Years ago, I came up with a TV concept for an awards show called “The Character Actor Awards.” Why honor character actors? Because they are tried and true, immensely talented actors who, time and again, give the most memorable performances yet never get the accolades they deserve.
I liked the idea of finally having overly praised A-listers pass the baton to the podium and give character actors one night in the spotlight. Character actors have mantles too, after all.
I spent months researching and preparing my pitch for this show, but I knew from the get-go that this was not going to be an easy sell.
Typically, networks don’t think the risk of spending a lot of money on a one-off special is smart business. When they do spend the money, it’s in order to ‘rent’ big names for the night and put them on their network in hopes of a rating win. It’s basically a promotional opportunity.
I was also up against market saturation, the perception that there were already too many award shows on TV. I agreed, there were too many awards shows — too many that honor the same .5% of the actors working in Hollywood, that is. There was not one awards show that honored the other 99.5% of working actors. I understand the power and draw of lead actors; that’s why the .5% would be invited to present the awards to their character actor peers. See, everybody wins!
Before I pitched, I thought it would be smart to prove to potential buyers that people would tune in. But how? This wasn’t the type of show where I could shoot a seven-minute presentation tape or package attachments. I couldn’t rely on past successful, original character-actor-driven content to point to, because nothing like what I was proposing had been done before.
I decided to get clever and call on my knowledge of marketing and my relationships with the entertainment media to conduct a field test of sorts. My approach was simple: to pitch the press on the concept of the show, and if they wrote about it, that would prove that the topic was relevant to their readers. If it was relevant to readers, then it would substantiate my argument that the show would be relevant to the network’s viewers.
I landed serious press: E! Online, The New York Post, Media Week, The Orange County Register and several others. The positive press response proved that this topic had mass appeal. But was it enough?
I was ready to pitch. With my treatment and the press I had generated I thought I had a very strong package. I set up meetings with the networks and cable channels. Everyone passed on the show. Behind the scenes, I got pats on the back and was told the concept was solid and approaching the press was creative and impressive — but not one offer.
Years later, I still hold out hope that one day something will rekindle this show. I don’t know … maybe a well-placed blog on a reputable entertainment website?
Interesting metaphor: an industry that makes billions on stories about underdogs achieving success and they have the opportunity to highlight these very underdogs in the form of the Character Actor Awards and they take a pass? Or do they …