Today’s question comes from Melissa, a producer who took my pitching class several months ago. Melissa writes (and I’m paraphrasing to simplify her question)…
When submitting a sizzle reel to a reality TV production company via website, is it okay to password-protect it? My partners and I are debating. I want to protect it—and embed a code allowing us to track who views it and when; they want to make site public so it's easier to access. Are TV programmers comfortable with password-protected sites?... Or should it be more readily accessible, "public," so they only have to click a weblink?
Interesting question, Melissa. But I actually think it begs a larger question: Is it okay to submit reels and scripts via the Internet?
While we live in a digital world, I know many producers, agents, and execs still bristle at getting submissions electronically. Here's why:
- It can be tough watching online reels because of distractions: IM's, emails popping up, etc.
- It's tough to give notes with digital scripts because you can't write on the page.
- If the submission is a script, the recipient has to print it themselves. This is a pain. And uses a lot of paper. THEIR paper.
- Agents and execs keep stacks of scripts or reels they need to get to… and when something is submitted electronically, you can't throw it on the stack or prioritize it with other stuff.
- People's inboxes tend to get clogged easily, so submissions get lost.
All of this may sound petty and out-of-touch, but you want to make the producer or agent's job as easy as possible. Production companies receive thousands of submissions a year, and any reason to turn away, even for a split second, is a strike against you.
Having said this, Melissa, I thought I'd get a second opinion...
"I always prefer to get a link rather than the physical DVD," Jen said. "It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s cheaper."
She did, however, have some qualifications…
"Send me a link as long as it doesn’t have an expiration date, or a limit on the number of times it can be viewed. That way, if it’s something I spark to, I can share it internally with my team. If it’s something I like, I may ask for a hard copy, because there are occasions when I’m in a meeting without Internet access. So always be prepared to follow-up with a DVD."
And what about password-protection?
"Honestly, it drives me crazy—because I tend to lose passwords. That said, people are protective of their properties and sensitive to over-exposure, and I get that. [But] when people are super-proprietary over ideas they pitch, and they think it’s the only one of its kind, A) they’re wrong, and B) it feels like amateur hour. Everyone has the same ideas; it’s the elements you’ve packaged together—including talent or businesses—that set it apart and make it pop. Also, if you only have one idea, it’s time to quit… because in development you need twenty good ideas, not one."
Ultimately, Melissa, I think various execs and producers have different preferences for submissions… so I wouldn't be afraid to ask. Ideally, you're submitting it to companies where you already have some type of pre-existing relationship. If not - if you're sending it in unsolicited - well, the odds are so stacked against you it probably doesn't matter how you submit. But if you ARE sending it as a link, I wouldn't password-protect it unless you know the people well; you want to make access as easy and hassle-free as possible.
Thanks again for the great question… and for the rest of you, please feel free to post questions in the Comments section below… or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.