A few weeks ago I got a strange and wonderful email. It was from the office of a Disney development executive in their live action feature film department. The email stated that the executive would like to meet with me at Disney Studios and to choose a date and time. It didn’t say for what, just that they wanted to meet. Woa.
I quickly responded and chose a date and time. Polite and excited. Clicked send. (but then a sudden woosh of panic) What does this mean? I’m not ready! What could she want? For me to pitch a film? A handful of films? I’m not ready! Did she see my website (this website) and like it? Breathe. This is a good thing! After talking to a couple trusty industry people, I figured out that it’s most likely what the industry calls a “general meeting”. Just a feeler. Here’s an executive, a person who’s job it is to find new material for her studio to make. She’s constantly looking for new ideas, new faces, new points of view. So I guess that’s where I come in? Who knows.
Backtracking a little bit, I must give a huge thank you to Ann Carr. A new and awesome family friend who is solely responsible for this meeting. Her work in the marketing world has connected her with a lot of people in the entertainment industry. And since she’s such a phenomenal person, she’s stayed in touch with them. I thank you, Ann.
Fast-forward again. Nothing like a little kick in the butt to get you writing again. Or rather, nothing like a scary industry meeting at a major studio to help you pull an awesome idea out of the ethereal unknown known as creativity. That hanging invisible entity above your head that’s always there, but not always accessible. The place where good ideas come from. I’m happy to say that because of this meeting I’m working on a brand new and very exciting story. I’m working on it with my friend Winsor and we’re calling it “MEK”. It’s about a young boy on the tropical island of Papua New Guinea. I even came up with a little teaser art.
Fast-forwarding further. The day comes. I’m ready. I borrowed my friend’s iPad and had a presentation all ready. I even familiarized myself with the ‘Pad, so I wouldn’t let my clumsy-ass drop the thing on the crystal coffee table, sending the bowl of fruit into the ming vase which falls, cascading $15,000 worth of china onto the tightly knit Disney-themed carpet in the executive’s office. But I get an email. They’re pushing my meeting 4 days. It’s no longer on Monday afternoon, but Friday morning. Breathe. This happens all the time. Right? Exactly right. But I have to say, she had a great excuse – the Frankenweenie premiere. Well of course it’s alright I respond to the assistant! And in all honestly, yes it was definitely alright. I was ready, but I wasn’t ready ready. I could use this week to get READY READY.
So that’s what I did. Or tried to do.
The week blurs by like LA traffic. A slow, painful, hot, foggy orange haze. Then Friday arrives. After a morning hike up a mountain in Griffith park, I drive to North Hollywood in my black ’98 Honda Civic with MN plates. (Represent! Show these Californians how Minnesotans treat their vehicles! Real rust!) After a surprisingly short 15 minute drive, I arrive at the Alameda Gate. I get my little badge from the guard and park 3 stories underground. I get out of the Honda, my clickity clack black dress shoes echoing in the parking garage. My trusty messenger back a lot lighter than normal since my laptop was replaced by my friend’s iPod. I wander through various courtyards of stone cartoon characters. Browns and beiges, grandeur, happy employees. A building with The 7 Dwarves as pillars. I’m here. The receptionist greets me with a smile and offers me a coffee or water. I choose water. I have a seat. And wait.
After completing the book “The Art of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” by Michael Singer, she arrives. The executive. I was told her assistant would greet me, but instead, here she is! (I’m not going to use her real name. I’ll call her Joyce) And immediately all my insecurities vanish. We shake hands, I gather my things and we head to her office.
But it’s not an office. It’s more of a conference room. Joyce warns me not to sit in the chairs near the TV. Forget why. But I obey. We sit and chat. We have a TON in common. We talk about Tim Burton, Pirates of the Caribbean, Pixar, Frankenweenie. I talk about what brought me here. How I used to want to be a Disney animator. How I dew caricatures. Why I HAVE to make movies. She smiles. This is going well!
Then before I can even begin to hesitate, I launch into the pitch portion of our meeting. I change positions and sit a little closer to allow for a more affective iPad presentation. I start with “MEK”. Here we go. I flick through the slides. I talk. She seems interested, so I keep going. 10-ish minutes go by. She’s still into it. 20 minutes. She’s still into it! I finish. I close the iPad and look up at her. Tears are streaming down her face. She stands up, smiling broadly and extends her hand. Joyce says proudly, “Nick, let’s make this movie!”
Bazinga! (Just kidding)
I didn’t close the iPad. I let it go to sleep and sit there on the glass coffee table while she gave me extensive and very helpful notes. She said that MEK is a great concept because it’s rooted in character. It’s emotional. She encouraged us to continue developing it. To keep exploring. Unfortunately she’s live action and MEK is most likely an animation concept. But she liked it! Then I moved onto DAMON, which she also liked, but said it wasn’t quite right for Disney. But Joyce said that there’s definitely a feature film in DAMON. And to also keep developing. So in my book, this was a tremendous success.
After the pitches were over, it sparked a lengthy and incredibly inspiring talk about the industry. She told me that I’m doing all the right things. To keep doing my thing and “I’ll be fine”. She talked about her experiences on LONE RANGER and we agreed that Gore Verbinski is a phenomenal director. Then after what felt like 15 minutes, but was almost 50, we parted ways. I walked out of the office with my head held high. I may have not made any big deals, but it was a big deal for me. I made a great connection, I pitched 2 solid concepts to a major studio and she told me that I “have a great style”.
I was so pleased with myself that I bought a commemorative “Frankenweenie” coffee mug from the Disney store on the lot. (Yeah there’s a Disney store on the Disney lot)
So that’s my story. Hopefully there are more to come. All kinds. I hope you enjoyed it.
Until next time. Take care and all the best —