Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Process - Swimming (Almost Drowning) in the Bu** Sh** of the Entertainment Business

We know that many of you were awaiting the results of our company meeting Thursday evening regarding the next level of work for our TV show. So were we. The meeting was set for 7:30 PM. All the partners had the phone number for the conference call. My papers with all my research we laid out in front of me (which is no easy task if you saw my desk!). Then....

Well, before I tell you what happened next, let me tell you a little about us, the knuckleheads of DalmatProd:
1. Steve (me) - I've always loved those flashing lights, ever since I was a little kid. I used to shout out, "Beacon, beacon," when we were in the car. And yes, as a little kid, I did dream about being a firefighter - a little bit. Because I really wanted to be a helicopter pilot! If you're as old as me (and that's old) you may remember a TV show called, "Whirlybirds." Two guys flying Bell 47-G's and a 47-H. 

Though I grew out of that, I still liked anything to do with first aid/helping people/fire-rescue. But in our area of suburban Boston (due west from the city), there were no volunteer or on-call departments. I used to visit my home department (Framingham) frequently, at all 5, then 6 of their stations. And, Jewish very few Conservative Jewish homes went about preparing their sons for the fire service.

However, I kept my interest up and enrolled in every Red Cross course I could, starting with Junior First Aid and working my way to Rescue Breathing and Water Safety Instructor. At the same time, I was pretty focused on becoming a rabbi as my older brother did, however we each did it for our own reasons. When that didn't pan out, I went into Jewish education (and am still there even today) and that was pivotal, because my first job as the educational director of a synagogue was in Greensboro NC (Guilford County) and I joined the combo department around the corner from where we lived. The rest is history. Oh, I should also mention that I was also an avid electronics hobbyist, which led me into audio/video.

2. Rich - Currently, Rich is the chief pilot for the sheriff's office of a north-central Florida County and has been one of my best friends since the night we met and were voted in to that combo department in NC. As a young teen, Rich was a member of Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad and had a lot of interest in both fire-rescue and law enforcement. He wound up in Greensboro when he came to attend Guilford College, a Friends School. 

It didn't take him long at all to discover the station just down the street from where he lived. And sure enough, about six weeks later he was sitting in the first row of the business meeting where our membership was to be voted on. Then, just as the meeting was starting, I walked in. However, coming directly from a service at the synagogue, I was in a suit and the chair next to him was the only empty one in the room. I tried to enter quietly, but when you're wearing a suit and everyone else is in shorts and t-shirts, you tend to get noticed. I sat down next to him and he nearly passed out. "Were we supposed to dress up for this meeting? Oh shit! I'm sunk!!"
"No, no," I tried calming him down. I explained that I was coming from my job at the synagogue. "Synagogue?" he asked. "Are you Jewish, too?"
"Too?" I queried. "Meaning you are as well."
"Shit, yeah! I am!" Sticking out his hand, "I'm Rich." 
And that was that. He eventually dis-enrolled from the college and devoted as much time to the department as he could, until he finally was hired as the day man (24/48) at out second station. You'll be able to read all about this in my forthcoming book, "What are Two Guys Like You....?" As it turned out, we were the first two Jewish people that about 98% of the department had ever met!
Rich stayed with the department for three years, when he was accepted to the Metro PD in Washington, DC, his hometown. But we never lost touch and in the early 90's he moved to Palm Beach County to work for a local PD, then the S.O. The entire concept of Dalmatian Productions (which had a few other names, like Hook&Ladder Productions, TillerTruck Productions, etc.) was hatched by the two of us on the way back from one of my frequent doctor visits in Palm Beach County.

3. Tom - Tom was the first partner to come along totally by accident. We thought we were all set with a videographer. But at the last minute, he pulled out because he was hired by a local news station to shoot for them. In the meantime, we had been running announcement in "Firehouse" Magazine about our first show, a very real, ride-along, similar to, "COPS," only with fire-rescue. So one day, Tom called up to get more info about us, because he was a firefighter and PIO of  a volunteer department in Delaware. He wanted to join us. We thanked him, but told him we had someone to do it already. So, when our first guy fell through,we called Tom and learned more about him.

Tom had been involved with his department for many years .Additionally, he had his own video production business and studio. Then to sweeten the pitch, he also had been working TV at a couple of the Philadelphia channels. That's all it took and we brought Tom on board.

4. Jesse - We didn't know Jesse from a hole in the wall until Rich and I attended a NATPE (National Association of Television Production Executives) in New Orleans, in attempt to sell our first show, "America's Heroes: The Men & Women of Fire-Rescue." Rich and I knew we had to run our pilot, 30-minute episode that people could see walking by our booth. But to rent a 27-inch TV at the convention for four days was almost $600.00! A little "rich" (pardon the pun" for us. So, we did what any other entrepreneurial, red-blooded Americans would do: we drove over to Sears and bought one there, with the intention of returning it when the convention was over. 

During the first day, Jesse came walking by and asked the usual questions. Well, we hit it off right there and the three of us hung around for the rest of the convention. Now, it's important to note that when we came the day before to set-up, we were some of the first people in the exhibit hall. Which was good....up to a point. What it meant was that our cartons, boxes, etc. were some of the first put into the safe storage area. Hooray!! Until we found out that we'd be some of the last to come out. Holy shit! We had a flight out the next morning at 7:00 AM, and we had to get the TV back to Sears so it wouldn't be charged against my credit card. 

Jesse showed up as we realized our predicament. He had his car out of the lot already. He suggested that he and Rich grab the TV and drive over to the Sears (about 45 minutes away) and I would stay and pack up the easy stuff when the materials showed.  So, it was almost two hours before I saw them again. But Rich did have the "Returned Item" receipt! Saved by Jesse! To say thank you, we took Jesse out for a nice steak dinner and learned what he was doing.

He had been connected with law enforcement in the southern California area. One of those experiences brought him into video work with that organization and others. He also realized that there was money to be made being a "stringer," a freelance video guy who listens to the scanners, shoots the action and sells it to local stations or even national networks. But he wanted more. He had a lot of contacts in law enforcement and was able to do a lot of work with them and started editing his own reality shows. And with his background, he also was starting to be hired as a consultant on weapons for various TV shows, e.g. "The Shield," "24," "Grey's Anatomy," and many, many more. And as a great friend, it was Jesse who took all of our treatments for shows to every producer and director he met in his TV and movie work. Every chance he had, he stuck one under their nose and said, "If you like police shows, how about a great show about firefighters?" Now, the rest is history.

Oh yeah, we're back to about 48 hours ago. We're all set up for the big conference call. 7:12 PM EDT, Rich called me to advise that he had just been called out on a mission to find a lost wanderer in the woods. However, he suggested I not cancel the meeting as he is often cancelled on his drive to the airport from his home. About ten minutes later, he called as he was revving up the helo!  That was it! We had all agreed that this meeting is so important, the four of us must be able to discuss it together.Thus, no meeting this past Thursday. So, what the hell is so important that we have to be all together?

We are at the tipping point to get this show on the air. Yes, it is "floating" around Hollywood and has had some nice interest. However, because we are not big-name Hollywood writers or producers, it's often hard to prove to people who don't know a lot about what we (All of you reading this blog) do, that our show would be successful and have the support of viewers. Before a network will pick up a show, they need to know that the show, and by that, it's advertisers, will have the top audience they look for: men and women, ages 18-39, upper lower-class to middle-to-upper middle class. If advertisers think that their buyers won't watch a show, they will not purchase commercial time. And without advertising, there's no money coming in for anyone!

Thus, this meeting, now scheduled for Monday evening, will cover the following points:
1. Can we raise enough money to be able to shoot either an elongated trailer (a trailer is like the preview of a show or movie you see on TV or in the theater i.e. "Coming Soon!!!!!) or should we try to raise enough funds to shoot the entire pilot episode.
2. If we decide to raise funds, how will we do it. Will we approach big-name companies in the fire-rescue field and ask them to buy in, in exchange for some form of free advertising? Or would we be better off by using Crowd Funding (e.g. GoFundMe, KickStarter, IndieGoGo, etc.) and if we do, which one should we use.
3. [SPOILER ALERT] If we go with Crowd Funding, who is the audience we want to attract? (To quote dear Homer Simpson, "DOH!) That answer we have. We would need to reach you! You the people reading this blog. You the people who follow us on Twitter at @DalmatProd, you who visit our website at and every fire-rescue, law enforcement and EMS person, their family, their cousins, etc. to donate. Do you know that there are nearly one million firefighters in the United States? Add to them all those in Canada. Now add their spouses, their friends, etc. Now, with all those people, if each person donates just ONE DOLLAR - THAT'S RIGHT, $1.00, we actually could afford to shoot the entire pilot, if we so decide.
4. Do we shoot an 6-12 minute trailer or do we shoot the entire pilot?
And even if and when we decide those very important four questions, we then ask, how do we market that trailer to the networks? Who will represent us? Who is willing to represent four guys who have never produced any network shows in their lives, but are putting everything they have and believe in, to tell a great story about the fire-rescue service that has never been the focus of any TV show since television was invented! And will our supporters from this field be willing to call and email networks and ask them to pick up the show?

Well gang, that's about it. This is why this meeting is so important. And my friends, this is why all of you are so important to us. Just this week, about two dozen of you put out our word on Twitter and we jumped from about 475 followers (that took about six months to pursuade) to 526 follows, as I write this post! Are YOU willing to help bring this show to TV.

As always,I promise to keep you apprised of any and all developments for, in your own way, you are our partners, as well. Without the support and loyalty you have shown us over the past few months, we cannot succeed. 

As they say, "Welcome to the Family!"

Thanks - Now let's make sure Every One Goes Home and please, Stay Safe!



No comments:

Post a Comment