Where there is a will, a way can sometimes be created...
Producing Results....what have I learned about producing results? About getting a project actually made and on the screen, be it small or big? There is no set path and there is definitely no set rhyme or reason to the pattern of what gets made or why.
There are a lot of paths to choose from, all of which naturally cannot be covered in one issue of Animation World Magazine. There are the people that get agents right out of school. There are people that become bartenders and gain "life experience" for a few years before focusing on their career. There are those that put together a pitch and hit the markets. There are those that publish comic books, gain momentum and then seek out the studio's decision makers. Then there are those that seek out grants and make more personal works. The fact that there isn't a set road to follow can either be scary or freeing depending on how one looks at it.
We can always look at others and compare ourselves to their career progress. We wonder how we can get to where they are and feel a little lost and miserable when things aren't working out. "How do they do it? How come there isn't anyone to tell me exactly how to do it?" This is looking on the downside.
The upside is...you are never wrong. Regardless of the track that you are taking to reach your goals, you are completely, 100% correct in your actions and no one can tell you differently. As long as you make intelligent decisions for specific reasons and base your actions on research then you are just as much in the running as the guy next to you. Research is absolutely key. You need to know the market. You need to read about trends, both artistic and business oriented, and be able to put them into perspective as either truth or a few weird flukes. Watch the industry. Read, ask questions and call. Just call and ask. What's the worse that can happen to you? They say, "No," and I have a remedy for that one at the end of this piece. I was recently introduced to the first person who ever rejected my application for a job after I graduated school. He didn't remember me and I had even called him, spoke to him a few times, sent my resume and then was rejected. Granted this was a few years ago, but believe me, no one is keeping score and if you ask good questions maybe someone will remember you.
Another variable in the equation of success is luck, fate or whatever you would like to call it. This too can work both ways. A development executive that you have been working with for months can suddenly get a new job elsewhere or be fired for that matter. The day of your big pitch perhaps the creative executive's dog bit her, her car is in the shop, her mother phoned to tell her she feels neglected, etc. No matter how amazing your pitch is, if it is a comedy, she may not feel like laughing. However, you may be in luck if it is a drama or if your protagonist is a penguin and her boss has just told her, "Penguins make me laugh..." Either way, these are all elements out of your control which can work for you and against you. While events like this are frustrating, they cannot be avoided.
While all these roads to seeing your work on the screen cannot be mapped, a few pointers do seem to remain steady throughout the research that went into this issue. If you are serious about getting your work produced, you have to talk to people, you have to meet the right people and you have to convince them to trust you. After all, people don't give just anyone a lot of money to go off and make an animated film. You might not get a yes right away but maybe next time you come in with a pitch they will remember you. Good relationships, as well as unbelievable determination and talent, are the key.
Now, here's a new way to look at the word, "no." A family friend who is in sales once told me that on average a salesman gets told, "no," nineteen times for every "yes." So, when someone rejects your project, thank them because you are now one step closer to a yes. We all hear about the person whose first pitch is bought and now they have their own series and are fabulously successful. These are the exceptions. Not the rules. The truth of the matter is that it takes a lot of hard work, false starts and stops and schlepping to get results. Sometimes, it is a matter of who schleps the longest.
Good luck and we'll see you at NATPE in New Orleans, Heather