News & Notes

Packaging Your Series for Television: Two Perspectives

By: Katharine Roman

The first Monday in February Jim Arnoff, acclaimed New York based Television Packaging Agent, Entertainment Lawyer and Certified Life/Career Coach extraordinaire provided a lively crash course on how to represent yourself and pitch to the fast paced and cut throat Television Industry.

Snacks of cheese, bread, cupcakes and even wine greeted attendees of the talk hosted by Interface Media in their spacious first floor studio. Open seats in the studio were scarce as Jim began the conversation with brief insights into the several (roughly five) different careers that Jim has pursued, proving the importance of taking every opportunity that comes your way.

Once Jim familiarized himself with the audience he began to layout the atmosphere of the industry; what types of ideas network executives have appetites for and how to best dress up your idea to gain their interest. Most noteworthy takeaway: a decision of interest or distaste is made within the first five to ten seconds of a pitch meeting.

Statements of advice like NEVER read from a paper in a pitch meeting, know who you’re pitching to, use the term ‘pass’ in place of reject and NEVER pitch by email, drove home the major theme of using specifics. Be specific in your language, in your delivery, in your handshake, in your eye contact, in your words (explain what your show is and why the Network wants it). This can be communicated in a ‘sizzle’ (rather than a sizzle reel) or roughly a 30 second clip intended to wow viewers and establish purpose that includes all the graphics, dramatic cuts, bells and whistles, that an independent filmmaker or emerging production company can manage.

He also suggested that when developing a pitch, each filmmaker not only take the time to mentally put themselves in the seat of the Studio Executives and Networks, but to also assume their pitch has already been presented. This will help you highlight your individuality.

Jim maintained a balanced cadence while sharing his career experiences and attending to several audience questions. After his spirited lecture turned into meaningful conversation, Jim closed by departing his belief that in some way, by some means, ‘really good content will find a home.”

In summary, the night proved as equally entertaining as educational. Jim Arnoff is a pleasant character with an impressive and inspiring track record and wisdom to share. Attendees left with a greater insight into the evolving landscape of TV, and hopefully an idea of how they fit into the puzzle. Thank you Jim for a wonderful evening had by all!


Key Take-Aways

By: Liliane Mavridara

Networking is key to this business and authentic name drop and titles, do catch attention. Also, if you are recognized through a pipeline and/or by development execs, i.e. 3rd party validation.

Sizzle Reels need to be less than 3 min long and ideally within 30 sec its main message must be clear. Execs know in less than a minute if there is a hook.

Always go for an in-person meeting, and do not put material in the portal because you can always change it following your meeting.

Smoozing is about 10 min of talk building the connection, i.e. talk about the kids, an event you went to, what you are working on.

Always know who you are pitching to, and when you decide to pitch, go full out. If you are afraid they will steal your show/idea, they will feel that you are holding back.

You need to know where you are in your career, at what stage, and discuss what will be your role with the production company. Be specific about what you bring to the collaboration.

When you are thinking of pitching, consider what is your unique hook and perspective because every idea has already been pitched. Consider also the talent, CGI, as well as what is the specific time period you are looking at.

Show your passion, value and what you can contribute, especially if you make your own sizzle.

Know your demographics and audience, your brand.

Comedy/drama is the main focus of Hulu, Netflix and Amazon; high quality, edgy scripted content but you can pitch anything to them.

When you hire an agent or entertainment lawyer make sure they are in your field, i.e. theater versus TV.

Your sizzle must give all the essential information and answer all questions the exec may have. Never read nor leave anything with an exec.

If you don’t know what the network is looking for, do a side pitch, i.e. “what I am working on is…” and see how they respond.

The best ways to reach a Network Executive for TV programming are, 1) to go through a production company that has recently pitched an idea similar to yours, 2) to find the show-runner (or senior producer), and 3) to hire an Agent.
Jim Arnoff is a Television Packaging Agent representing New York production companies (reality, documentary, non-fiction and animation) in developing and selling original programming to the networks and new media. He is an entertainment lawyer and Certified Life/Career Coach to the entertainment industry. Jim worked at the William Morris Agency as both an in-house lawyer and packaging agent. He leads workshops for the Producers Guild of America, National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, Writers Guild of America, HBO, TimeWarner, New York Women in Film & Television, Time, Inc. and MTV Networks. Jim is a faculty member of the School of Visual Arts, FIT and NYU.

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