Playing your Ace at MIPCOM

The founder of Melbourne-based production company Galaxy Pop,  Gian Christian, shared his experiences with his animated series Get Ace at this year’s MIPCOM with Encore.

Well… It’s a long way to go. But I don’t have to tell any Australian who has done the trip that. Your commitment level is tested as soon as you walk onto that plane. It would be nice to one day turn left when boarding, or even go up the stairs, but until then, I keep telling myself that when I get off this plane at the other end, I’m $4000 richer for not going Business. Of course that’s hard to remember when you’re cramped up in economy for over 28 hours sitting next to a man whose feet smell worse than a freshly manured lawn.

From the moment Dina McPherson, Galaxy Pop’s Co-Founder and Head of Creative and I arrived in Cannes this year, it was non-stop. The days went by in a blinding speed with 48 meetings schedule over the three days. Not to mention the many parties, cocktails, lunches and dinners. What can you say about MIP… the glamour, the stars, the red carpet… the Bunker – the somewhat affectionate name Aussies give the area within the Palais inhabited by the Screen Australia Stand. Being stuck down in the Bunker all day can sometimes lead you to forget you’re in the beautiful South of France, but oddly enough, it starts to feel like home.

That’s because MIP has become an important annual trip for us. This year, Galaxy Pop went to the international market with a diverse slate of programming from completed series to a recently commissioned animation series, to a couple of shows we have in development – even our first prime time series. We met with a range of broadcasters, distributors and potential production partners all in an effort to move each project to the next important step or even close a few deals.

Although this was our fifth year at MIP, I’m still dazzled by the amount of product out there. Just walking the floor of the Palais can be a sensory overload… it’s an eye popping extravaganza full of colour, noise, advertising, energy and even the odd costume characters. This year they were launching the new Hawaii Five-O series and my frantic racing from meeting to meeting, from one end of the Palais to the other, was underscored by the Hawaii Five-O theme. Dina and I stopped for a moment – listened and tried to work out why it’s so bloody good. Whatever the magic formula, it certainly helped to put a spring back into our sore, bandaided feet.

An important part of this year’s trip for us was to secure presales for our newly picked up animated series Get Ace. The series, commissioned by Network Ten, is about the comedic action adventures of 12-year-old nerd Ace McDougal, who is catapulted into one thrilling adventure after another when he is accidentally fitted with some super cool, high-tech spy braces. This seems to go down well with international broadcasters and lead us to one of those moments when the planets align and a unique opportunity pops up – a Get Ace pitch meeting with 10 top international Disney heads, all together, in one room. We arrive at the meeting and wait for what seems an eternity for them to be ready for us. In reality, probably only a couple of minutes. Dina and I are both keen to get in and pitch like we’ve never pitched before. At the very last minute, nerves get the better of Dina and she decides to make a quick bathroom stop. “They’re ready” – I call to her and start walking in but sense something’s up. No Dina – she’s still in the bathroom – the door’s stuck! Terror sweeps over me. I go in to investigate only to find Dina hurling her tiny frame against the bathroom door. She bursts out and looks at me like she’s just summoned the strength of Lara Croft. I think to myself – what a woman! We fix our hair and head in… they’re waiting. Dina and I sit in the middle of a semi circle and begin our pitch. Suddenly my mouth’s drier than Stephen Fry’s wit and I wonder if taking a sip from an execs glass would kill the pitch. Probably… so I decide against it. Soon I see smiles appear on some faces, some head nods, even the odd chuckle – and what was that… a laugh? The next few minutes go by in a blur. Dina, as always, pitched beautifully.

This year was a particularly good year for Australia producers at MIPCOM, with a specific focus made on Australia through the Spotlight on Australia events held through the week. There was certainly a buzz down in the Bunker. Screen Australia had done an amazing job of promoting us Aussies to the rest of the world. We had a cocktail party with fabulous food by Aussie chefs, networking sessions, discussion forums, more drinks and a wonderful lunch.

There was also the addition of two great initiatives for this year. Firstly, Screen Australia ran a very successful Australian Children’s Content Matchmaking event in collaboration with UK based Creative Loops, an international Media Consultancy specialising in co-productions and assisting Film, Television and Digital Media Producers to secure deals. The event focused on connecting Australian children’s content creators with international commissioners, distributors and producers hoping to forge potential co-production partnerships, a very worthwhile cause indeed. For Dina and I, it was a great success. Despite the blurry eyes of some of the broadcasters, who’d obviously been partying to the wee hours, we managed to forge a bunch of great new relationships, got a project picked up for development and made a presale for Get Ace. We’re not sure if it was the brilliance of our pitch or if the broadcasters still had that party feeling from the night before or perhaps it was the free breakfast that did it (those pastries were really good) either way, we had a very successful morning.

Secondly, Screen Australia and Telefilm Canada organised introductory meetings for Australian and Canadian MIPCOM participants to explore Australia / Canada co-production opportunities and further develop their projects. Another great idea and one that has created a distributor for one project and a co-producer for another.

Screen Australia did a fantastic job this year showcasing us Aussies and expanding on what we usually generate from the trip. Australian producers are pretty lucky in that regard, other countries don’t get such benefits or support.

On the plane on the way home we both had big smiles on our faces, no we hadn’t been upgraded to Business, we were still stuck in economy hell – jammed in next to an incessant talker and surrounded by a sea of wailing babies and coughing old people. At that moment, the man with the smelly feet suddenly didn’t seem such a bad travel companion after all. Our smiles were from the sense of accomplishment that we’d had a great MIP, made some great new contacts, managed to move our projects forward, did some deals and made a decent sale on our preschool series ROCK IT!

Whilst MIP this year was exhausting, it was also exhilarating. It’s a very exciting place to be.


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