Sunday, September 12, 2021

A Week in Writing #369 - Report From the Front - Lightbox Expo 2021

Hope everyone is staying safe, getting vaccinated, and, of course, writing.

Before I get too far, I do want to remind you, dear reader, that I do have a book coming out. Powers Squared Issue 12, What's in a Name? Part 3, drops on Wednesday, September 15th. If you want to buy a copy, and, of course, I hope you do, check out our website for links on Wednesday, September 15th.

Now that the commercial is out of the way, on with the rest of the blog.

From time to time, when I attend a convention or in this case, Expo, I like to let you know what I learned. This Friday, I attended the 2021 Lightbox Expo, a virtual event this year. While my sons have been attending Lightbox since its inception in 2019, this year I attended. My goal was to learn more about pitching, which is something I've talked about from time to time in this blog.

There were three different sessions on Friday dealing with pitching: HOW TO PITCH NELVANA with Athena Georgaklis – Head of Development and Marc Hartlen – Development Coordinator; DEVELOPING WITH DISNEY TVA with creative directors Emily Carson (Manager of Development – Disney Channel and Disney +; and Kitty Walsh (Director of Development) – Disney Kids; and METHODS FOR PITCHING WITH BENTO BOX ENTERTAINMENT with Ben Jones – Creative Director, Brooke Keesling – Head Animation Talent, and Chloe Shipco -Development Coordinator.

It was interesting how similar the Nelvana and the Disney Television Animation presentations were in that they seemed to cover many of the same points. Bento Box was a little less organized, scattered and their advice on pitch packets differed greatly from the other two's.

Some of the advice repeats but this is what I came away from the presentations:

While all would prefer for you to have representation before approaching them, only Bento Box won't talk to you without having representation.

The initial pitch packet does not have to be your Production Bible, but rather something short, 3 to 5 pages per Disney and while Nelvana didn't specify a length, they did say short. Only Bento Box, which showed one that Jones had himself done, seemed to be 10 to 15 pages long.

While Bento didn't discuss the length of the meeting, the other two made it clear that you would have 10 to 15 minutes to pitch your idea. Apparently, the usual pitch meeting is about half an hour. The first five minutes are introductory, followed by the pitch, then five minutes for questions, and then five minutes of goodbyes.

Both made it clear that you should rehearse your pitch before you give it. Nelvana acknowledged that you still might be nervous, but they want you to succeed.

Nelvana's advice:

1)  Decide who to bring to the pitch. People in the pitch are there for a reason.

2) Don’t pitch too many ideas at once. No more than two.

3) Pitch should be 10-15 minutes, you may get 30 minutes total.

4) Send creative materials as soon as possible but realize they might not get to it right away. Okay to nudge in a couple of weeks to a month.

5) Take feedback if they give it. But don’t be surprised if there is no feedback. They are very busy.

Disney's advice was more along the lines of their own story pillars. (My apologies if you're wanting to pitch a pre-school show to them, since I wasn't, I didn't really take notes when Kitty Walsh went over what Disney Kids was looking for.)

1) Know your audience: Children are less shielded than in years past. They want to have access to opportunity and empowerment.

2) Certain stories always resonate: Stories about Families, Fish out of water, With great powers come great responsibilities, etc.

3) Disney +'s audience: Kids + Parents, parents without children, looking for appointment viewing.

4) Comedy with Heart: If it’s not funny it’s not going to work; sophisticated comedy, not mean-spirited.

5) Kids like to see themselves in the stories. Diversity was played up but not just race and gender; can be other aspects including neurodiversity, relatable and inspiring characters and worlds.

6) Fantastical Wish Fulfillment: Not just Disney magic, they want stories that matter.

Disney seemed to emphasize know what your story is really about.

What Disney is looking for:

What is your creative vision: What is your show really about: themes, etc.

Visual Development

Characters and Relationships

Original Stories – Not Disney stories

The Pitch Bible should be 3-5 pages in length and include:


Episode premises: a variety of shows that show emotional range

Character Descriptions: Main Characters and relationships


Since the pitch will be a ZOOM call, they recommend a tech rehearsal and to have a backup plan.

Introduce Yourself

Have a visual aid

Do your homework: Will your show fit? Does it already exist on another channel?

Lead with your personal story: Why are you the one telling the story?


Don't come in with consumer product plans - that will come later.

Leave Behinds – Go Digital

Be Patient – Okay to F/U but they have 70 shows in development at any one time. Keep at it. They are only interested in about 1 out of 100 pitches.

How does one go about pitching? Do Not Send Unsolicited pitches.

Reach out through Representation or set up a general meeting. This is advice all three presentations agreed on, again Bento Box was the only one who won't talk to you without representation.

Disney expects you to drive your pitch through the process of Greenlighting a pilot, which can take 2 to 5 years. And there is no guarantee even if you get to pilot it will become a show. Yes, it sounds like an impossible hill to climb.

They also recommended if the answer is "no" to take it graciously and not "fight" it. There will be other pitches. It's about making connections if nothing else.

Bento Box seemed to have a long view in mind, as in you're just out of school and trying to build a career that will someday lead to your having the opportunity to make a pitch. Not great advice if you're many years out of school and are not willing to wait for 7 to 8 years to make a pitch you have now.

I also attended a presentation that was titled HOW TO GROW AN ONLINE FOLLOWING, hosted by artist Phil Saunders. The actual presentation was really more about how to use your online presence to drive people back to your website and to subscribe to your newsletter. He used a lot of Venn Diagrams to illustrate the desired Flow of Content, which is something I can not recreate here.

He said that creatives have three goals: the need to create, the need for validation, and the need to make money and in his Venn diagrams there are places where the circles overlap.

Saunders is someone with a large social following but even he knows that doesn't mean much when it comes to selling his work. As an example, you might have a 500,000 following. Out of that group, maybe 30,000 would see a particular post but only a few hundred might click on the profile and even fewer will go to the website. A rule of thumb he used was that if 10 people like something, only one will buy it.

He also made the point the goal is to get subscribers to your newsletter. These are people that are more invested in your work. Social media platforms will come and go but people's email addresses rarely change and the fact they've given you an in means they're more interested in your work than someone on say Instagram.

Paul, Trevor, and I did an On the Air with Powers Squared about our experience at the online con, which includes their experience with other presentations, so it might be worth a listen. You can catch it here.

Part of the weekend was spent getting ready for our signing at Golden Apple Comics on the 18th. We have all the issues we need, we think but it's also the peripherals like signage and handouts and on and on. Got a bit of good news: our colorist, Julia Canon, will be going with us. I want her to feel a part of the group even though we're not selling any issues she's worked on just yet.

There are also pages to look at during the week from our artist, Rachel Wells with a few changes along the way. Issue 19, Kamaitachi, is really going to look different than our other issues.

I started a new review this weekend for The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926), a silent animated film from Germany, but I didn't get that far as of this writing. While we're talking Trophy Unlocked, this week's Saturday morning review continued our month-long salute to the caped crusader with Paul's review of Batman: Gotham Knight. Game Day Wednesday featured Paul's review of No More Heroes III.

No new queries this week. I have my desired amount out, five, and besides, I had to watch my team, the Dallas Cowboys, lose their opener so time was tighter than normal; you've got to have your priorities.

Did a little work on Skylar, and by a little, I mean a little. Some things get the short shrift and my novel seems to be what gets it. But I did work on it and that's the important thing. It may only be a few minutes a day but I do try to get to it whenever I can.

Well, that about does it for me. Keep writing and I'll see you again next week. But hope to see you Saturday.

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