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The Fast Five: The Digital Pitch Era Has Arrived

March 23, 2020
4 min read time

It’s an interesting time as everybody in the industry begins working from home and meetings shift to the virtual world. Television festivals scramble to adapt as well and have started launching digital marketplaces to still give exhibitors a chance to connect. And thus, the industry chugs along with innovative moves, with a big studio opening in New Mexico, the Scream franchise hiring new directors, and Warner Bros. plans for a Harry Potter re-release.


The French exhibition Series Mania, where television’s industry professionals meet to discuss their projects, has moved its forum to the digital world. In a move that will probably be the norm for canceled festivals going forward for the time being (MIP TV has since followed Series Mania’s lead), some of this year’s main attractions will all be available through a digital pass. Like two of Series Mania’s biggest features, the Co-Pro Pitching Session and UGC Writers Campus Pitching Session; two opportunities for professionals and aspiring writers to pitch their projects to industry leaders. Videos of the sixteen Co-Pro pitches are now available for buyers to watch through the digital pass. It will be interesting to see how many deals come out of this new pitching format. If any of the potential co-productions find foreign partners this way, you can expect more pitches to move to this digital format. And while pitching in the room is always better for engagement, writers should expect 2020 to be the year of the video pitch and plan accordingly. Your first step? Invest in a better webcam. It’s hard to get executives excited about a project when your face looks like a video from the days of dial-up internet. Thankfully, you can record yourself in advance and see exactly what you look like to the people on the other side. Your environment, sound quality, and framing can all have an effect on how engaged the person you’re pitching to remains, so it’s not a bad idea to practice and make yourself as appealing as possible for the reality of industry meetings in 2020.


By the mid-90s, the only projects horror fans had to keep them entertained were relentless sequels to some of the biggest franchises from the 80s, like A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Hellraiser and Halloween. Then, Scream came along and breathed new life into the genre. A hybrid slasher film and meta-commentary on horror films as a whole, it featured witty dialogue, a fresh-faced cast, and genuine scares. Scream was a huge hit and grossed over $100 million in North America, transforming the entire industry to result in about a dozen low-budget horror movies starring popular young actors to release every year. The Scream franchise continued its “inside baseball” approach to its narrative structure with Scream 2 discussing sequels, Scream 3 focusing on trilogies, Scream 4 commenting on rebooted franchises, and the Scream TV series remake talking about movies being remade as TV series. Now we’ll get the chance to see what Ready or Not directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett have to say about horror movies in the current age with their new franchise entry. There’s no word on whether or not it will be a direct sequel or a reboot, but you can imagine there will be one character who laments how streaming killed the small-town video store -- probably right before being killed himself.


In an incredible burst of inspiration, New Mexico’s Tesuque Pueblo tribe found a way to repurpose the facility that housed its old casino. With a $50 million investment after Tom Hanks’ News of the World filmed in the facility, the building was transformed into Camel Rock Studios and opened its doors to Hollywood, becoming the first Native American-owned film studio in the process. It also has the added benefit of being located in the north of New Mexico, where there are very few studio spaces for productions to compete over. The owners are hoping that when filming ramps up again, they can put internships and apprenticeships in place for Native Americans to give them experience in the industry and create another career path for young tribe members. It’s a unique way to create representation in an industry where Native Americans are underrepresented.


One of the most popular franchises of all time – in film or books – may be heading back into theaters with an updated remaster. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone could be one of the first movies the Chinese population gets a chance to see when the cinemas reopen next month. Studios have been trying to find new ways to get audiences out of their home cinemas and back into theaters, and Warner Bros. may have just the ticket. While the wizarding world of Harry Potter is living on in the Fantastic Beasts series, there are no plans to remake the core movies. Warner Bros. is banking that a hi-res 3D presentation of the series will be enough of a lure to excite fans. If the first movie does well overseas, you can expect a release state-side, followed closely by the sequels. 


In an unsurprising answer to a question nobody was asking, a recent study discovered that 50% of all American families with children have subscribed to Disney+. This could explain the service’s recent pivot to kid friendly-only material, knowing that it’s now the go-to service for parents to plop their children in front of so they can get a couple hours of peace and quiet. Now that Frozen II has been added to the service, with Onwards coming soon (and the country’s children are all at home going stir-crazy), you can expect that other 50% to take a long hard look at subscribing. Which is probably what Disney had in mind. The question for the service now is growth. If they already have half of all American families in less than six months, what do they do when they get the other half? Is that their ceiling? If I can wildly speculate, I expect Disney will split up the service in a couple of years and move older-skewing franchises like Marvel, Star Wars and The Simpsons to a different tier so that they can continue to grow subscribers and effectively double their profit from families that want both.

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