Report – Development Masterclass: Terry Kalagian
The full session is available here as a podcast:
The key to getting your idea developed successfully is the C word – Compromise. That’s the advice from Gaumont Animation’s Terry Kalagian
- Compromise and collaboration is something to be embraced, rather than resisted, when developing your project. You just need to know how much you’re prepared to compromise
- Your producer is on your side, so work together rther than against each other
- Own your product, then you’ll have an instinct on what you are happy to compromise on, and what you can’t
- It’s better to have been open to compromise and have your creation realised, than to resist and for it never to see the light of day
Terry, who has been known to receive around 1,000 pitches per year, talked delegates through an ideal scenario, and a realistic scenario, of how the development process should work:
The ideal scenario
You have a fantastic, hilarious, cutting edge idea that no one has ever thought of before.
So… you set to work and get your ideas on paper. This is where the hard work needs to come in. A writer may help you put together a bible, articulating the worlds you’ve created, and capturing the uniqueness of your story. An artist will also come on board to help you put together your world – the who, the what, the where. You might start hitting walls – but that’s ok, as it’s part of a process which helps develop rules that make your world work. Things will change, you’ll get frustrated, but you need to put in the time that will be evident to potential buyers when you meet them.
Then… you meet your buyers and ask if they like your idea, if it’s original enough. You might get a resounding “yes, we love it!”
The actual scenario
But… more likely, you might get an initial “yes”, followed by a process that seems like a series of requests for changes. Don’t be discouraged – this doesn’t mean that the execs don’t like your idea any more – they still love the idea, they love you for having the idea, but it’s now about choices.
And… choices lead to compromise. There will be back and forth, with questions about how your characters would react in different situations – but these are natural development processes.
Meaning that… you need to think about what you’re willing to compromise on, and what you won’t. How long are you willing to wait for your idea to be picked up, and at what cost? Just be prepared that nothing ever goes smoothly – remember you’re doing it because you choose to own it, and you believe in it.
Terry’s Dos and Don’ts
- Be open minded (your execs want it to work too)
- Ask true questions – if there’s stuff you don’t know, ask it
- Have an opinion/reasons for what you’re doing
- Treat execs like your partners, with respect. Your exec is your internal advocate
- Understand your partners’ goals (if they’re a broadcaster, it’s about ratings)
- Be close minded
- Disregard their concerns – that’s not good behaviour for a partnership.
Terry finished off the session highlighting some major films and programmes that had all had elements of compromise from their core idea, resulting in a different, but usually successful, ultimate manifestation. She concluded that history is replete with examples of compromise – some of them didn’t work, but an awful lot did.