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Spotlight Interview: Tales from a Badass Development Executive, Part Two

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In last month’s article I shared Part I of my interview with my Badass Development Executive friend. We talked about her background, the production company that she works for, their focus on different materials, and what the actual development process looks like. Today, we are going to jump back into a conversation about development and then talk about what tips my BDE has for budding writers.


How many projects will you have in development at one time?

At this point we have five that have already been pitched and are set up somewhere, one that is about to start production, eight projects that are either written or in the process of being written, and then ten that are still in the idea stage and now we are just looking for a writer for.

Because I know it is constantly evolving, what does a pitch package entail right now?

In my experience so far, we will just have the writer come in a couple times and do a pitch document for us, but we don’t usually hand that over to the network. We usually just come in and pitch them the project verbally and then they decide from there if they want to move forward.

One exception, however, is if the writer is newer and has less credits. If the writer has less credits, then we will often hand over more information as well as a writing sample to show the skill of the writer.

What does the pitch document entail?

I have seen many different versions, but it is usually just the entire story laid out beat by beat. If it is a feature, it is usually laid out in different “Acts.” If there is fun dialogue somewhere in the script they will often include some of that. For a pilot it is often 3 pages, for a feature it is usually 5 pages, but obviously that varies.

I know in a lot of businesses you have to hop around to different companies so you can continue to climb up the ladder. Do you feel like that is the same for you and this job?

For me, as long as I am continuing to learn and grow every day, that is the most important thing. Also, because this production company is so small, I feel like I have a lot of access to both the projects and the process, but also to my boss. I feel like she is a complete wealth of knowledge and definitely a mentor in my career.

That is so important! So amazing to find someone who will continue to push you to the next level.

Yes, absolutely. I also feel that the projects at this company are all projects that I really care about and love, and I would love to see them through as much as possible.

What is your biggest disappoint so far with work? Either a project that didn’t go, or a personal experience?

It is always very disappointing when we think a project is perfect for someone and then they pass on it. You never want to get your hopes too high, but it is always hard when you really think that you’ve found a good match and then it ends up being incorrect. That is definitely something I have learned from my experience. Even if a project and a network seem to be perfect for each other, there is always reasons why a deal won’t get through and a project will be dead in the water.

It is also disappointing when you get a soft no. When they say, “well maybe later.” “This just isn’t a project we are interested in right now,” but we often can’t wait for them to be ready. We can’t build a business on “maybes.”

Biggest success?

It is always really exciting when a big company will decide to partner with us. It is so nice to have that validation that a project we believe in really has a future and other people believe in it as much as we do.

What advice do you have for writers who are looking to pitch to production companies?  

I feel like most of our writers come in to us through managers or agents that pitch writers to us. They always send us a spec script or writing sample, so that is definitely the most important part of a writer’s toolbox. Even if you have credits, you still have to have work to prove that your writing can stand on its own. Obviously, if you write across several genres you need to have samples from every genre.

Some writers do come to us just because my boss knows them, so it is so important that even as a writer you are always networking and meeting people who work in other aspects of the business.


Interestingly, even though I am not a writer, I found myself so connected with so many of the points my BDE friend made. Clearly, in every aspect of the business, it is important to understand the importance of expanding your network, constantly work on your craft, and understand that there are no rules to this industry game; but when the stars align, and your project falls into the hands of someone who is looking for a voice like yours, magic happens.

Learn anything yet? My Badass Development Executive is a wealth of amazing knowledge! Have any specific questions you wish to ask her? Tweet me at www.twitter.com/deborah_lsmith or DM me at www.instagram.com/deborah_lsmith!

Deborah Lee Smith

About Deborah Lee Smith

Deborah Lee Smith is an actress and producer whose love of performing, storytelling, and new experiences has led to filming projects around the world. Originally from LA, she studied Theater and English Lit at UC Berkeley before moving to Australia to pursue her master’s degree in Film Production. She started acting in the Australian film industry before returning to LA and diving head first into acting and discovered a love of producing. Currently, she has two films in post-production that she has starred in, and has received several awards for her acting and producing work. Additionally, she has partnered with another incredible female producer to create Deep Sea Pictures, a full-service production company that has several projects in various stages of development. She believes in working hard, playing hard, exploring the world, and supporting others to tell stories that expand our understanding of the world and the people, places, and things that reside within it!