Chad Gervich Interview, Part 2Complications Ensue
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Monday, December 29, 2008

Crafty: Are production companies interested in new media? Should writers worry about multiplatform spin-offs? Or should they pitch their mobisode/webisode series to people who do just those? (Does anyone just do those?)

Gervich: Yes, production companies are interested in new media… but only SOME production companies. And, unfortunately, not enough.

Personally, I think most TV production companies are CRAZY for not dipping their toes further into the Internet pond. Sure, it's tough to make money with Internet fare… RIGHT NOW. But soon--very soon--the Internet and TV will converge, and production companies that aren't experimenting with web shows will find themselves uncomfortably far behind the eight ball.

Producing Internet shows is valuable for three main reasons…

One: it's a chance to try fun, inventive entertainment that can't be done on TV. The Internet is a different creative sandbox than television, with different strengths and weaknesses, and--just like movies or novels--it has the ability to tell very different kinds of stories.

Two: Internet shows can make great calling cards for TV. Rarely does an online show jump wholly from cyberspace to television, like "In the Motherhood" or "Sanctuary." But creative, well-produced web shows can certainly attract execs and producers. Luke Barats and Joe Bereta, for example, scored a development deal at NBC after producing a popular series of comedic YouTube sketches.

Three: it IS possible to do things on the Internet that can make a huge splash… like "Dr. Horrible's Singalong Blog" or "Lonelygirl15." While creating a hit is never easy in any medium, whether it's TV or Broadway or the Internet, hit Internet shows have gone on to become pop cultural phenomena that develop a life of their own. And while "Dr. Horrible" was independently produced by Joss Whedon, part of what allowed it to succeed was the fact that it was developed and produced by people with great creative chops and top-notch production resources. So it saddens me that many producers and production companies are so short-sighted, refusing to see past the Internet's current financial restraints to recognize it as the amazing creative canvas it's poised to become.

Having said all this, two quick answers to your question:

One: Yes, there are production companies--like Disney's Stage 9 and Michael Eisner's Vuguru--producing Internet-specific content, and a wannabe Internet producer's best hope of selling something is to target those companies. I'd suggest watching your favorite Internet shows, or shows similar to your idea, then tracking down the production companies behind them.

Two: if you're pitching a TV show, I wouldn't bother elaborating on how it could foster an Internet spinoff. Not only do Internet spinoffs generate little money, but TV buyers want to know the TV show they're about to invest in can work--first and foremost--as a TV show. The TV idea itself is the "cake;" if it works, there are plenty of people (and time) to figure out how to develop the "icing" (spinoffs, merchandising opportunities, etc.) later. Your job is to sell a television show… so go sell a television show.

Crafty: Do producers and development execs care about Internet script competitions? Or are they a waste of money?

Gervich: I think winning ANYTHING is a feather in your cap. I mean, at the very least, it feels great to win something, and it's validation that you're a good writer!

Having said that… I don't think many producers, agents, or execs are trolling the Internet for the next Marc Cherry, Simon Beaufoy, or Damon Lindelof.

So if you're entering an online contest in hopes of breaking into Hollywood… I'd adjust your expectations. If you're entering the contest because it's fun to win… or you're looking for feedback… or you want some validation… or you just figure, "hey--it can't hurt to have people read my script"… then by all means--BREAK A LEG!

[Ed. note: To me, this is a very nice way of saying "save your money."]

Crafty: Is it a plus if a script is by an international writer (English, Canadian, Australian)? Is it a minus?

Gervich: I don't think it matters. Producers and execs are looking for talented storytellers with unique voices… no matter where those writers and voices come from. In fact, most showrunners want to hire writers who can bring interesting stories and life experiences into the writers room… so a talented writer who hails from a foreign country may have an advantage over someone who's lived in L.A. all their life.

Also--many networks and studios are now implementing "diversity programs" to help find and hire diverse writers for their TV shows. Here's a quick list of some of TV's diversity programs…

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Also worth mentioning is the Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting program, done by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. It is suspected that through it is how Damon Lindelof got his break. I know that I will be entering this spring.

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