I assume that everyone who reads this blog also reads Cartoon Brew. Amid Amidi originally commented on September 11 on an interview with Pat Smith, where Smith offered his thoughts on the pitching process for selling ideas to TV. David Levy then offered his thoughts on Amid's comments. Amid has now returned with a long, thoughtful piece about whether or not artists should pitch.
(I should point out that Michael Sporn also referenced this debate before Amid's latest article.)
I have to say that I agree with Amid's point of view based on personal experience. I pitched several TV series and managed to get one sold. My experience on that series makes it unlikely that I'll ever bother with TV again.
For those not familiar with Monster By Mistake, the series was based on a boy who accidentally gets affected by a magic spell. Every time he sneezes, he turns into a 7 foot tall blue monster. My thinking, as the creator, was that this situation was general enough so that any child in the audience with a social, mental or physical problem could identify with the boy. The show always had comedy and adventure in it, but the underlying message was that life was unpredictable and often unfair. People have to be resilient in order to survive.
A Canadian broadcaster, YTV, bought the series quickly cut the heart out of it. Being a monster couldn't be seen as a handicap; being a monster had to be fun. Our producer-distributor simply said, "Right," and my concept of the show went up in smoke. There was money on the table and the producer was not about to jeopardize it. My concerns were totally off his radar.
Other bad decisions were made over my objections as the series progressed. They had to do with stories, designs and business deals. I won't bore you with the details.
The experience completely soured me on working in TV. I now understand that even if someone is lucky enough to sell a show, the structure of the business is such that the creator has no leverage and that business people will act on their opinions, no matter how poorly informed those opinions may be.
Other people's experiences may be different. Actually, I hope that my experience was unusually bad and that other creators are not facing the same frustrations. However, I'm not willing to try again. I don't need the aggravation. When I left the TV business and started teaching, I realized that I wasn't angry anymore and I liked that feeling.
I have written a lot on this blog about the possibility of bypassing gatekeepers and going directly to the audience via the web. The nature of web video is still evolving and there are lots of issues (primarily economic) that have to be worked out. However, if you are a creative person with an idea that would make a good film or series, I'd think seriously about going straight to the audience instead of pitching. For one thing, you may never make the sale, and if you do, you may not recognize the work that results.
There's no story and no character that hasn't been done before. There's only your point of view to differentiate your work from everybody else's. If that point of view is stopped or twisted before it reaches the audience, the essence of your work has been destroyed. My experience tells me that it's unlikely to survive in the TV industry and if there are alternatives that will protect your point of view, you should seriously consider them.