Photo: Masterclass students on the set of “How I Met your Mother”, with the series’ star, Neil Patrick Harris
The good news is I’ve cracked the secret of how to make it in America.
Like so many others in the television industry, I look at the American television market with an odd mix of admiration and bewilderment. It is the holy grail of television, and yet they have such a weird way of doing things – sweeps week, pilot season, agent’s packages and the whole affiliates structure – just leave me confused every time I need to approach that marketplace.
Fortunately I was able to take part in a wonderful program called “Tel Aviv-Los Angeles Film and Television MasterClass” which was created by the “Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles”. 26 of us — 14 from Israel and 12 from Los Angeles – gathered for a week of intensive meeting with a schedule running daily from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. It included visits to CBS, Warner Bros, Sony, TNT William Morris Endeavor and the private production offices of producers like Jerry Bruckheimer and J.J. Abrams among other things.
Here comes the bad news: there was a lot of information being exchanged, but no secrets were revealed. It doesn’t matter if you’re J.J. Abrams, Jerry Bruckheimer or a writer with a sitcom out of Israel; we all face the same challenges. Developing new ideas, getting a distribution channel and fighting to get our idea properly cast.
We all complain about the broadcasters (apart from the broadcasters who complain about us). And we all face the same challenges brought about by technology – time shifting and marketing in social media topping the list. I thought the US market may have come up with some solutions to these problems, but they are struggling just like everybody else.
The delegation included internationally recognized talents, like format developer (and MIPBlog regular) Omri Marcus from RedArrow and Giyora Yahalom, with whom I work as a development consultant for Strix.
My own project, a sitcom based on my web site “The Hidden Truths of Parenting” was warmly received and generated some genuine interest including an insightful comment from Chuck Lore, who appreciated the characters and said “Stories should be about these characters trying to make it through the day. If you start with a joke, it never can rise above glib.”
But at the end of the day the American market is based on trust; trust that you can deliver the product week after week, just like everywhere else. So, here comes the secret – you have to build the trust, build the relationships with the production companies and broadcasters and gain their confidence in your abilities – which is pretty much what you have to do everywhere else in the world.
Ohad Ouziel is a developer and writer can be reached for meeting or drinks (or both) here