three months had gone by, I couldn’t wait any longer. My lawyer followed up and contacted Cartoon Network asking for an update. Cartoon Network just sent back a generic response saying “Thank you for pitching but we have decided to move in a different direction.”. There was no explanation or reason for the rejection, I didn’t understand, the meeting went well, what changed? The truth is that’s unfortunately how most pitch meetings go, networks change their opinions on a whim all the time. It also doesn’t mean you should give up on your ideas, one rejection shouldn’t mean the end of your dreams. I’m personally going to keep trying and keep pitching Spirit Warriors until someone accepts it.  

            The next blog will be the final entry and I’ll conduct an interview with a special person. If any readers have questions or comments, feel free to email me at webmaster@spiritwarriorstv.com

Best Wishes,

Jeff