The problem with publishing a magazine about animation that nobody wants to read is that one often has to resort to questionable tactics to raise money. One of Animation Magazine‘s most insanely screwball stunts is their annual Pitch Party, which they’ve been getting away with for the past ten years.
Here’s how it works. Contestants pay $375 to “pitch” their animated project. Except, they don’t really pitch anything. Instead, they submit one 2â€³ x 5â€³ image to the magazine that contains their entire idea. I can’t even fit my daily to-do list in a space that small, much less an idea for an entire animated project. But amateurs and students who don’t know better still try to do it:
Anybody who has worked in the animation industry for more than a week knows that this isn’t an even remotely realistic way to sell a series, and anybody who hasn’t worked in the industry could learn that by spending a few bucks on David Levy’s excellent primer Animation Development: From Pitch to Production. The sad thing is that Animation Magazine knows this too. They’ve published enough interviews with executives over the years that they could compile their own book of dos and donts for pitching.
What’s so wrong about giving industry access to amateurs and students who otherwise haven’t learned the proper (and free) way to contact executives. Nothing, if Animation Magazine billed this as an educational opportunity to develop a project and receive feedback from execs. They don’t do that though. They frame the contest as an “economical marketing campaign that lets you–the independent artist–and your animation project reach decision-makers the smart way.” In other words, they lead entrants to believe that this is a legitimate way for them to put their ideas in front of an audience of professionals. Ahh, if only it were that easy.
One of the main attractions of the event is that the entries are “judged” by development execs and producers, pictured above. Commenters on the Brew often make fun of those who judge movie posters as an indicator of a film’s quality, but guess what, professional industry execs have the magical ability to judge an entire series concept by looking at a miniature rectangle. This year’s nine judges, all respected professionals, should know better than to participate in this shakedown of budding creators. Not only are they squandering their own hard-earned reputations, they’re making our industry weaker by misleading people about how the animation business really works.
To end on a personal note, a couple weeks ago when I moved, my movers told me about their idea for an animated series. They’d even recorded tracks, but didn’t know the first thing about producing animation. I offered to meet with them for coffee and give them some basic guidance and tips. That’s how you help people. Animation Magazine and the executives who enable their contest believe that the best way to help people is to take people’s money by concocting a ridiculous event that has no grouding in industry realities.
An ironic note: part of the prize package if you win the contest is that Animation Magazine will reimburse your entry fee. The real winners though are the artists who weren’t naive enough to fall for the magazine’s pitch folly in the first place.
UPDATE: The folks at Animation Magazine want everyone to know that my article is “full of factual errors and negative comments,” and that they do the Pitch Party because, “It’s a valuable service to offer. . . .and not because it’s a huge profit center.” You can read the full statement on their website.