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Old 03-14-2002, 06:26 PM   #1
ToddinHB
 
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Default Selling a television series...

If anyone wants any specific information, I'll be happy to describe my experience as the agent who sold "Early Edition" to CBS from two unknown, unproduced writers.

It's a bittersweet tale, and a cautionary one, too.
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Old 03-14-2002, 06:37 PM   #2
imelge
 
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Default

Post away.
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Old 03-14-2002, 07:16 PM   #3
nosleepnow
 
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Default

Todd,

Great story tell more!!!!!!!!! I have a quick question - What kind of take does a producer get? What kind of pull does that give you? Any info you can give I would appreciate it!
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Old 03-14-2002, 07:28 PM   #4
ToddinHB
 
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Default A brief summary

This is how the story began:

Back in 1995 (I think), one of my colleagues at the agency asked if I would do him a favor and take a meeting with two guys with a "great pitch" for a new series. I declined, since I know how hard it is for experienced writers to launch a series, much less an inexperienced one (or two). After much haranguing, I finally agreed to take the meeting. I met with them, and was extremely impressed with their pitch and the thought that went into the idea. But I explained that it was more likely that they'd win the lottery before selling a series. Still, I agreed to give it a shot.

We knew that we'd need a showrunner to help us get into the rooms of the major networks. I set meetings at a multitude of studios and producers, but it wasn't until the guys met with Ian Abrams, who had a deal with Columbia/Tri Star Television. He is perhaps best known as the writer of "Undercover Blues." He agreed to come on board, and the next stop was CBS. They bit, and financed the writing of the pilot.

The guys didn't write (or co-write) the pilot, but they had ample input through Ian. CBS didn't want their input. At this point, I began to sense that there was a real chance that they might get pushed aside. Of course, they were very nicely compensated through their deal, but there is a little phrase known as "pay or play" which basically says that, as long as you're paid, no one is required to use your services. Still, Ian was kind enough to put their names on the pilot script. This would become crucial in determining "Created by" credit, which is important because there were some substantial funds appropriated by the credit determination.

When CBS decided to go ahead and shoot the pilot, Les Moonves (head of CBS) thought that Ian wasn't experienced enough, so he brought on Bob Brush. He's best known as the executive producer of "The Wonder Years." In a very bad indication of things to come, I couldn't get him on the phone, and my guys were effectively shut out from the series.

The series was picked up and went five years, and my clients made a lot of money. But the experience did little to advance their writing careers. Even though their contract guaranteed that they write multiple episodes, Bob Brush decided that he would rather pay them off than include them in the process. This is part of the reason why some series cost so much.

In the end, what started as a triumph became a true disappointment. It could be one of those things where you're tempted to say, "be careful what you wish for, because you might get it."

Questions?
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Old 03-14-2002, 08:37 PM   #5
creativexec
 
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Default Re: A brief summary

It's a hard business.
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Old 03-15-2002, 10:35 AM   #6
Meltdown
 
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Default Re: A brief summary

That's awfully eye opening!

Do you think this experience was part and parcel to your clients being unknowns (no track record to give them credibility) or the almighty dollar which was mightier for certain other individuals with your clients out of picture?

Your clients didn't have a pilot written, but do think it would have been a little different if they had?
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Old 03-15-2002, 11:58 AM   #7
PipeWriter
 
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Default Re: A brief summary

Great story Todd. Thanks.
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Old 03-15-2002, 12:44 PM   #8
Bill Marquardt
 
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Default Re: A brief summary

Thanks for the story, Todd.

May I buy you lunch sometime?
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Old 03-15-2002, 02:21 PM   #9
ToddinHB
 
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Default More...

First, Bill, I'm honored at your offer, and would really enjoy having a meal with you sometime. You can reach me at todd@storyXchange.com (so can everyone else).

Second, to answer the earlier post about why my clients were pushed aside... My theory involves a few factors, the first of which is that, admittedly, the guys were probably too eager and feeling a bit smug for selling their first TV series. I tried to rein them in a bit, but I wasn't entirely successful. Another factor is that Bob Brush is just a dick, and he was the sole showrunner/decisionmaker. I concede that he's a successful writer and producer, but he had zero interest in helping two novice writers learn the ropes. Perhaps he had a bad experience in his past, or he just wanted the paycheck. Regardless, he never met or even spoke with me or my clients. He was a dick.

Your questions help me recall the specifics of the situation, so feel free to ask anything.
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Old 03-15-2002, 02:25 PM   #10
ToddinHB
 
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Default One more thing...

I forgot to add that I read a very insightful article today in the Los Angeles Times about series television.

You can access it at this URL:
www.calendarlive.com/top/...02,00.html
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