Update from Jerrol LeBaron Part 2
If you read my previous update, you got a little bit of a feel for why I have been working on moving into other industry related ventures. That article is here: http://www.inktip.com/article_single.php?a_id=60
The problem before has been how to continue to grow while at the same time do what I love to do, which is helping writers get their foot in the door. Just trying to maintain or be conservative about business or life is a sure route to accomplishing nothing.
For me, doing something merely for the sake of profitability has never been enough of a reason to get off the couch. There has to be a need for it, or something that can be improved in order to garner my interest. Of course, one likes to think when starting a business venture that one's efforts will be rewarded. But profit can't be the only reason to do something. There has to be passion about the subject, much in the same way that a writer has a passion for writing and hopes one day to see their creation on the silver screen.
InkTip is a perfect example. I saw a vacuum - writers desperately wanted to sell their scripts and producers, believe it or not, are desperate to find that perfect script for their needs. I saw the Internet as a way to resolve this issue.
So, I started InkTip.com out of an apartment that I was renting in Glendale, California, maxed out the credit cards, rented out one of the rooms in the apartment, and worked my butt off. For two years, I averaged 100 hour work weeks. My wonderfully supportive wife had a day job and helped me in this business evenings and weekends. After the first year, our gross income was $400 a week, with one full time employee. We had been going in the red (if you count building the website before we opened our doors) for 18 months. There were times when we were so frustrated and so tired and overworked that the only way we could stay in our "office" was to pull out a cold one to temper our nerves. My wife one time described this experience to one of her girlfriends by saying, in all seriousness, "I would have had more fun in prison." By the end of the second year, we were finally breaking even and my wife no longer had to have the day job. She was working full time and then some for InkTip. I was now working 80 hours a week. "Why work 9-5 when you can own your own business and work all of the time?" is my overused joke about it.
Without passion, and if it were only for the money, InkTip would never have survived its first year. And as the years went by we gradually became viable, and I know longer had to work those long hours. Whew!! It was worth it to me. I am very proud of what we accomplish for writers on a daily basis.
So, what to do now?
Well, one of the things that began to increasingly bother me is the many pitchfests that promise the world to writers. I didn't particularly have a problem with the fees these events charged, because I knew well what costs are involved. For example, the venue alone can cost 45-65K. There is also all the work involved in setting it up. For my first Pitch & Networking Summit, we went into the red by well into five figures, and our second one broke even. So, the fee itself was not unfair.
The important thing is the results. I started examining these pitching events (all of the major and small ones that I could find). I wanted to find out how many movies were made as a direct result of a writer pitching at an event (where the writer didn't have an "in" with the people who ran the event). I couldn't find a single pitchfest, no matter how many years the company was in business, where even one movie was made - not one! Additionally, if we are talking about scripts sold/optioned, writers hired and writers gaining representation, the ratio of results to writers in attendance is from 1 to 50 to as poor as one to 100.
With that information, and with the knowledge I had from running InkTip, I decided to put my hat in the ring. Our first Pitch & Networking Summit resulted in 17 scripts sold/optioned, writers hired or writers obtaining representation. As far as I can tell, we set the record for any pitching event ever held. At our first event the success ratio was 1 in every 21 writers. Wow! That is impressive. And at our second one, from the figures that are coming in, it looks like it will be about 25% better. This doesn't count the scores of others who have been able to establish good relationships with legitimate companies for their future projects.
One of the concerns I had about putting on a pitching event is how it would affect the writers who place their scripts on InkTip. Would these pitching events reduce the amount of exposure writers on the site were getting? I wasn't sure. So, I kept a very close eye on this. The interesting thing is that holding these pitching events actually improved things for writers with scripts on the site. We went from 3.4 scripts sold/optioned or writers hired every week, and 20 -21 movies made every year to 5 scripts a week and already having 25 movies made by September of 2011.
The way it worked out is we would invite the industry professionals we knew to this event. However, these folks always had qualified friends who were looking for scripts and wanted to come too. About 1/3rd of all the producers in attendance were new to InkTip. Of course, we set them up for access to InkTip after the event, and voila!! More results for writers.
So, from my view, even if the Pitch & Networking Summits never made any kind of real profit, it is worth it to continue to do them.
So there you have it: my reason for putting on the Pitch & Networking Summit.
By the way, my political documentary (kind of a David and Goliath story) is now in the last stages of editing. More on that in another update.
25 movies have been made through InkTip in 2011 alone!!! And hundreds more writers have sold/optioned their screenplays by having their scripts on InkTip.com. Go here to register. Go here to list your scripts.