I’m looking for a writing partner as I turn the page on the new chapter of my journey as an entrepreneur/storyteller.
Last year, the WatchMojo Lady Rebecca and I discussed a goal I had which was to bring the WatchMojo logo to life and create a Mojo character based on that smiley face logo seen billions of times going back 15 years.
My colleague Rosie heads up our WM Studios efforts. I recruited her in 2016 as part of our WM2020 initiative. I have learned so much in terms of development and production.
To put this into context in the Innovation Quadrant would mean more evolutionary/revolutionary projects,
including overseeing the development of our Game Show initiative and wrangling my creative energies into productive channels to convert concepts into reality.
Over the years, I was repped briefly by William Morris, but I didn’t admittedly figure out a way to break through. When I looked at joining and supporting ICM’s plans to acquire Just for Laughs, I got to know the ICM brass and they, too, helped me figure out a better approach, namely: “As most of your ideas are, this is a good one! My only counsel would be to pick the one that you care the most about and let us help you drive it over the finish line.” ICM has been very helpful in clarifying our WM Studio goals and to take smart and decisive action. They’ve been good advisors in an otherwise fairly cutthroat and opaque industry.
Last year I narrowed projects down to a handful.
– One was a network comedy based on a fictionalized version of WatchMojo. That has a lot of potential and the ICM agent whom we discussed it with seemed to agree and in fact helped me refine the angle and show’s engine (one thing I have come to appreciate from ICM is – especially by LA’s fair/unfair standards – they are nothing but candid in telling what makes sense, how things work).
– Another was the game show What the List? which we discussed with the usual suspects. Those talks got derailed by Covid, but since we could execute What the List? during the pandemic, that saw the light of day. Very proud of how that’s going, and while the views aren’t where I’d like them to be, reality is it took me six years of tinkering before finding platform/format fit.
– A third project was the fruit of that Mojo logo idea which led to a “Mojo World” animated series, capturing my fatherhood experiences trying to raise two confident young ladies (now aged 12 and 10). At the onset, I viewed it more like a Peppa Pig-style family where the well-intentioned father thought that he was teaching his kids about confidence and doing well, when in fact, they were teaching him. It’s me taking my everyday exchanges with my clever gals and poking fun at my “self help,” management mumbo jumbo stuff. Very self-deprecating and full of hilarity.
But, while I remain bullish on that idea, I knew that to really give it its best shot, I would need a strong partner. A colleague of ours suggested a neat take on the concept (I tell you? I kill you!) but it wasn’t until Rosie reconnected me with Mark Cope that things just gelled. I met Mark in November 2018 at Vermont’s ITV. Rosie then recognized his production company’s expertise and ability to help us execute on our partnership with Universal Music to promote Jurassic World.
Mark helped me to formulate my experiences and ideas, knew how to write really well and stand out in the cluttered animated comedy space; same way that venture capitalists look to partner a founder with another individual who brings complementary skills, working with someone proven in that space and attaching them from the get-go for alignment would carry more weight when pitching.
Over the past few months, we spent a few hours each week approaching the project, developing the world and characters, and are at a point where “our people” and “Mark’s people” will be taking it out to the usual suspects. I’m quite bullish and excited and as I am prone to do, I think this has the potential to be a massive franchise, bigger (in different ways) than what I built via WatchMojo.
It will be part of WM Studios’ efforts, but instead of it being under the JrMojo umbrella, indeed this is now more of an adult-oriented animated series – which makes sense given my occasional twisted mind, which I cannot exactly channel in my day-to-day life, but which a scripted universe can help me channel!
Entrepreneurship is a way of life
In 2021, I’d like to set my sights on something I’ve long wanted to develop, a universe set in the world of startups and business, touching on the themes of ambition, drive, pride, greed, envy and competition. This, of course, is a world I know all too well.
You don’t need to be clairvoyant to recognize that entrepreneurship is taking over the world: Shark Tank is in its tenth season. Shows like Silicon Valley draw mainstream audiences.
Whereas decades ago kids thought of becoming doctors or lawyers to please mom or dad, then pursued money by seeking to become venture capitalists, investment bankers, hedge fund managers.
Now, everyone dreams of being Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk.
A couple of years ago, when ICM was kind enough to introduce me to Jason Blum, the entrepreneur & director behind the eponymous production shop known for horror, but expanding into more areas. In 2019, I pitched him such a partnership as “Blumhouse based on entrepreneurship” – a production company focused almost singularly on the driven, idealistic masochist characters that are drawn by the unique challenges of launching a business and pouring their all to succeed.
He more or less laughed it off. To be clear, I didn’t necessarily explain it well, since entrepreneurs (the people behind it, driven by insecurities and walking the fine line between good & evil, fear & greed, risk & return, and so on) are what make those stories riveting. But, when he decided to tackle WeWork, I knew I was onto something… but just needed a better approach and the right partner.
Look, I get it: Jason Blum doesn’t need someone like me and I actually respected him more for being candid! Hollywood generally “loves you” and wants to work with you, even if they then disappear and don’t follow through.
But, I’m sure my alter ego is out there. Of course, my alter ego in this sense isn’t just a strong writing partner, but also, the alter ego within me who’s experience tremendous highs and lows, awesome friendships and disappointing betrayal, strong partners who stood by me (and vice-versa) and adversaries who didn’t know what was coming their way.
In 2015, YouTube introduced me to the head of Sonar Entertainment. As we chatted about all of the ideas in my head, I signed a development deal, but we couldn’t connect the dots with the right writer. Being based in Montreal, just the logistical challenges made things more complicated. With the WFH revolution, video calls have become an accepted means of communication during development.
Having matured from that initial process and taken on more realistic expectations, I see the value in developing early on but with the right person who is both best suited to the type of project and whose attachment will generate actual interest when pitching (to justify the lengthy investment in time that development entails).
As such, I am now looking for my alter-ego to develop this new universe, to work weekly with on developing a scripted dramatic universe.
Ideally, I’m looking to connect with a proven writer that has Television writing credits on, or has sold an hour-long scripted drama series. If that sounds like you please have your agent get in touch with me.
Getting Back on Track
In any case, this – and the dreams and impulses we manage to pursue our goals – is a universe I am naturally well-versed in, so if you are a writer who watches shows like Succession, Billions, Mad Men and thinks you can write better stories but lack the insights and experiences of the business world… look no forward. I’ve had a front row seat to the digital revolution as powered by search, social and the rise of mobile and video, with all of the competitive dynamics at play and acted out by a cast of characters driven by greed, ego, pride, and envy! I am confident that combining my inside baseball understanding of the complex world of entrepreneurship with the right writer can help create some of the best stories and characters audiences have yet to see.
Reach out to me, or Rosie, or our friends at ICM. I have a ton of background/supporting information over the years, chronicling the eras and matching them with parallel, conceptual universes. That’s there for the taking, I also realize when you partner with creative people, you have to get out of their way… so I am open to starting from scratch – bringing just my experiences, the highs, the lows, the joys and trauma we experience in this racket.
Oh, I’m not just limited to TV series, though I realize that’s where many of the brightest writers have set their eyes on.
Some of the works I developed early on were in fact features.
I wrote my first screenplay (which I think was more of a manuscript written in screenplay format) in 2002/03 and it was entitled Fiduciary Duty... literally foreshadowed Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes’ alleged fraud. When writers and directors gave me feedback, I kept the good and adapted it to eliminate the bad, it became White Lie… which someone else also envisioned and parlayed into Suits! As it happens with startups, I’ve always said that whenever a creator is building a project, someone else is too, in all likelihood. I ended up shelving that dream and pursued entrepreneurship, building WatchMojo. But the point was always to then build more IP, especially when you have a global audience of 150 million movie and TV show fans!
In fact, my 3rd book The 10-Year Overnight Success – An Entrepreneur’s Manifesto: How WatchMojo Built the Most Successful Media Brand on YouTube was actually intended to be source material for a fictionalized tale on persistence, overcoming the odds, proving the doubters wrong, being ahead of the curve and surviving long enough to thrive. Those who have read it think of The Social Network, or The Founder. I never had a Quaalude period in my life, but I also add Wolf of Wall Street, as well.
If any of this sounds compelling, hit me up.
Since the pandemic hit, I’ve earnestly tried to help others directly and indirectly. I realize that one of the few silver linings of the imposed downtime from the pandemic is time to think and to create… I realize for many of the most fortunate, they’ve kept busy with paid work. But I suspect that there are some talented writers not currently being staffed on a show that are looking for the next universe to probe for good storytelling. In 2021 and the 2020s, I will be committing my attention, considerable resources and energy towards this universe of scripted characters, settings, storylines. If this sounds like a match made in heaven, I’m not hard to find.
Happy holidays, and a healthy – and creative – 2021!