What projects are worth pitching for film and TV? What do you need to include in your pitch? Why are there more opportunities for writers now? Chrissy Metge talks about these questions and more.
In the intro, the US Justice Department sues to block the Penguin Random House acquisition of Simon & Schuster [The Guardian]; Kobo Plus launches in Australia and NZ [Kobo]; Audible launches unlimited subscription in India [The New Publishing Standard]; Check your print prices for Ingram [IBPA]; Is it time to raise ebook prices? [6 Figure Authors]
This podcast episode is sponsored by Kobo Writing Life, which helps authors self-publish and reach readers in global markets through the Kobo ecosystem. You can also subscribe to the Kobo Writing Life podcast for interviews with successful indie authors.
Chrissy Metge has 20 years animation experience working on projects including The Hobbit, Superman Man of Steel, Fast and Furious 7, and Jungle Book. She’s the co-founder of Fuzzy Duckling Media and Duckling Publishing, specializing in books and shows for children, and is also a creative brand consultant.
You can listen above or on your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and the full transcript is below.
- Changes in the film and TV industry in the last 20 years
- The kinds of content that animation studios are interested in
- How and when to pitch an idea to a studio
- Tips for good pitching technique
- Do you need to write the scripts for the stories you’re pitching?
- The importance of figuring out your target audience
- How does the financial side work?
- What the future of entertainment may hold
- Balancing business and creativity
You can find Chrissy Metge at ChrissyMetge.com and on Twitter @ChrissyNZ
Transcript of Interview with Chrissy Metge
Joanna: Chrissy Metge has 20 years animation experience working on projects incluing ‘The Hobbit,’ ‘Superman Man of Steel,’ ‘Fast and Furious 7,’ and ‘Jungle Book.’ She’s the cofounder of Fuzzy Duckling Media and Duckling Publishing, specializing in books and shows for children, and is also a creative brand consultant. Welcome, Chrissy.
Chrissy: Thank you. So excited to be here.
Joanna: Oh, there’s so much for us to talk about.
First up, tell us a bit more about you and why you have moved into books alongside your animation work.
Chrissy: I’ve been in the industry for almost 20 years now. I’m a Kiwi from New Zealand, living in London with my son and husband. And my son was born six weeks early.
I was actually working on ‘Jungle Book’ at the time at Weta in Wellington. And I was supposed to finish up the next day and have my leaving flowers and all of that. And my son decided to come with a crash and a roar and a bang, six weeks early it turned out, and they sent my leaving flowers to the hospital. But we’re both fine, by the way, just in case you’re wondering.
I always wanted to write, I always did write, and around so many creators and writers and directors and producers, and I always had a few ideas at the back of my head. When my son was born, my brain hadn’t had a chance to stop. He slept a lot as newborns do and I just was like, ‘What do I do with my time?’ So, while he was sleeping, I decided to write some books, and it went on from there.
Joanna: Wow, and I’m sure there’re some parents listening going, ‘How on earth did you manage all that?’ Your career does make me feel tired!
Let’s talk about right now. Because you’re currently working on a show for Netflix. You’ve worked for Disney and other big studios.
How has the film and TV industry changed over your nearly 20 years?
Chrissy: It has changed so much, obviously, with all the streaming giants that have come in and the other big companies buying each other. I was at ILM when Disney came and bought them out for I think it was $4 billion for the ‘Star Wars’ brand. And, they’ve changed a lot.
I think with the streaming, you’ve got access to so much more choice. You’re not going to the theater, spending $50 for 3 people to go see a film or anything like that. You can turn on your TV and your streaming channel and you’ve got so much access to that. And then because of that, so much more content is needed.
We’re all aware of what’s going on around us. And we want to be involved with all of the content around us rather than going to see a great big ‘Transformers’ blockbuster or something like that. We want to watch things that are part of everyday life. It’s been a really interesting ride, that’s for sure.
Joanna: Do you think the changes have accelerated due to the pandemic?
Chrissy: Oh, absolutely. I work in the animation film industry just to distinguish that. So we’ve never been busier because you couldn’t film with the pandemic. So all of a sudden, all of the animation studios are absolutely swamped while our sisters and brothers in arms in the live action studios are struggling a lot.
It was like a catch-22. Here I’m feeling really awful for people getting furloughed and losing their jobs and then all of my other friends and people and colleagues are getting more and more work and especially in the adult parts of this.
I work in kids animation but right now I’m doing an adult animation and because you couldn’t film adult content, there’s been a cry out more for adult animated content to fill those gaps so as I say never before has it been so much content wanted so quickly.
Joanna: What do you mean by adult animation? I guess everyone has got in their heads more cartoons, but what might come under that?
Chrissy: That’s right. So obviously anime has been a big part of our life from Japan for a good many years and now with those stories coming out through there have been very successful.
Animation can be written for adults watching it not just children, maybe there might be some swear words, or there might be some more adult type scenes, profanities used, things like that, that you wouldn’t normally see in animation and more adult content that you would watch as a drama but as animations.
It’s interesting to see that industry turning that way to give content to adults when you can’t film it.
Joanna: What do you actually do as an animator? Do you do the drawing? Do you write? What is your role?
Chrissy: I used to be an animator a long time ago. I was at one of the very first schools of 3D animation they opened up in New Zealand, one of three girls I think in the class at the time.
I realized early on that I can’t draw, so you don’t want me to draw, but I fell in love with cartoons very, very early on in comics. My father had a huge, beautiful comic book collection. So I said to myself, ‘I just want to be involved.’
I trained as a 3D animator, and my first internship was through a 2D animation Disney studio that was in New Zealand. I finished that internship knowing everything there is to do about 2D, even though I was doing 3D.
My very first job was on New Zealand’s animated sitcom ‘Bro’Town,’ which is like ‘The Simpsons’ of the South Pacific.
[From Joanna: This Beached clip from Bro Town is a classic!]
I got to tell my parents quite happily that I got to get paid to color in all day, which was so much fun. And then I just fell into front-of-house management. So I just got coffees and paid invoices and helped organize crew and things like that. And I stayed there ever since.
I’ve worked from the bottom right up to the top. Now I’m producing a show. I have over 200 crew in 3 countries around the world. And I love it. My job is basically to make sure the show gets done on time and on budget in a nutshell.
Joanna: Wow, I think that’s so cool. And in terms of, obviously, most people listening, there’ll be lots of people listening who are interested in that creative side.
But in terms of the actual writing do you think there are more jobs for writers? You mentioned that there’s so much content needed and obviously there’s scripts and things that need to be written and all the other stuff. Are there more jobs? Is that the way forward?
Chrissy: Yes, absolutely. Every piece of content that you watch, there’s a script that’s written for it. The constant need for writers has also increased, as the need for content. So every time a TV show is on or animation or film or anything like that, absolutely, people are hunting for writers.
Joanna: I think this is so interesting, and of course, animation, there’s a lot of use of computer software. I’m sure there are a lot of AI-type tools coming in.
With an increase in technology, we’re also seeing an increase in need for writers.
Chrissy: Absolutely. And I think you had someone on your show earlier on about the gaming industry. It’s the merging.
The film industry and the animation TV industry and vice versa are all kind of merging with the game industry with their technology. So a lot of that game technology is now available to us to make things much faster and bring those powerful computer times down, which can be a cause for why things take so long.
Now that the gaming technology is coming into play and everything else in the virtual reality, it’s a huge part and it’s coming across, which is so much fun to see that.
Joanna: Such exciting times. Now, most writers, myself included, we would all love a film or a TV deal with I’d say one of the big studios, but I don’t think it means that anymore. I guess it means we would love Netflix or Amazon Studios or anyone, most of us would love anyone.
You work with a lot of people, you do pitch consultancy, but let’s start from the top.
What kind of projects should we even consider trying to pitch for these different types of media?
Chrissy: I think that’s a really, really good question. The trends change quite a lot. So I would do your homework as well with what those trends are.
For instance, because of the pandemic, with children’s programming or children’s animation, they’ve really wanted a sense of community, a sense of safety, and they wanted it to be about real kids. They weren’t really into a cat show or a dog show or an alien coming down from a planet show.
They really wanted all the shows to be with that community in mind and to let kids know that you can still have fun at home, or you can still go out and be with your friends and all of that. So that’s been a huge trend that has come out recently because of the pandemic. But then they’ll want a dog show or a cat show or an alien show.
And all of this information can be on all of their websites so you can look up Disney and you can see what the trends are purely by what’s on there, what they’re showing right now. And a lot of them will have in there what they’re looking for.
You can even submit to their platforms as well. A lot of them they’re open from time to time.
The other thing I would really recommend is, each streamer or each company are very specific. For instance, Disney are very female, one main protagonist led, is what they like in their shows. Apple are very much a bit glossy; they want their shows to probably be something that could appear in a magazine.
So it’s not just always about the story, it’s got to have that match to the company that’s involved.
Netflix are very original. They like something quite different that no one else was doing before.
If your story is a common story, it would need to have some kind of twist in there that hasn’t been done or is quite different. So each company is quite different to each other.
I really recommend having universal appeal. If your show is set in Australia, for instance, it probably won’t appeal that much to the Netflix global team. You might want to just pitch into Australia, for instance, or if you did have an Australian show, it needs a more of a global thing to go with it.
Joanna: Like you said, you have to do your homework. There’s no single answer to this. And as for trends, the trend now for example, where I’ve just finished a novel and I’ve put an author’s note that said, ‘Yes, I have completely ignored the pandemic. No one is wearing a mask. There’s no discussion of COVID. I’ve just decided to ignore it.’
I feel like there was a point where people wanted pandemic content. And now I feel like almost people are sick of it. Can a trend appear and then disappear?
Chrissy: Absolutely. I think it’s because I do pitch quite a lot. At that time, they’ll tell you, no, they’re not looking for that. But you can bring that back out in six months’ time and go back around again. So it’s like a lucky dip.
Joanna: When you say you pitch a lot, tell us, what does that mean? What is the process of pitching?
Chrissy: When I started, I had no idea either. And I’ve been working in the industry for a long time. I wanted to get involved with pitching original content and my ideas and other people’s ideas. So I was doing some research.
There’s three or four or five festivals that you can go to as an average person off the street yourself and go and pitch. And so I thought, ‘Why can I do that?’ I did some research about what you should have with you, and I booked a ticket to Miami, and I went to an amazing festival there called ‘Kidscreen.’
You literally pay a ticket, and you rock on up and you do speed pitching and with, literally, the industry’s best. I pitched to Disney and Aardman and all these amazing studios because they’re looking for ideas.
It doesn’t matter if you are super famous or not or you’ve done like 1000 things, you can buy a ticket and go to any of these festivals and see what it’s like.
They’ve all been online, which has been so great, actually, because they’re much cheaper and you don’t have to travel quite far to get there. So that’s the place where I started.
From there, I have all the contacts that I can use and keep reusing and follow up with, time and time again, and I don’t have to go to the festival. So I can just pitch to them directly due to those contacts I made at those festivals. And that’s what I do now.
So as it comes around I’ll go, ‘I’ve got an idea. I’ve got a new bible. May I pitch this?‘ And they’ll say, ‘Yeah, do it.’
Joanna: Gosh, so many questions. So first of all, I want to go to the speed pitching because I have done this. And I don’t know whether it’s an introvert thing, a British thing, or just a thing that it’s really, really hard. And you have to be pretty quick, don’t you?
What are your top tips for speed pitching?
Chrissy: You do have to be very fast. I would write it down and almost have a script. You have to say what your lead statement is. So: a woman gets murdered in the dark and she’s being chased by aliens.
Then I would say what the format is. Is it 90 minutes? Is it two hours? Is it a short film?
Say what your audience is. It’s for children, it’s for, you know, etc., etc. And then that’s it pretty much.
Joanna: Right. And then they know immediately whether or not they’re interested. And hopefully you’ve also picked someone who might be interested in that.
There’s no point in me as an adult thriller writer pitching at a children’s festival, for example.
Chrissy: Exactly. And also they know what they’ve got on their slate. So you might have this amazing idea and think it’s absolutely original, but they say, ‘Oh, we’ve just signed up for that one thing. We don’t want another one.’
For instance, if they have a dog show, they don’t want another dog show. So when you do your lead statement, you give a brief synopsis of it, who it’s targeted at, they’ll know straight away whether they want to talk to you more.
Joanna: Obviously again, we’re assuming that most people listening are authors first. So we have a book or a series of books, possibly even a whole world but you mentioned the word bible.
Would we need a story bible when pitching or can we just have books or what is the process there?
Chrissy: If you’re pitching in person, they might flick through some documentation. But usually, they want to know very quickly what you’re about and what your idea is about. So it’s nice to have your book but it’s not completely necessary.
But you will need it for electronic pitching or electronic/digitally sending it to them to follow up, but you don’t need it to start with. I always tell people if you’ve got a book and obviously you can’t meet with them face to face, you will need a document to send about how it could be transferred into an animated show or a film or a piece of content.
Joanna: I did a screenwriting course at the NFTS, and there was an agent there and we all had our practice pitches.
The point he made was why don’t you have your traditional publishing agent pitch this? Because that’s what they do. They have the relationships, or, why don’t you have a film agent? I felt it was very off-putting for someone who is an independent author to get into this.
Can independent authors even consider pitching their books or do we need an agent?
Chrissy: I agree. It can be overwhelming as well. But to be honest, I think all of those roles have gone out the door, especially with the pandemic.
To be honest, before that, I think they were also going out the door. Film agents still definitely exist. But nowadays, it’s not a necessary deal to have that. It’s finding those connections yourself and getting there. And if you do it from you, it’s almost better.
They want to hear from the creators, they want to hear from the authors, they want to hear the heart and soul that is around your story more than an agent. And of course, there still are agents and there’s still a big industry for that.
But with the traditional publishers, they do have a great list that they can go and pitch to media and normally it’s the other way around. Normally it’s the distributors and the broadcasters that will go to the agents asking if they’ve got a great book or something that they think they could pitch. But they don’t have all of the materials ready, if you know what I mean.
So if you turn up and you’re there and you’ve got all your materials ready, you’ve thought about it, you’ve got a strong pitch, you’ve got your bible or documentation or you’ve thought about how it could work, your pitch is not going to be better than an agency’s pitch or anyone else’s.
Joanna: So when you do this for other people, let’s pretend it’s me. What sort of things do you ask authors when you said they’re having a strong pitch in the materials? What would you ask authors to have?
Chrissy: My first question is, what does your dream deal look like?
Because it’s about expectations and if we don’t know that at the start.
One example is one woman I’m working with, she’s amazing and she said, ‘My dream deal is to get this on Disney. I have no interest in working with Netflix.’ And that was just something that she was really passionate about, and I go, ‘Okay, got it.’
So I always ask, ‘What is your dream to get with your book or your story? Where do you want to go? Do you just want to be small and make a small indie short film or do you want to go massive?’ Because then I can quickly either burst the bubble or help them along the steppingstones to get closer to that.
If you said to me, Joanna, you wanted to create an X film out of your books that’s going to cost $100 million, that’s fine, that’s absolutely fine. But we need to cater towards that, and it will probably be a very long journey as opposed to pitching to a children’s series and you can rehash that for the next season and the next season.
Joanna: Well that’s the thing when I did pitch my book, it was the first in my Map Walker trilogy, the agent said, ‘That’s going to cost between $100 and $200 million to make.’ And I was like, ‘Okay, thanks.’
I think you’re right. That consideration of budget and what it would take to make that.
Although it’s interesting, even thinking about animation or even, I’ve now been thinking about audio drama for that project because, let’s face it, audio drama is a lot cheaper. But then I’ve got another series which is a detective in London and that as a budget, would be a whole lot smaller so I think. For example, Jessica Jones would be more like my detective series although it’s set in London.
You talk about expectations; is it a case of finding shows that we think are similar and looking at what’s entailed in that?
Chrissy: Exactly. It’s better to have that and then if you want to go down the road we can create a pitch package with you to help you be on the right path as opposed to just putting it in the dark.
You would need a script and some visual aids and a real strong premise and all of those things. Yes, $100 million is a lot of money but who’s to say someone doesn’t want to make it for $100 million as well? You don’t know until you pitch it.
And then we’d say, ‘What have you got to lose?’ Like really, what have you got to lose?’ You can only get a no, but you’ve done the process, you’ve got it all there and it might be a no this year, but it might not be no next year or in 10 years as the industry changes and the trends change and with big global giants too, like Netflix and Disney and all of those, they’ve got so much money.
Joanna: Well, it’s interesting that, ‘What have you got to lose?’ I did go down this rabbit hole a few years ago and I definitely do not want to do screenwriting, but I feel like there’s a difference between being a rights holder, creator of IP who wants to license that in some way.
An author who wants to do this doesn’t have to write the script, right?
If you have a pitch, and you mentioned visual aids, what are you talking about there?
Chrissy: You definitely don’t have to be the person that writes the scripts. I’ve got a lovely team around me that write scripts for me and for people that I work with, which is great. So you don’t have to be the person that does everything.
I also have an amazing bible pitch, bible designer, she’s in Russia, that she designs all my bibles for me. And in visual aids, creating a visual element to tell your story. You’ve got your cover, and everything like that, well, children’s books are the easiest.
What I do with people is they’ve got all the content there, the illustrated content already exists. So it’s literally pulling out the illustrated content into a pitch visual aid and expanding on that.
If you’ve got a character called Mary and she collects fish, whatever it is, is talking about her dislikes, her strengths, her weaknesses, and putting that into the pitch bible, to talk about that in the story.
Themes are a huge one, what is the theme of your journey? What do you want to get across?
So it’s pulling out all of those little details and giving them a visual aid. And when I say visual, it doesn’t have to be characters, it could be scenery. It’s just putting it together in a format that is visual, because on your books, it’s all written words.
It’s just pulling out those things that are important to you into a PDF document or whatever you want to show as a visual feeling for your story.
For instance, I work with one book, which is about cancer, and it’s a film for children, but we use color to help with that mood and getting that theme across so it’s not too scary. So more darker times are gray and black and white.
And then when it gets better, things are more colorful, and in that pitch bible, it reflects that. So it’s like a journey through those emotions as well as what you’ve written.
Joanna: I think that’s really interesting. And I feel like, let’s face it, a lot of writers get quite intellectual about words because that’s what we do. But what you talked about there with theme and feeling and emotion and color and I feel like this is the struggle, right?
The Mapwalker trilogy, for example, they’re quite short books as they’re not quite YA, but so it’s like 180,000 words total. And in my head, 180,000 words, to now just roll that up into theme, feeling, and emotion is really difficult.
We get so obsessed with these details of plot, and the interesting research and this particular character’s really cool. But that’s too much, isn’t it, for a pitch?
Chrissy: It is too much. That’s right. That is too much. And that’s the hardest part with authors, and that’s why I love working with authors because it’s all in your head. So it’s literally I’m just pulling it out and putting it onto paper.
But the hardest, hardest, hardest part for them is to write 10 pages of a Word document about their book. I put the headings in for them and fill out those 10 pages. Because as you say, you’re taking 180,000 words, and I’m asking you to put those details into 10 pages, and then the prettiness and all of the visual stuff comes after that.
It’s making sure those 10 pages, in words to start with, are representing your book and a shortened version, then I can pull out the colors and the moods and the emotions and from what you’ve condensed it down to.
Joanna: So fascinating. There is very good TV now. Just some excellent TV. And I think that mood and emotion is the key. The success of ‘Bridgerton,’ for example, which hit in the winter here during the pandemic, and I’m not very romantic, my husband really is. But I was like, ‘This is exactly what I need. I don’t want to watch violence, I want to watch some romantic thing.’
And of course, it was absolutely huge at the time, and still is huge, obviously. And that was partially set here in Bath. So I was very happy about that. But it’s that emotional side is so important.
Something I need to do more in my own writing is focus on that feeling as an overarching thing as opposed to getting obsessed with everything else. Although we have to do both, I suppose.
Joanna: Do you pitch all kinds of projects, or do you focus mainly on children’s?
Chrissy: I do pitch all kinds. I focus more on animation than film just because that’s my experience of working, which has always usually been with animation or visual effects. And just to help with the different visual effects, it’s done with live action.
For instance, ‘Transformers,’ and ‘Fast and Furious,’ and all of those types of things, it’s filmed but we put in all of the effects and animation that goes on top of that. So that’s more of my experience of working. That’s the kind of stuff that I usually help with or pitch around.
Joanna: Interesting. And then it just on you personally because you obviously now, as we talked about at the beginning, you have a book publishing and media company for children’s projects.
You also have for your own books, which you turn into other things. And it’s great to look at your website, because as you said, you’ve got the characters, you’ve got some songs, you’ve already done all these kind of IP things.
If you’re planning a book, what are the things that people can consider in terms of these other intellectual property possibilities?
Chrissy: Again, it goes back to what is your target audience? Is it in your home country or is it in a global market? But for me,I’m doing a children’s book at the moment that is specifically for the UK and I wanted to do that before I go home.
You need to know what it’s for, and if you are going for a global type, film, or TV series or book that’s easier to pitch, obviously. But having said that, also, if you are going for more of your own countries, or in surrounding areas, or a particular field or a theme, you can apply for local funding in your own countries, a lot of creative money is available to do that with your own countries.
New Zealand’s got it, Australia’s got it. I’m sure there are so many other countries that have that where they will give you money for even developing it into a script, which is something you should look into. But of course, with that, you’d have to have local content within your local areas.
Joanna: It’s interesting, earlier you said, ‘What have you got to lose? ‘ And it feels to me that the biggest thing that one loses is time, and we only have a certain amount of time.
Everything in this process, as you said, when you started out, you went to all the festivals you did that. It’s about developing relationships and knowing how it all works.
Is it better to work on the next book rather than chasing the remote possibility of a film/TV deal? I think that’s the biggest question that people often have.
Chrissy: Exactly. Time is so precious, isn’t it? I know. It’s the hardest part of everything, time. But I guess it goes back to what are your goals? What do you actually want to achieve in life?
If it is your dream to get your book made into a film or a TV show one day, then do it. I know that sounds really simple, but even if you put aside 10 minutes in the morning, or 10 minutes in the afternoon, or whatever it works, you just chip away at it.
That’s how I’ve done all of mine. They don’t happen overnight. They don’t happen tomorrow. It’s a little bit each day in the pockets of life that you find that I help everybody and work on my own bits and pieces and you get there, you do get there.
Joanna: That’s actually a really good tip. That’s how I wrote my first books in the first five years of having a day job and building up this business was all on the side in between doing the rest of things. We all have to make that choice.
One of the reasons that people think they want these deals is because they think there’s a lot of money involved. Obviously, you’re a producer now, which is different.
Tell us a bit more about how the money works in film and TV for the writer.
Chrissy: That’s a really good question and I’ll do my best.
It’s different for every studio, obviously, and it’s also different for every project. For instance, one of the writers I’m working with, he did it on spec, which means he wrote it because he loved it. This was going back to the beautiful cancer story. He absolutely loved it. So he wrote it out of his hand.
And then if it gets picked up, we’ve agreed that he will get a certain percentage of that deal. And that would go into the pitch, if it got along to that part of it.
If we start talking money and budgets and things like that, it’s like this is the writer, he’s the original writer, he would get a percentage of X budget to go back to him or he would get a writers fee out of it. And that’s one way to do it.
The other way is obviously pitching yourself as a writer of the show. So you can do your pitch without the script. I do that all the time. That’s very easy. And part of that, if they pick it up, is developing the script with you.
The great thing about being an author, and if you did want to write your own script, that’s a great package for them. They would probably look at purchasing or co-joining the IP with you or just buying it, buying the idea. And with that, you can ask to be a writer that goes on there, to be paid to write your movie.
Joanna: There’s a very good book called Hollywood Versus the Author. Have you read that?
Chrissy: I’ve got it here next to me.
Joanna: I listened to it on audio as well and I’ve got it in print. And that is a must read. I think in order to be, as you say realistic and there’s some good stories in there. There’s some bad stories. There’s some absolutely awful stories in there. It’s buyer beware, isn’t it, really?
Chrissy: Yes. And I think I might say it’s gotten better, but I think there’s more options now, since the pandemic and all of this content’s come out. And I think there’s more conversations going on with the IP owners and the writers and everything like that and there’s way more collaboration going on between everybody too.
So it’s not so cutthroat and you have to do this, and you have to do that. You have to work together to achieve that. And I think that’s been a really great thing. That’s an outcome that’s coming out of it.
Joanna: I think that is interesting. And I do think collaboration is something that perhaps authors are not so good at because we do tend to work alone. If people do cowrite, it’s often just one other person, for example, whereas what you’re talking about, you’ve got 200 crew on your neck on this project.
Any tips on having a more collaborative attitude, on being open to it, but also protecting yourself?
Chrissy: I think being open to it just is the struggle. I think it’s easy for me because I’m working with authors and yourself, and you’re already passionate about your project. I’m not dragging you through the mud and making you do it.
It’s the same with my crew. They’re passionate about what we’re making. And that makes you collaborative. Once you’ve started the journey and you’ve decided, ‘Yes, I want to go down this path,’ you will find yourself being more collaborative than what you were before.
At the beginning, I’m always very sensitive because it is someone’s idea and story and it’s your baby that you’re talking about developing. And I think the people in this industry as well. And in the author community, if you’ve decided it’s easy to be protective of it. Once you get to that point, it’s hard to let go, isn’t it? It’s really hard to let go.
Joanna: Some people are like, ‘Yeah, yeah, I want to write the screenplay. I want to be involved in it.’ And then other people are like, ‘No, you’ve signed a licensing deal and it’s gone and it’s not yours anymore.’
And in fact, it’s better for your sanity, if you say it’s not yours because an adaptation can be amazing, or it can be terrible. You don’t necessarily have any control.
Chrissy: My experience is before it gets to that path, I’ve been pitching a show for a while now and we’re in month five, I think. And it’s back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. And we’re not even at the stage of talking money or rewrites or anything like that.
Once they get to that stage, they know you really well. They’ve had these conversations with you. They’ve taken the time to get to know who you are and what makes you tick. That’s what I’ve found anyway.
When it does come up to this point of talking about your involvement, everything like that, I really think the door is open and I don’t think they’ll shut you out, yes, from my experience at the moment.
Joanna: Although as I said you might want to be.
Chrissy: Yes, you might want to be. And that’s even better for an author out there, if you’ve got an idea honestly and you want to sell it, it makes it very easy for the broadcasters and the streamers, much better. Once you’ve got your pitch, go ‘Wouldn’t you like just want to sell this?’ and you’re like, ‘Okay.’
Joanna: I kind of feel like that myself. I have actually got a script for this first Mapwalker novel. And then I was like, ‘Okay, do you know what? I don’t think that’s what I want to do.’ So this is such an interesting area.
And what’s so funny, my mum, she’s 77 or whatever. She has such a negative view of TV. We weren’t allowed a TV when I was growing up and to be honest, back in the ’80s, TV wasn’t so good, was it?
Joanna: It really wasn’t very good. And she’d be like ‘TV rots your brain. It’s awful.’ And she’s still got that attitude. She thinks computer games are terrible. She’s from that generation.
But finally, in the pandemic, I got her on Netflix. Obviously, we’ve all spent a lot more time at home watching things. Turning our IP into visual projects, I think has become perhaps even more important because people are spending more time doing that.
I don’t want to go too, too far ahead. But in terms of your animation, you started with 2D, you went to 3D.
Do you see into the future in terms of metaverse projects or like you said, things were merging with gaming? What do you see coming for IP?
Chrissy: It’s so exciting. I do see in the future with my son and he’s six and with the virtual reality everything, I’d love if they could interact with it because I understand with your mom, even with my son and my industry screentime and him I’m not so keen on just because I don’t want to burn his brain out so early.
I wish it was interactive more in front of their faces and I don’t think it’s going to be long, and they won’t have to put the goggles on and play that game or take the goggles off. It will be part of the character and you see how they interact with the iPad now, that character can come and talk to you on your iPad, you can QR code and then there’s another little thing that they can go to and another little thing that they can go to.
What I was saying to one of the ladies I’m working with, she’s got this amazing iconic character in her book, and I said, ‘Can’t you hear her talking to you in your head?’ And she’s like, ‘I can actually.’
I’m like, ‘Oh, amazing. Imagine if she was the narrator of your series. And then she popped up and she was a virtual reality character that appeared to the kids and started talking about traveling or scientific experiences or anything like that.’ I think that’s going to be so exciting in the future for them for sure.
Joanna: Is that something we should even be considering, if we’re looking at pitching?
How might IP be used in other media like gaming, like VR, that type of thing?
Chrissy: Yes, I think it’s a very strong thing to do. If you’re cross-platforming, it’s great. One of the things I do is that if I’ve got a movie pitch, I also sometimes have a TV pitch alongside it.
I say, ‘This could be pulled out. And these kids can be detectives, and they’re going off to find a mission.’ And that could be a series as a spinoff from the film, which can help sell it.
If you’ve got an idea that could also be a game or a virtual reality experience or you’ve had people on the show that do board games and cards and things like that. So anything is spin-off.
There’s a section in your pitch you can put in there, marketing or external things that you can go with it. So you can do that, and it just makes it stronger. You don’t have to. But absolutely.
Joanna: It’s just creating IP. It just seems like a really golden age. I know they keep saying that about TV. But it’s not just TV now, it’s like everything is expanding.
Chrissy: Absolutely, everything. And all the streamers and everybody else wants a brand that can go across them all because that’s the ideal, isn’t it? That’s the golden ticket.
Joanna: Absolutely. Before we’re out of time, so I’m circling back to you. So obviously, you have your son and your family, you’ve got this demanding day job, let’s not forget, you actually have a day job and a publishing media and consulting business.
How do you balance your time and these multiple streams of income for sanity and creativity?
Chrissy: Great question. It’s definitely challenging during every day, but it’s a challenge I absolutely love. I think early on when I had my son, and I still did all these things, it’s the flexibility to wake up in the morning and he’s sick, and it all just falls apart.
I led every day, especially since the pandemic, with absolutely no expectations for the day. Obviously, we’ve got our routines that we do every morning, and everyone does, and you stick to those as much as possible. But having no expectations of every day has changed my life.
It’s made me a nice mum and a nice parent and a nice boss at work and, and I expect that also for all of my crew. They have the same thing. I don’t have expectations on them.
And because we have such tight deadlines of filmmaking and everything is due, they all know when things are due. I’ve just got a fantastic crew and we all help each other. So if someone gets sick or ducks out, then another person jumps in to take over what they’re doing and help out including myself. I’m always there to jump in and help out where I’m needed throughout all of my crew.
And my family support is incredible. My husband, his job can be quite flexible. He can come home whenever he needs to, within reason. And he’s around and if everything gets turned upside down, he’s there. And we’ve got some cousins here in London who are incredible that are there for us.
It’s just using everybody around you as much as you can and vice versa. We’re there for them. But I think the biggest thing is the no expectations for sure.
Joanna: That’s so funny because on the one hand, you say no expectations for the day. And on the other hand, you say you have tight deadlines, and obviously you achieve an incredible amount. You clearly work really hard as well as having no expectations, which is a bit weird.
Chrissy: I think the no expectations as well is more emotionally. It’s so easy to get frustrated or angry or upset at a situation that happened, but I’ve trained my emotions to have no expectations of how the day is going to go.
Is it going to be the best day? Is it going to be the worst day? Is that going to get done? Or is that not going to get done? Obviously, we’ve all got the things we need to hit. But at the end of the day, if things happen, it is what it is.
Joanna: Which we’ve all learned during the pandemic, of course.
Chrissy: Absolutely. I think that’s been the hardest mental health shift for everybody is not to jump off the handle when things don’t go the way it should go. I think that’s been the hardest for the crew. But the clients and the shows and the companies are all more flexible as well because of this, but we always get it done on time. That’s the thing, we always get it done.
Where can people find you and everything you do online?
Chrissy: My last name, which is hard to say but it’s chrissymetge.com in there and also Duckling Publishing and Fuzzy Duckling Media.
I’m also on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and all of the things, LinkedIn. So it’s really easy to find them.
Joanna: And if people are interested in your pitch consultancy, who are the type of clients you’re interested in? Who would be the best fit?
Chrissy: That’s a great question. Usually, animation or visual effects is probably my strong point and more children’s probably animation I can help with, with books. But, I’m happy to help with any type of pitch bible, steering you in the right direction and that can be found on my chrissymetge.com website and I’ve got a little consulting tab in there that you can pop into.
Joanna: Brilliant. Well, thanks so much for your time, Chrissy. That was great.
Chrissy: Thanks, Joanna.
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Author: Joanna Penn