If the whole point of a festival is to find distribution or representation, how can you best capitalize on the opportunity that getting into a festival like ITVFest provides? More than that how do you make a show marketable for a brand or distributor? Ultimately, how do you get that pitch meeting, sell your show and start your career? Come to the LA Improv workshop benefitting Project Angel Food for ITVFest. AJ Tesler, Executive Director of ITVFest and Jenny Starnes, Festival Director of ITVFest will help answer your questions and steer you down the right path.
Interview With a Pilotmaker In the coming newsletters we’ll be spotlighting pilotmakers from past festivals and honoring their hard work, motivation and determination. In this issue we talked with the very talented animator Stephen Leonard who was responsible for making the magical animation “A Guy and His Beaver.” Last year was Stephen’s second year in the festival having been selected previously for “My Life at 26,” so he is kind of a big deal.
ITVFest: What did you gain from submitting to the ITVFest (i.e. exposure, super amazing contacts, prizes, adoration)?
Stephen Leonard: Each of the two years I had a show screen at the ITVFest I gained a new group of fans and supporters that otherwise probably wouldn’t have found my shows. ITVFest got my work in front of a larger audience that I probably could have myself, and I got to meet other people like me (pilotmakers) in the process, which is awesome. I have only been making cartoons since early 2006, and my cartoon series are really my first attempt at television or web format.
ITVFest: What advice would you give to someone submitting to the festival or to someone who’s been accepted into the festival?
SL: For someone who has been accepted, expect to have fun, and have business cards on hand. You’ll meet a lot of valuable people, whether they’re execs or other show creators and you definitely need a way for them to find you afterwards. A website and Facebook are fine, but business cards are professional common sense.
ITVFest: What have you been working on in the past 6 months since the festival and how has your experience in making TV helped you in what you’re doing today?
SL: I’ve been making more cartoons, and I’ve even stretched myself a little further with a part cartoon, part-live action project (kind of like Roger Rabbit, but not really). I learn by doing, so the more stuff I make, the more I learn. Making TV in the past has helped me make (hopefully) better TV today. I’m currently working on a show called “Time Traveling Finger.” It’s kind of self-explanatory, but not really.
ITVFest: Who are some TV or filmmakers that you admire?
SL: I admire Bill Lawrence, Matt Groening, Mark Evanier, Conan O’Brien, Seth MacFarlane
ITVFest: What inspired you to make “A Guy and his Beaver”?
SL: Long answer: I needed to make something new and set myself apart from my previous series, “My Life at 26.” I love combining reality with fantasy and finding humor in every day failure, so a semi-autobiographical story with a twist seemed like the way to go. One morning I woke up with a clear image of the Beaver in my head, so I drew him, then developed the series from there. Short answer: “Garfield and Friends.”
ITVFest: Is there a common problem you see in TV programs that make you want to take people by the shoulders and SHAKE them for?
SL: I want to shake them for making the same thing over and over. I know networks tend to play it safe and don’t want to throw a bunch of money into a show that is a little different, and I don’t blame them for that, but do I really need three versions of “Family Guy” on Sunday night? or Three “CSI“‘s, or “Law and Order“‘s? I know my projects aren’t anything groundbreaking and I understand that people are comfortable with their cookie-cutter formats, but sometimes I like a giant, misshapen cookie!
Congratulations Stephen Leonard!
Interview With a Pilotmaker
In the coming newsletters we’ll be spotlighting pilotmakers from past festivals and honoring their hard work, motivation and determination. In this issue we talked with the very talented animator Stephen Leonard who was responsible for making the magical animation “A Guy and His Beaver.” Last year was Stephen’s second year in the festival having been selected previously for “My Life at 26,” so he is kind of a big deal.
Come celebrate the launch of the 5th Annual ITVFest by participating in this year’s fundraising party and silent auction.
Celebrate with the the present and future glitterati of television and new media on April 21st at The Den of Hollywood.
First 50 people to register will get ITVFest gift bags.
Sponsored Stella Artois from 8pm-10pm
Silent auction and Schmoozing 8pm-11pm
RSVP at http://itvfestfundraiser.eventbrite.com/
We’ll have items to bid on in our silent auctions such as
Jet Blue Tickets
Dinners at restaurants like Taste, The Larchmont Bungalow and The Griddle
Improv Classes from Improv Olympic
Post Production Classes from Video Symphony
Art prints donated by clients of Genius Effect
Ipods donated by Showbiz Software
Jewelry from Mr. Kate
Software such as Final Draft and Sony Vegas
$10 donation for entrance
Parking is available in the lot for $5
8226 West Sunset Boulevard
West Hollywood CA
Interview With a Pilotmaker
In the coming newsletters we’ll be spotlighting pilotmakers from past festivals and honoring their hard work, motivation and determination. In this issue we talked with the very talented Benjamin Pollack who won the Best Director award at the last year’s ITVFest for his morose comedy, “Dark Room Theater.” After his success at the festival, he won Best Comedy Feature at the FirstGlance Film Festival and was nominated for Best Narrative Feature and Best Horror Feature at the Rome International Film Festival and ShockerFest, respectively. More importantly, Ben is a helluva nice guy who totally deserves his success. So we decided to track him down to see what he’s been up to all year! To stalk Benjamin Pollack on the internet, feel free to visitdarkroomtheater.com, benventionfilms.com, or benjitube.com.
ITVFEST: What experience in creating a TV show or web series did you have before submitting to the festival?
Benjamin Pollack: I was an editor before I became a director, so I had some experience editing television shows. I was nominated for two ACE Eddie awards while studying editing at AFI for two episodes of “The Monk.” Other than that, this was my first attempt at creating a TV show from the ground up.
ITVFEST: What inspired you to make “Dark Room Theater”?
BP: When I was in college I wrote, directed, and acted in 10 episodes of “Dark Room Theater.” Only then, it was a radio theatre program. In 2007, I was raising money for a film project that fell apart at the last minute. Rather than admit defeat I decided to rewrite two of my old radio theatre programs for the big screen, or small screen, or whatever screen would show it.
ITVFEST: What did you gain from submitting to the ITVFest (i.e. exposure, super amazing contacts, prizes, adoration)?
BP: ITVFest was my first festival for “Dark Room Theater” and for me, as a director. Since then, I have been in eleven other festivals and have won or been nominated six times. ITVFest set a standard for me in terms of festivals and gave me the confidence to continue to submit to other festivals and seek distribution.
ITVFEST: What have you been working on in the past 6 months since the festival and how has your experience in making TV helped you in what you’re doing today?
BP: I have been promoting my film, “Dark Room Theater.” As of today I have made a deal with iTunes for digital download rights and I am in negotiations with several television outlets. I also wrote a thriller screenplay called “Dead After Tomorrow” that won Best Horror Screenplay at the 2009 Shriekfest and I wrote a comedy screenplay that just got into the prestigious 2010 Beverly Hills Film Festival.
I am writing a book on the experience called From Zero To Distribution which chronicles the making of “Dark Room Theater” from inception to distribution. If you follow me on Facebook (Mr.Benjamin.Pollack) you’ll get the latest info on the book’s release. I go over everything you need to do this yourself, including DIY distribution. I also include things like my artwork for the one sheet, DVD covers front and back, festival flyers and so on. I also include my press releases that helped me secure distribution, my Facebook ads and a full copy of the fist draft of “Dark Room Theater” for comparison to the final product. I believe that is the biggest lesson I can pass along.
I knew that I wanted to handle distribution myself so I decided to learn as much about the changing world of distribution as I could. I took a few seminars at USC on DIY distribution and did as much reading on the subject as I could. I learned how to approach iTunes, but more importantly, I learned how to promote my project to the point of making money. Had I not promoted the project I would not have been able to make the iTunes deal.
ITVFEST: What advice would you give to someone submitting to the festival or to someone who’s been accepted into the festival?
BP: My advice is, when submitting to a festival, make sure your submission is as professional as possible. Take the time to make a good package with some artwork that represents the quality level of your submission. You should also be finished when you submit. You can tell the festival director that your sound isn’t finished yet, but you can’t tell his or her soul that the sound will make the experience better. If your project isn’t finished, don’t submit it or you will not stand out from the hundreds of other submissions. There is something to be said for putting your best foot forward and you only get one chance to blow people away.
When you are accepted, enjoy it. Make your presence known at the festival, meet folks and mingle as much as you can and take advantage of the seminars and other people’s work.
Congratulations Benjamin Pollack!
The ITVFest will be accepting TV Pilot and Web series submissions in the following categories:
Drama, Comedy, Animation, Documentary, Alternative (Reality, Game Show, Talk Show, etc.)
Not to mention we are also having a Mobiseries Competition
Submissions will be accepted starting Dec. 3, 2009
Early Submission Deadline: April 23, 2010
Late Submission Deadline: May 14, 2010
Withoutabox Final Deadline: May 17, 2010
For more information about submissions, including fees and rules, please check out our website, www.itvfest.org