FLIP: Your company Figment Factory is working on a new TV project - what is it about?
Paul: Three little chicks discover the world. Each episode they head on an adventure in a different country and learn about food, places and some language. It is for pre-school aged children, so very basic, and aims to get them excited about different countries and cultural differences.
FLIP: Was it your idea or are you working with someone else?
The concept was hatched between three of us. Evgenia Golubeva, writer/illustrator/ director and my creative partner; Marina Roel, who runs a digital interactive company in Lyon; and myself. There will be others involved as it gets developed.
FLIP: How big an undertaking is it?
Paul: Getting a show on tv is a long slow process. On average it takes about 5 years. So far we have been doing a lot of legwork to trying and put our concept before people, and in the process learning a lot about the Children’s Media industry.
Our vision is for a transmedia project - TV, books, apps and educational material. We first of all tried some major publishers who are interested but want us to build the brand first. It seems that the route to TV is the easiest because there is funding available - so the best strategy is to start there. We have now found an Irish producer who can find funds for TV development so we are in the process of signing something with them.
FLIP: What are the key steps involved in getting a TV project off the ground?
Paul: They key to getting any kids tv show off the ground is funding. That’s what it all swings on. If you have a good concept you will need to find not only people who love it, but people who can help you fund it. Some countries have tax breaks which make funding significantly easier, ie Canada and Ireland. It is worth considering this when you are finding a production company to pitch to.
Here are the steps we have taken so far to get our project off the ground.
First we put together a simple pitching document that outlined the concept, characters and basic story etc. We showed this to various people with various levels of interest - most of it good. Initially we targeted large publishing houses, but eventually had success with an Irish television production company.
The production company will acquire funds for development. With these funds we will work with them to produce a pilot and write some scripts that can be presented to Cartoon Forum in the middle of the year. The production company will also seek letters of interest from a couple of providers, and with our material for the show hopefully procure some buyers at Cartoon Forum. Cartoon Forum is a big annual market for kids tv and is where most deals are procured.
The deals will provide the funding to go into production. This funding will come from several sources - broadcasters, toy manufacturers and just people with money. Once we are in production we will start thinking about preparing the project for other media - books, apps etc, using all of the assets created for the tv show.
Well thats the plan anyway.
FLIP: What advice would you offer anyone trying to pitch and make their own animated TV series?
Paul: One valuable bit of advice we have learned is even the creatives are ruled by the financiers. Whoever you talk to will have someone with a checkbook who they answer to. For this reason, your idea, no matter how cute or brilliant, must be commercial otherwise it has no future.
And here is the big thing - you have to be able to sum up your project in ONE SENTENCE. Even if you have the luxury of a half hour pitch to the acquisitions team, they will have to convince the finance team and the finance team are busy. Win them with a single sentence and you are there.