How to sell to Netflix

The Hollow / Link to Slap Happy Cartoons

Above: The Hollow from Slap Happy Cartoons premieres on Netflix in 2018

For many of us attending markets, we’re always on the outlook for Netflix executives. Reports suggest they are committed to great creative products and willing to allow creatives to follow their vision.

Netflix is committed to spending more on original programming especially in Europe and are, in fact, projecting a 30% increase in European content.

With this in mind, I spoke with Vito Viscomi (pictured below) about how he and his Vancouver animation company Slap Happy Cartoons Inc. sold their project The Hollow to Netflix. The series is set to premiere in 2018.

Vito is a Canadian screenwriter, story editor and executive producer. He co-founded and co-owns Slap Happy.

Vito Viscomi

How did you manage to pitch to Netflix?

Networking. I ran into a broadcasting executive at an industry cocktail party who had recently been hired at Netflix. I took him out to lunch, and then later when Slap Happy developed a concept that fit what Netflix was looking for, I reached out and he put me in touch with a kids’ programming executive. From there we set up a pitch meeting.

What did you do to make your pitch stand out?

It’s important to make sure the pitch is right for the broadcaster you’re pitching to. Will it fit the network brand? Can you picture the series on the network? Our idea is a kid-friendly, serialized mystery/action/comedy with plenty of cliffhangers so it was a natural fit for Netflix. We prepared a one-sheet with main character designs and text that highlighted the mystery, which was intriguing to the executive.

How did you structure your pitch?

Even at an early stage, it’s important to know your characters, story arc and some major moments in the series. We had a very good idea going into the pitch of some of the cliffhangers at the end of certain episodes. During the pitch I highlighted some of those cliffhangers – leaving the executive wanting more. Lastly, when it was obvious he was hooked, I revealed the answer to the mystery and he loved the idea enough to ask for a pilot script and full series bible.

Secret sauce – what do you think really sold them?

I think the main selling point was the concept itself, and it helped that it was coming from a proven creative and production team. The series follows three kids trying to figure out where they are, how they got there and how to escape. Hopefully it will find an audience that wants to go along for the ride.

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To Vito’s second point above, research is crucial to ensure your pitch is right for the outlet. It’s the number one complaint I heard from buyers when I was putting together my pitching ebook. “The person pitching didn’t know what my channel does or what’s on my schedule!” My online course and ebook How to Win Your Next Creative Pitch includes a number of strategies to help with research and deciding on the best buyers. Download the resource here.

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