Winner of the BAFTA Rocliffe New Writing Showcase: Children’s Media, Ben Weiner was chosen to attend MIP Junior this October part of The London Book Fair delegation of publishers.
Read on for Ben’s experience at MIP Junior in Cannes this year.
Going to MIP is like walking into a live action Netflix screen, based on the Riviera. It’s not just the advertising hoardings for every glitzy show you can imagine, and some you definitely can’t. You just need to touch a person and a story unfurls around you. Certainly in my case, there as a BAFTA Rocliffe Screenwriting winner, hopes and dreams centred around thoughts and images. It’s quite beautiful and utterly overwhelming.
You very quickly realise that if you are not at the conference or being represented by someone at the conference your chances of getting your projects on the screen are truly diminished. As one producer said to me: “It helps that you’re here and if you can get your arse over to Miami for Kidscreen all the better.” You’ve got to be in it to win it.
Another executive said to me that whilst Cannes is 90% social and 10% work, MIP is 10% social and 90% work. Whilst it didn’t necessarily feel like that at 2.30am when I was still socialising in the hotel bar it did feel like that at 8am the next morning when the alarm went off and I was out of the room to have a meeting with someone I had not dreamed of being able to talk to three weeks ago about a project I love. It’s not for the fainthearted, but it is an amazing opportunity.
The London Book Fair had provided me a list of those people who would be attending its delegation and events. As soon as you arrive, you are in the bar with them having a drink. It really doesn’t take long before you are pitching your project. You’d better know it inside out because the questions come thick and fast. By the time you’ve told it the thousandth time in two days, you’ll have it down. If people are interested in your project and you, they are incredibly kind and generous with introductions and advice. You’d better be ready because you’re next meeting is in five minutes and you don’t know who it’s with yet.
Over 1500 people attended MIP Junior this year with over 1000 projects represented and over 600 buyers looking for content. They swarm around the Grand Hyatt Martinez looking for the relationship that might make all the difference. Selling ideas is a tricky business. It’s a crazy thought when you are wondering about putting pen to paper on an idea that it could end up here. It’s important to get used to it though. It’s a reality. I soon realised that any nerves needed to be left behind. I had to get on and pitch my project quickly and effectively to get any attention. That said the vast, vast majority of people at MIP are producers, distributors or buyers rather than writers so it is brilliant to be a fly on the wall to witness the side of the business that writers rarely see. Forewarned is forearmed, but however hard I thought it was before I came here, ignorance was insane bliss.
The other side of MIP Junior is the dozens of screenings, mentoring sessions, events and talks that are put on. To hear the thought leaders in any given profession sharing their knowledge is inspiring. There were so many highlights, but to listen to Deirdre Brennan from Corus talking about the kids’ entertainment industry’s responsibility to the younger generation reaffirms what everyone is there for, to develop great, meaningful entertainment for our kids.
Yes, it’s a tough market. Yes, the chances of getting your work out there are slim, but it is totally worth it when the result is a thought sparked off in the head of a child, or a laugh on a grey day, or a different way of understanding the world. It is a privilege to do what we do and everyone I met at MIP Junior seemed refreshingly aware of it and happy to share what motivates them. It’s exciting to be part of a world like that.
In summary, I hope to see you all at Kidscreen in February and definitely the Children’s Media Conference next year. It’s great fun, but remember what a wise woman said in a moment of profound lucidity: “she works hard for the money.”