I’ve always been curious how people get their movie and show ideas to Netflix.
Jeff Deverett has sold three film projects to the streaming platform.
Here’s how he did it.
And as you might have guessed, the high-level principles at play here are useful to anyone pitching anything.
Here are those principles:
Be early: I got lucky because the timing. They [Netflix] were a big company but they weren’t what they are today*. So they were still taking pitches from indie producers. So I went in there and I pitched them myself and I learned a lot.
* Jeff sold his first project to Netflix in 2013
They get so many pitches. I didn’t know this back then, you’ve got to keep those pitches really short. Get to the point because they get so many of them that they get tired of hearing them.They just want to make a quick decision and hear what you have to say. I pitched it too long. I had a 1/2 meeting and I probably took 20 minutes to pitch that other than 10 minutes of pleasantries. Today I pitch in 2 minutes, 2-3 minutes max.
Note: 2-3 minutes is a good guideline for most types of in-person pitches, from why you’re the best candidate for the job to why an investor should fund your startup.
Be deferential when you have no leverage:
I pitched it and they said okay, “we like it, let’s do it but we don’t want to take delivery from you because you’re an indie producer. We want to take delivery from a distribution company that we’re already set up to do business with because we don’t want to set you up as a new client in our database. It’s too much work for us.
But I am also a distributor! I have my own distribution company. I make delivery…I make perfect delivery to the distributors or I am making delivery to the broadcasters around the world so delivery is not an issue. They said yeah but we’re so busy, we have so much going on we would prefer that we put you through a distributor and I said I don’t have a problem with that except for they’re going to charge me a full fee for doing nothing. I pitched you, I did the sale!
You want the movie and I’m going to have to pay their full commission and they said “Jeff you seem like a sharp guy. Figure it out. Go negotiate it, figure it out.” So they gave me a list of 6 or 7 distributors that they recommended who I could do business with. I met with 2 of them. I chose one of them and I cut a good deal but not a fantastic deal because I had no leverage.They knew I was sent there so I had to deliver through another distributor and I was kind of a little peeved by it. You know, it was Netflix, that’s what they wanted. What am I going to argue? So I had to do that deal and it worked out well. The other people they did the deal then they actually happen to be a good distributor. They did some other deals too and it worked out pretty well so I can’t complain about it.
I had a track record from two other films. If I didn’t have that I wasn’t even going to…every single time you do it it’s a new adventure. So they know that I can make the movie on time and on budget and on a quality movie.
That helps open the door and get the appointment to start with. Secondly, everything got delivered on time and thirdly they did well with the movies. Had they not done well I wasn’t going to get another appointment it’s business. It’s all statistics, they look at their little iPad in front of you and they say okay your numbers are…they don’t tell you the numbers (confidential). But if your numbers aren’t good – one you aren’t getting an appointment
Here’s the motto I tell everybody who works for me, you can quote me on this: “No means not today.” Everybody starts with a no, everybody starts with a no. And if you take no as the definitive answer you cannot survive in this business. I say no means not today. Meaning I’m not going to give you the appointment today, I’m not going to give you the deal, I’m not going to even talk to you, I’m not going to return your email.
I don’t take that as personal rejection. That’s part of the business. It’s a pain in the butt but it’s part of the business and I just keep at it over and over and over. In a very nice way I just assume that it’s part of the business and I have 22 years of experience getting no’s. There’s lots and lots of no’s. Lots of doors shut on your face, lots of no return phone calls, thousands…tens of thousands of them but you know ultimately if you believe in your product and you know that you have something to offer to them sooner or later maybe they will give you a shot.
And now, the most relevant part. How does Jeff answer the big question?
“How do you get a meeting with Netflix when you’re unproven?
Here is how I think you get it in…you’ve got to go in with somebody else.
You’ve got to go in with an established producer who has a track record who can make believe in you or who does believe in you and can hold your hand through the process and give you that creditability and experience because not only what the streamers want and the broadcasters but your investors, investors want as well.They want to know that you’re going to be able to deliver what you say you’re going can deliver and if you haven’t done it before, it doesn’t mean you can’t do it. You probably can do it. It just means that they don’t know that you’re going to be and so they want to be on somebody who has done it before.
18-minute full video from Film Courage here.