This has been an incredible year and there’s still a month left. Episode 76 of #TMBS dropped Monday. I was fortunate enough to work on both Chicago Fire and Chicago PD as a Consulting Producer. My comedy album Mick Betancourt Live at Blackout Diaries dropped a few months back and I just recently sold a one-hour drama to FOX based on the Boom Comic, The Rinse.
This is the third network sale I’ve had since 2006 and for which I am extremely grateful. Why am I writing this? Two reasons.
One: I want to publicly thank all the people who have been kind and supportive with their time and knowledge.
Second: I want to share with anybody who is interested, the actual work I’m putting in to make these things happen.
When I moved to LA I didn’t know anybody and more importantly knew nothing of how the actual business of making television or movies worked.
I will start with how The Rinse came together and write about the comedy album and upcoming book in future posts.
For the past five years, I couldn’t develop. What does that mean? It means I was locked into exclusive contracts with shows which didn’t allow me to go out and pitch original ideas. This was bittersweet because any time I get a job writing I always feel like I hit the lottery, always so grateful and excited to be a part of a new or existing show, becoming a part of their team and seeing what I can contribute.
But there is always a voice in my head saying: “Come up with some ideas on your own and pitch them (or) “what if you could develop some already existing piece of content into a TV show?”
I couldn’t shake the voice so I decided I would roll the dice and invest in myself.
Instead of staffing up on a show full time and locking myself into one of those exclusive contracts, Chicago Fire and PD was kind enough to offer me a Consulting Producer position so I could go out and pitch my own shows.
Here’s how it went down.
I came up with 5 original pitches. They ranged from gritty cop shows to a fantasy space version of Game of Thrones. I went out and pitched those ideas and nobody wanted them. That’s when the voice in my head said “You are the dumbest, worst writer ever. Why didn’t you take the steady gig like I told you.” And I said “What! You were the one who told me to roll the dice and invest in myself.”
“I never said that” replied the voice.
Once again, I was reminded when to listen and when to not.
Even though there were people who did not like my ideas, they liked my previous writing and my ability to produce. They set up meetings with people that they were in the IP (Intellectual Property) business with. They had optioned stories, comic books and video games. I was to meet these people, hear the stories they had and see if I had a “take” on them, if I could find a way to tell these stories week in and week out as a television show. When I met Ross Ritchie and Stephen Christy at Boom and they showed me The Rinse, I knew it was something special.
We talked about it for an hour then I went home and read it. I called them the second I was done and told them if they wanted to work together I was down!
We had to bring our take on the material into the studio to see if we were all on the same page. They liked my take on it and we decided we were going to “take it out.” Showbiz talk for go pitch it to buyers i.e. The Networks.
A pitch is a sales document. It is not your philosophy on the television business, the world at large or how you think writing should be. It is a sales document to sell the show you created. If it’s anything else, you will get anything else but a sale.
A pitch should be around 15 minutes. Any longer and people’s eyes start glazing over. 15 minutes is about 8-9 pages of written material.
I practice pitched to Boom. Got notes. Then we went into the studio. Practice pitched there. Got notes. Then got ready to go into the network.
You must believe!
I was not concerned with selling it. I wanted to for sure, but that is not where all my energy went. As a matter of fact, that is a black hole of energy and the real thief of any confidence.
I took the notes from really smart people. I did all the work that I could do. The last thing is to be of service to the project. Make it sing. Make it pop. Have fun. I tell stories for a living. It should be fun. If it’s not, I AM THE ONE WHO IS DOING SOMETHING WRONG and must figure out what actions to take to fix it.
So I practiced the pitch on my own. Recorded it. Listened to it on walks to prepare going into the network and pitching it live.
The day of the pitch.
We went to the network lot. It was the Boom folks and the folks from the studio. We went into a conference room and in walked the folks from the network.
The voice in your head will tell you that they have heard hundreds of pitches this year. All the hard work you did was for nothing. You will fail. They don’t want to hear this. It is, after all, nothing but a cruel joke to bring you this far so that you will land flat on your face….
Smile and let’s do this!
I jumped in and started talking. 15 minutes went by. I felt good about how it went. The folks at the network seemed to like it. It would be great to work with them. They are both super smart, have a great sense of story and really want to get adventurous in the way they tell stories. All things I want to do as well. We shake hands and say we’ll talk soon. It was 5pm.
Nothing that night.
The next morning I headed in to my office on the Universal lot for Chicago PD. The phone rang at 10am. It was the people from Boom and the studio.
They bought it. They want to do the show.
I always tear up when I hear those words. Haven’t heard them a ton but every time I do it is magical. It is a gift.
Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be a writer. It happened. It took me over a decade of hustling, learning and grinding to turn a real corner but it was worth it.
That is what the podcast is about. Going after it. That is what the book is going to be about. Going after it.
There is something inside you, in your heart, that is demanding your attention. Listen to it, move toward it, let it grow louder and see what it has to say.
It may take awhile to realize. It may take a lot of work. It may break your heart REPEATEDLY.
But it is worth it.
Stay on your grind!