Art versus Commerce –the age old question in television–was the topic of a spirited conversation during the opening session of the Producers Guild of America’s annual Produced By Conference today on the Sony lot.
The all-female panel of young producers agreed that story is everything and that passion is the key to success – but that passion without commerce isn’t television, it’s poetry…or blogging. They all agreed without an agent, you’re screwed.
Courtney Kemp, executive producer of Starz’s Power, said that from pitching to production, “It’s a delivery system – you are bringing a product to market – like shoes at Bloomingdale’s. You have to move the product.”
Showtime, she noted, passed on Power – she wouldn’t say why – so she took it to FX. “When we took it to FX, I pitched the wrong project. I pitched it as a show about a drug dealer who’s trying to get out of the drug business. They already had a drug show…Sons of Anarachy. I only had one pitch. You have to tailor your pitch.”
Misha Green, executive producer of WGN’s underground railroad drama Underground, said that her project was not easy to sell. “We pitched it all around and everybody said no. But we kept pitching it and WGN said ‘We’ll take a chance with you.’
“You have to push the bar that’s not been seen a million times before,” she said.
Sarah Treem, executive producer of Showtime’s The Affair, wrote the project as a spec script when she was still a producer at Netflix’s House of Cards – and seven months pregnant. “We pitched to HBO and Showtime on the same day,” she said. “At HBO people were arguing and screaming. It was very passionate. Then we went to Showtime and they bought it in the room.”
Moderator David Friendly noted that this was Produced By’s first all-female panel.
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