Friday, May 04, 2012

MAN ON A MISSION - InkTip's Gato Scatena

Gato Scatena is passionate about what he does. He has a vision for a future where and the InkTip Pitch Summit become the industry's #1 talent farm. And from the looks of things, he may just pull it off. The 30-year-old from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, has put his UC Santa Cruz film and digital media degree to good use as Vice President of InkTip and President of InkTip Summit Events. In 2010, he and InkTip President Jerrol LeBaron set out to rethink the screenplay pitch festival. The result: the InkTip Pitch Summit, which raises the bar by greatly increasing the number of executives attending and maximizing the number of pitches writers can make (now averaging over 40.) We caught up with Gato, knee-deep in planning Pitch Summit IV (September 21 and 22, 2012 – discount tickets are on sale now) to find out exactly how InkTip connects so many writers and executives.

by Jim Cirile

Jim Cirile (JC): Hi, Gato! Appreciate your time. What was the genesis of the InkTip Pitch Summit?

Gato Scatena
Gato Scatena (GS): Thanks, Jim. Jerrol (LeBaron, InkTip founder) had been wanting to do some kind of an event that was primarily focused on the executives that we cater to, because there are a good number of executives out there who are still pretty old-school, and they prefer face-to-face meetings. A large percentage of those types of people tend to be in the upper echelon of producing anyway, more studio-level guys. Second to that, we were approached by a couple of other pitching events, trying to get us to sponsor them. I started attending events and sending my staff. If we sponsor something, we’ve got to be able to vouch for it.  Jerrol and I came to the same conclusion, that there was a big gap between claims and actual performance. So we set out to find a way to do an event that would actually yield results. We weren’t going to execute anything unless we knew that we could exceed expectations of our target audience.

JC: You guys changed the paradigm pretty effectively, with the key innovation being pitching to three execs at a time, not just one.

GS: Thanks, yeah, I thought that was my idea, but Jerrol swears it was his (laughs.) Statistically, we had to bring roughly three times as many executives to our Summit compared to the next most populated pitching event, which brings about 100, in order to get movies produced. There are several advantages to this.

JC: Obviously, the first is simple math: the more people you can pitch your script to, the more potential connections you can make.

GS: Right. And there are other advantages as well. If you sit down and you’ve got three executives there, you can have two of them who are bored -- maybe they’ve been having a rough day, they’re not in the mood -- but all it takes is one guy who might be interested (in the pitch) and asks just the right question from a producer’s point of view. All of a sudden, it starts this conversation where one or two of the other executives want to get involved. It’s an obvious social dynamic that we all know can occur, but to put it into this format was a new thing. The other important reason behind it was statistics. We simply had to fit more producers in order to ensure that we were going to have movies produced off the very first Summit, which we did. As far as I know, to this date we are the only pitching event with confirmed movies produced. A nice little cherry on top was that at all these other events, it’s really easy for executives to get fatigued as the day goes on. We found that by adding extra executives to the table, they’re keeping one another awake by talking to each other throughout the day.

JC: So what’s the trick to getting over 300 executives to show up?

GS: The primary trick -- and I love it -- is that we’re We work with these executives 365 days a year. They subscribe to the executive newsletters; we’re in constant contact with them. We have an entire department over here, the entertainment pro department, and all they do is make sure that the producers are finding exactly what they’re looking for, whether it’s scripts or writers. We have a really good rapport with all these executives. So we have sort of an advantage there. The scariest change that we made vis-à-vis other pitching events was that we weren’t going to offer any sort of stipend or payment for executives to attend. We felt that by offering money to attend, number one, it’s going to send the wrong message.

Scatena with InkTip founder Jerrol LeBaron.
Number two, I know a lot of them offer $100 stipends. $100 just isn’t enough to attract an executive that you actually want there. So then you’re just kind of putting fans in the stands. And three, there was this precedent set by all the other events. If you’re an executive, you know you can find material through us. We’ve got over 150 (produced features.) If you’re looking, we want you to come and help you find good stuff. If you’re not looking, we’re not going to incentivize you to fake it.  That said, every executive that attends does cost us $150 to $200-plus for food, beverage, parking and so forth. 

 JC: At the Pitch Summit I attended, I saw all the execs hobnobbing before the event started. That’s got to be a huge perk for them as well.

GS: One result that we didn’t plan for is that executives love coming to the Summit now because of their networking opportunities. That has led to more options, sales and movies produced. These guys start talking to each other, and they find ways to make certain deals work.

JC: Pitch Summit III went buttery smooth last month. You guys obviously put a lot of effort into listening to the feedback from attendees of previous Summits.

GS: This last one just ran insanely smooth. But the thing that makes Jerrol and I the most proud is that we were advertising that every writer was going to be able to pitch 35, and for us to breach 40 pitches per writer on average was great. This was the first time where we didn’t really have any complaints. From here on out, it’s smaller things. For example, after meeting so many executives -- at other events you’re meeting about 12 people face to face. At Summit III, I believe the average number of companies pitched was 42. It gets a little hairy trying to keep track of everybody that you’ve met. So one note we got was, “If you guys could find a way to make it easier to follow up with them, that’d be awesome.” So we’re wrestling with either using different nameplates or having cards available at every table for the writers to just grab.

JC: And how about results?

GS: The majority of our writers were getting requests from over 50% of the companies they were pitching. All in all, we’re just doing a great job on one, attracting serious writers, and two, we’re getting into a really sweet spot in terms of attracting the right executives. A lot of material is getting optioned through us at this point. Movies are getting produced. That’s what we’re here to do. We’ve got another eight options and writers repped that have been confirmed from this last Summit last month. We actually had for or five options that happened on the spot, at the event. We’re trying to knock it out of the park on the next one and continue to up our success rate.

JC: Thanks so much for the peek behind the curtain, Gato!


InkTip Pitch Summit IV is September 21st and 22nd at the Burbank Marriott. Tickets are available now Hurry! Super Saver deadline is Friday, May 18th. Register now and save up to $95 on your passes. 

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