One of the most common questions I hear is: “How do I get in the door to pitch to a network or studio executive?”
Truth be told,
Getting a pitch meeting with a development executive is not as hard as it seems.
This post will cover some of the paths you can take, and offer some useful tips that I’ve seen work.
Three broad ways:
1.) Getting discovered through your online presence.
2.) Attending conventions and meeting executives.
3.) Networking with other creatives.
Please note, those aren’t the only ways, and they’re not mutually exclusive.
If you are an artist (who would like to get paid), you must have samples of your work available online. It could be on Tumblr, a Twitter feed, Instagram, a Deviant Art page, or blog where you frequently post your best work.
If you want to be discovered, you need an online presence. The Internet has been around for a long time now, and blogs are free and easy. There’s really no excuse not to have an online hub for your art.
You could join animation forums on Reddit, answer questions on Quora.com, or comment on other artists’ blogs. With every response or post, you can link to your own blog and attract visitors to your site.
While it’s common for artists get gigs in the industry by referrals from friends, it’s amazing how many have landed jobs after being discovered online. It happens more often than you think.
Animation execs LOVE to be the one to discover unknown talent.
If you’re already in the animation industry working as part of a crew, the hard part is already done. You’ve got a foot in the door. If you’re smart, you’ve been making connections with other talented artists, expanding your contacts list.
Have you met the series executive who’s overseeing the show you’re currently working on? That person can be very useful to you, for he or she can be one of your biggest supporters. Don’t be shy.
Get to know this person. Let him or her know that you have some ideas you’d like to pitch. Again, execs love to discover new talent and ideas, so getting a quick meeting should be easy.
Development execs are the gatekeepers of their network or studio. They receive hundreds of pitches a year. Their job is to say no.
Let that sink in for a bit.
They have to filter the real gold from the shiny petrified poo. You may not agree with what they consider to be gold, but it’s your job to convince them that your idea isn’t poo.
It’s not that they love saying no. It’s just that when spend your office hours listening to pitch after pitch after pitch, the majority of ideas are either terrible, don’t fit their networks’ needs, are similar to an idea already in development, or a combination of the three.
Believe it or not, development execs aren’t too hard to find. Many of them attend conferences and award ceremonies like Kidscreen, San Diego Comic-Con, The Annie Awards, MIP TV, NATPE, and CTN Expo. They’re usually avoiding the cosplayers…
They usually speak at panels, and if you time it just right, you can catch them for a quick conversation afterward. Say hi, compliment them on something they said during their panel, and give them a business card with an eye-catching piece of art on it. Ask when would be a good time to pitch. Don’t worry about sounding rude. They already know that’s why you’re even talking to them.
If you know their names, you can often find them on LinkedIn, and try to connect with them. But I definitely do not recommend trying to find and befriend them on Facebook, especially if you’ve never met them in person before.
One fantastic resource is the Kidscreen Global Pitch Guide . Inside, you’ll find contact information for many animation development executives from around the world. Be sure to do your research and know what kind of content they’re looking for before you contact them! They’ve just released the 2019 edition! Be sure to check it out. The 2016 edition is also available, but it excludes the contact emails, so you might want to check out the 2015 version.
Another way to get your foot in the door is rather controversial and sometimes awkward. I call it making friends!
In your case, it’s making friends with other talented artists and writers.
Attend CTN Expo or some other comic/pop culture convention and mingle with other artists. They’re usually a jovial bunch, happy to connect with others. Buy their stuff! Get inspired.
They are not your competition!
In fact, more often than not, they’ll be the ones who recommend you to the powers-that-be who are hiring. Who wouldn’t want to work with their friends? The animation industry is not a gigantic one. Pretty much everybody knows everybody through fewer than six degrees of separation.
Use it to your advantage.
Bring some killer business cards with a link to your blog to these conventions. Share them with anyone who even accidentally makes eye contact with you.
Again, if you’re already part of a show crew, you’ve already got a head start. Crank out the absolute best work you can in whatever branch of the production you’re in. Go above and beyond. Show off. You will get noticed. Your supervisor and/or show runner will rave about you to the studio execs.
Introduce yourself to the show’s current series exec. They’re usually the 30-something who wants to wear retro t-shirts to the office, but can’t at the risk of not looking like an executive.
Keep updating your blog or online portfolio while you’re at it. (Just not with the pieces you’re working on for your show–those belong to the studio, and they’ll ask you to take them down.)
Seriously, if you’re an aspiring artist, and you don’t have your best art online, you’re toast.
That’s like trying to moonwalk in cement shoes. You’re not going anywhere. And you wasted money on cement shoes.
Nowadays there are so many video and social media sites to publish your work and gain an audience. It’s ridiculous.
Finally, a few other ways to get noticed:
Win a pitch contest. (At least enter one.) Animation Magazine used to have an annual Pitch Party contest, and the winners got to pitch to a living, breathing animation executive. These days there are plenty of contests
You can still find animation festivals and conferences that host annual pitch contests. The odds are long, but even if you merely place in the top three, the exposure and experience is invaluable.
Use Instagram, Twitter, or create a YouTube channel to show your work and build an audience. Once you’ve built a following, launch a Kickstarter campaign.
Pitch Your Cartoon!