It’s not exactly like playing poker but………..
Over the years I have had a good number of clients who had a pet project that they couldn’t let go of. No matter how many rejections they had received or brick walls they ran into, they just couldn’t lay down their hand.
Fact is that many of them held the belief that the rejections only served to verify that they had a massive mega hit in their possession, just waiting for the one buyer with a third eye to gaze upon it. These folks loved to point to hits like “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and the “Smurfs” to prove their point. These shows were flogged around town and turned down by legions of studios and producers. I know of few people of my generation that don’t have a Ninja Turtle story. Seemingly we all were pitched the property and we all turned up our noses…. The Turtle story is a little like Woodstock, we ALL were there - we’ll at least in spirit.
So what’s so wrong with perseverance you might inquire?
Nothing I might reply, as long as you can separate and balance rational determination from stubbornness.
My number one piece of advice for clients is not to fall so much in love with a property that they can’t disengage if need be. Yes, there are a number of stories about people who doggedly pursued their dream and eventually won the day. Some of these stories are even true. Fred Wolf did walk away from a wonderful position with Disney TV Animation to take on TMNT, a property that everyone else scoffed at and wouldn’t get near. And Peyo did keep coming back trying to sell the Smurfs and finally Hanna Barbera broke down and gave it a chance.
But, and this is a big But, you can count these anomalies on your fingers and toes and still have some toes left to do other things with.
I have had clients (and some friends as well) spend every cent they had on developing, pitching and then redeveloping and re-pitching until they were bleeding on the sidewalk, and still unable to let go and yell Uncle!
So what’s my point here? It is use you head not your heart. You create and develop a property with your heart but you sell it with your head. Many wonderful properties never get produced just as many a fine screenplay is unread and left in some Everest like stack on some lowly minion’s desk. Don’t let your project become your only child or you’re sunk. Who would walk away from his or her baby? If you had a baby wouldn’t it be the smartest and cutest and just the best damn baby anyone had ever seen and it wouldn’t it be impossible for anyone not to agree, if only you could show them just the right snapshot?
In poker, a good player, a smart player, a winning player will at times muck a strong hand. The player knows, that although he has a good hand, he can’t win the pot with it so he or she tosses the hand in and waits for the next deal. This is also what a smart, wise and experienced producer will do with a good property but one that can't be placed.
The point being, you shouldn’t fall in love with your property anymore than with a poker hand, unless, as they say in poker, you have the nuts. The nuts in poker is a hand that cannot be beat and any player would recognize it instantly. In our business the nuts is the money to finance the production of your own property and to have a home for it to air. A rare occurrence but it does happen.
I know people that have proved exceptions to my rule and have succeeded. In every recent case though, they brought money to the production and gave big chunks of ownership away to close the deal.
So what am I talking about here? Maybe I just felt like writing about poker today…I don’t know but I do know that you should not put all of your eggs in one basket (highly professional advice, no?). Don’t be the guy trying to sell 8-track cassette players just because you think retro is neat and eventually everyone else will come around to see it your way. It’s good to have a passion for your projects, or why do them? But don’t let the project take you over. If something isn’t working set it aside and move on – you can always come back if the tides of convention change (and they always do). You can still love a project even if no one wants it, just ask a few poets about their work. But be reasonable; don’t refuse to take NO for an answer if you know in your head (not your heart) that the answer really is NO. Sometimes it is what it is and the dog just won’t hunt and a blind squerel can't root up an acorn and the poke in the eye with a sharp stick is sometimes better than the alternative.... Well you know what I mean....
On a personal note - One of animation's great gentelman, Phil Roman, lost his wife and life's partner Anita, a few days ago. He is a wonderful man and one of the classiest guys you'ld ever meet - Our thoughts and prayers are with him and the family.