Note: CableU is pleased to have Nick Verbitsky, CEO of Blue Chip Films, based in Norwalk, CT, contribute his insight to our ongoing producer perspective series. Nick has been CEO of Blue Chip since its inception in 1998 and oversees all aspects of the firm’s administration in addition to functioning as Executive Producer on all Blue Chip projects. He is a 1991 graduate of Colgate University where he received a B.A. in History and went on to earn a Master's in Business Administration from the Stern School of Business at NYU. He lives in Ridgefield, CT with his wife Leslie and 3 children, Ruby, Mathilde, and Nicholas IV.
1. Where do you find inspiration for a new show idea?
It can literally come from anywhere. One day I was reading the newspaper and it suddenly dawned on me: “Does anyone appreciate how much work goes into a big-city daily newspaper?” One year later we had a pilot order for DEADLINE AT THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER. In our business I think it's important to have a curious mind. I’m constantly wondering where things come from/how did they get there, etc. This leads to lots of ideas on a weekly basis.
2. What research do you do before going into a pitching session?
For one thing, you need to be up to speed on what’s happening on the network you’re pitching--and get that info to be as up to date as possible. I tend to dig really deep on ideas and find that it helps me make the pitches very brief and to the point, which is what most commissioning editors want. The internet is obviously an incredible resource, but calling/ corresponding with academics/ other people in the know about your subject is also essential to putting together a strong pitch.
3. What advise do you have for upstart producers trying to get their foot in the door?
Get yourself someone who is connected. FULL DISCLOSURE: we were fortunate enough to meet the guys at CABLEready five years ago, which not only helped us understand the way networks work, but helped us get in the door. Though many upstart producers see the system as stacked against them, when one considers the implications of networks having to review hundreds of unsolicited projects on paper or on screen from producers whose professionalism they cannot vouch for, you either adapt to that and make a career out of it, or you keep doing an impersonation of Sisyphus.
4. What show do you wish you had produced and why?
HOW IT'S MADE. This is a show that unfortunately we had concepted long before we met the guys at CABLEready; I actually have an UNOPENED submission that was returned to me by Discovery. This is a show that is tailor-made for my interests. As I said before, I love to know where things come from/how they got to be. I could do a show like this every day and be very happy.
5. What types of shows do you think are most in demand now?
It's tough to say, really. I think the JON AND KATE PLUS 8 has made the reality genre a bit more difficult to produce, and therefore demand from networks -- which I think was very strong, if not the strongest -- may be waning as a result.
6. What types of programs do you wish were in demand now? (or think should be)
Clip shows (because we’re pitching one!)
7. What types of projects interest you most and why?
Shows with a historical bent. I love history and would jump at the chance to examine things that have happened in the past and examine how they’ve rippled through time to remain relevant today. I know it's not likely, but a guy can dream….
8. How important do you think it is for your show idea to have an online component?
Very. I read an interesting point made by Gina Bellefante in the NY Times the other day in response to the question of what made JON AND KATE PLUS 8 so successful. She said it was ‘multi-platform’; it wasn’t something you just watched but it was something you became immersed in through online blogs, etc. I think the online component allows fans of shows to become immersed in the material in greater depth and what’s more, on a number of levels it can be used as a helpful research tool for the producer.
9. Where does most of your budget funding come from, if not from the network?
There’s a very esoteric finance term we use for this ... it's called "sweat equity." The Philadelphia Inquirer project was completely self-financed, and although it didn’t get picked up, it led directly to an opportunity with a network that we’re currently working on our 3rd/4th project for.
10. How often do you attend industry conferences and festivals, and which are most important for your business?
Regrettably, not enough. I am considering RealScreen this year, however, which I feel is the best use of my time. I find the symposia there interesting and the attendance of commissioning editors and the subsequent pitching opportunities are valuable.