How to Sell Your Idea to Hollywood, According to a Producer
sullivan, whom some may recognize as the star of the bravo reality series “jersey belle,” went from a career in advertising to producing content.
In just five years, he has sold a number of projects ranging from television, movies and books, at different stages of development. In addition to “Jersey Belle”, her projects include two horror films and two thrillers. One of them, the home invasion drama “Breaking In,” stars Gabrielle Union and is currently filming in Los Angeles.
sullivan, who serves as director of digital development and production for will packer media, is confident that anyone with enough passion and big ideas can sell them in hollywood.
“To anyone who considers content creation as a business model, I’d like to let you know that it’s a seller’s market,” he told business insider. “everyone is buying. you just have to sell them what they’re looking for.”
To help others achieve what she has, Sullivan shared some of the lessons she’s learned along the way with Business Insider. Here are her seven tips for selling an idea in Hollywood.
1. find a gap in the market.
Sure, Hollywood studios and TV networks are focused on franchises right now. why? If an idea was successful in one medium—a book, play, comic book, movie, or TV show—it’s more likely to work well if it’s adapted to another medium. But Sullivan doesn’t think that should scare people away from coming up with original ideas.
“making money in hollywood is very difficult, so people want a proven concept,” sullivan said. “It can be very difficult for someone to want to buy something that originated in your mind if there is nothing proven.”
The reality show was based on her own “fish out of water” story of growing up in New Jersey and moving her family to her husband’s hometown of Alabama. she tapped into the trend of southern-based shows, but wanted to show a different side of the culture.
“We’ve seen the ‘honey boo boo’ version of the South a million times, but what you haven’t seen are the most appropriately beautiful parts of the South that are rich in tradition, culture and etiquette, right?” she said . “what if you take an outspoken jersey girl and put her in the posh part of the south? that’s fun, that’s very commercial, that’s a great idea! i’m creating based on the gaps in the market”.
2. find ways to make your idea appeal to the largest demographic.
“I think the biggest mistake people make when trying to sell an idea is keeping it too narrow,” Sullivan said. “It targets such a small demographic that there’s no way it can be financially successful. Creatives get so attached to their ideas that they’re afraid to make it bigger, because they think it softens them, but it doesn’t really, It gives you a better sales opportunity. The broader and more commercial your idea, the bigger the audience you can target, the better.”
in creating the horror film, “fear followers”, sullivan understood that presenting a film based on the us. uu. capturing the American obsession with fear might be successful, but incorporating the characters’ use of technology to grow their overseas fan base would be successful. give the concept a more global feel. this gave him a much better chance of international success, and in turn gave him a much better chance of selling.
3. keep your speech simple.
sullivan said a good pitch should be one to three sentences long.
“If you can’t summarize what you’re trying to sell in a way that will appeal to the buyer in one or three sentences, you’re overcomplicating it,” he said.
“people push themselves. they feel like they need to give it all in detail. they don’t, because [hollywood is] buying into an idea. a broad concept. you don’t have to know every twist and turn it’s going to take your character. you don’t have to know exactly how season five episode seven is going to work out. that’s not what you’re selling. you’re selling an idea that has potential for longevity.”
4. know your buyer.
one tone does not fit all, said sullivan. she believes launches should be tailored to each potential buyer, so do your research. once again, she used her bravo program as an example.
“I knew my target demo. I knew who would appreciate a girl in a t-shirt screaming live,” he said. “You have to know your buyer and your audience because that’s who you’re buying for. The tone would have been different if ‘Jersey Belle’ had focused on southern food and the experience. It may have gone to Food Network. A chain like tlc would have been a much smoother show. you have to know who you’re talking to. you have to know both about your buyer and your concept.”
5. partner with someone with experience, but not just anyone.
has been developing with blockbuster movie producer will packer for several years. Packer, whose movie “Girls Trip” grossed $30.4 million in its opening weekend in July, has opened several of his movies at No. 1 at the box office. They include “straight outta compton” and the “ride along” and “think like a man” franchises. Together, Sullivan and Packer have partnered on three film projects, including “Break In,” an unscripted show, and two scripted concepts, all based on Sullivan’s original ideas. the field,” he said. “But I strongly advise you not to give the farm away.” Sullivan said he didn’t join Packer just because he had a track record of success, but also because he understood Packer’s vision, process and long-term goals.
“everyone wants the sale and I get it. There is no better feeling for a creative than to be able to turn around and say, ‘someone validated me in buying my idea.’ That is the greatest feeling,” he said. “But if you partner with the wrong people, it can make the process excruciating and heartbreaking. Everything in Hollywood is about vision. If they don’t share your vision, you’ll find yourself contractually tied to someone who doesn’t have the same goals for you.” project like you, and that’s the biggest downfall I think creatives make. They want to sell so badly that they partner with anyone who makes them an offer and then find themselves sidelined while their project is dissected.”
packer told business insider he partnered with sullivan because she impressed him with her vision and ability to know what she sells.
“What sets Jaime apart is his ability to tell specific, vivid stories in an incredibly engaging way,” Packer told us. “in fact, she takes you inside that crazy brain of hers. you’re not listening to a speech, you’re watching a movie. she’s a masterful storyteller and has a stash of business ideas. usually the people i meet have one or the other.”
6. great! He has sold the idea of it to Hollywood, but you may want to keep his day job.
“There’s this misconception that anyone who’s ever sold anything in Hollywood is rich,” Sullivan said. “I would recommend that you have a short-term financial strategy as well as a long-term financial strategy.”
While she and Packer began developing “Breaking In” four years ago and it has since been sold to Universal, Sullivan said that outside of the sale of the treatment, she has yet to see any revenue from that film.
“here’s something a lot of people don’t know: no matter how big a producer’s fee is, they don’t see a dime until the movie is made, and most don’t see a thing until it’s a hit,” she said. “don’t spend the money before the check is in the bank, because most producers spend more than three years working on the project before they see a dime.”
“It can sometimes be a very long and often discouraging road, and you have to be emotionally and financially prepared for setbacks,” he continued. “And I don’t mean there can be hiccups, I want you to listen to me, from launch to production there will be so many hiccups that you’ll wonder why you got into this game in the first place, that’s how many hiccups there will be.” . but if it is your door, if it was for you, it will open. that is a fact: you have to ride the wave and sometimes it takes four years as in my case, sometimes longer, unfortunately.”
But it’s not like Sullivan hasn’t made a profit from selling his ideas, even if it’s not monetary at first. while he recently switched to producing content full-time, he continues to release through his advertising business, bridge and tunnel entertainment, on a much smaller scale. He partners with unique clients, promotes his own projects, and only works on others’ projects when he’s passionate about them.
“I’ll take things that are much more interesting to me, because I can still create a story and bring a narrative to life,” he said. “But my business model has changed. day to day managing talent and working on red carpets, that part of my career is over.”
7. find ways to turn your successful idea into a franchise.
“When you have a successful brand, take your concept and find ways to adapt it to other mediums,” Sullivan said.
In the case of “Jersey Belle,” Sullivan found an opportunity to extend the brand to people who wanted to know more about the experience portrayed on the show, and those who hadn’t seen the show at all, with her book, “The Southern Upbringing of a Jersey Girl”.
And now, the book is being developed into a scripted series.