One Producer, Two Producer, Three Producer, MoreComplications Ensue
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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Q. Two producers are interested in a show that I'm developing. Producer 1 is the obvious choice as he has the right network contacts and I have worked for him before. This is the first time I've talked with producer 2 and he seems like a good guy, but this show probably isn't for him.

Producer 1 is ready to take this to the network. So how do I take the show away from producer 2 without burning my bridges and leaving the door open for future projects? It's also a VERY small industry where I live and getting off side with one producer could be a bad thing.
The key question here is: where are you at with producer 2? Have you already told him he can have the project yet? Are you still discussing under what terms he could have the project? Or is producer 2 just your first bite and you haven't said he can have it yet?
I don't have a deal with him; we've just been talking about an idea. Generally in my country you approach one producer at a time and often I develop projects with a specific producer in mind (I think this is different to the situation in the US and Canada?). However, in this case I pitched the idea at a Round Robin pitching event. Two people were interested and now I have to take it away from Producer 2.

Technically I have no obligation to Producer 2. But I want to work with him in the future and this idea served as a great introduction. I expected to receive a 'thanks but no thanks' email with a 'feel free to send me other ideas you might have'. But he really likes the idea and might even consider producing it himself.

Basically I have to say no to him without killing my chances of talking to him in the future about other shows. He's probably one of the top producers in the country, his shows are some of the best on TV here and he has managed to secure large amounts of cash from government funding authorities. But at the end of the day producer 1 is the best choice for this show.
If you pitched at a Round Robin dealie, then it is clear to everyone that you've pitched it multiple places. If producer 2 hasn't jumped on it yet and signed you up, then morally you are free and clear. I would talk to the guy and explain yourself exactly as you have here. You like him and you want to work with him on this, but you have another producer interested who you feel would be better for this particular project. If producer 2 is a grownup, he'll be okay with that, and he'll learn the lesson to jump on your projects faster. 

I had interest on my pay cable series from some producers, before I had a network, but they didn't option it. When I went to the CBC, the CBC preferred a different producer to whom I'd also shown it. The network exec had more of a relationship with the second producer, and I felt it was a matter of getting a "no" with the first producer but a qualified "yes" with the second. So we (meaning my agent) withdrew the project from the first producers.

Then we sold them a feature.

And we had to withdraw another project from the second producer, because I felt that it wasn't really up his alley.

No problem. Grownups, see?

Not all producers are grownups. Some will get their panties in a knot because you have other options. Too bad. It shows your material is desirable. If a producer seriously holds a grudge against you because you withdrew a project that they hadn't optioned, then they'll probably be a pain in the ass to work with if, God forbid, you actually get a project going with them.

Just be straight with everybody. And tell the big name producer before you give it to the other guys. He may be able to convince you that he's the best producer for this project after all. Or he might even offer you money!

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