Words cannot describe how I feel about this win. It was unexpected, it was exhausting, it was worth it.
Tale of shadows is the story of a monster named Boris, tasked with protecting a forest from the destruction of human beings. One day an 8 year old girl enters his life and changes his heart towards humanity.
This amazing story is all the work of Animator and 3D Generalist Corretta Singer. She created the characters, wrote it and animated it. She called me one day and asked me to be a part of her team. She recruited me as a supporting writer and someone with some skill set in pitching and business presentations.
I was honoured and privileged to be given the opportunity to be on her team. I had long been a fan of her work and particularly Tale of Shadows. When asked to join, I did not hesitate. I knew the boot camp would be grueling, but knowing it did not prepare me for experiencing it.
I met with my team Corretta Singer and Dele Adams a writer, filmmaker and voice actor who previously contributed to the project as the voice of Boris. We got along immediately, It was evident Corretta picked a team that was on the same wavelength as her, as we were at her disposal, and what ever she wanted, that's what we aimed to give her. We were not there to change her idea, only to enhance it, so we came in with no egos.
We met with our competitors from Trinidad, Jamaica and the U.S. whom were all really nice people. with amazing projects and competitive but friendly and encouraging.
We met one of our coaches, Caiphus Moore from EA Games and man was he hilarious but full of knowledge.
We had breakfast and met the rest of our coaches, Camille Sevlon, David Soutar, D'Oyen Williams and Caiphus Moore, then everyone introduced themselves and the fun began. We went through a series of exercises and each team lead went up and pitched. After which we received comments and we had to go back to the drawing board to refine our pitch. The refinement process took us all the way back to the wee hours of the morning. We were ready!
Day 2 (Mock Pitch Day)
We were nervous, but we knew we covered everything and it was time to reggae. The other teams pitched and they were quite thorough. We went up and we pitched but took so much time transitioning from one point to the next that we ran out of time quickly. We finished our presentation right on the edge. We sounded rushed and hence the energy wasn't consistent.
The judges were sorely disappointed. We focused on the wrong things and came in guns blazing with water for ammo.
That night we were exhausted and running on little sleep, but we refused to rest and carried on. At one point we became tired drunk, you know when you are so tired, your train of thought gets derailed just breathing? Yeah! We made jokes to keep awake and we were entertained by the staff of the hotel who would drop and break a glass almost every hour on the hour.
Eventually however, the sandman won the battle and we all went to bed by 2 a.m. I think.
Day 3 (Day of the pitch)
Woke up the next day and after a later start we were at it again trying to fine tune our business side and memorize our creative side of the pitch. We had a trick up our sleeve we weren't sure how it was going to be received, but it was the only way we thought it should have been executed.
The pitch had 3 segments:
1. The concept
2. The management of the production
3. Marketing and merchandise
The auditorium was teeming with about 400 seats filled. We opted to go last strategically so that we could observe the other teams and make any last minute adjustments. Due to a glitch in the Matrix, we some how got scheduled first after an impromptu coin toss...literally! I hooked up the laptop and Murphies Law kicked in. The projector was not connecting. At first I thought something was wrong with the laptop settings so I was desperately fiddling around. The long wait was awkward and had me and the team sweating. We gave up and let the next team present but they had the same issues, so it was the projector that was failing us. Eventually a technician sorted it out and we were back in businesses presenting second. Then the audio decided to crap on us, but that got sorted out too.
Stage 1 we did the first round I thought really well, but the judges comments, though they liked it, they also thought it was too dark. There was only one judge from Spain who had no problems with it and thought it was excellent right through. At this point we thought we were behind because everyone thought our story was too heavy for kids.
Stage 2 came and we presented a simple plan explaining what we needed to get the production done, how much it would cost and what the money would go towards. This was one of the most difficult sections we prepared for. We crunched the numbers and they were scary, but we decided look, it costs what it costs, we have to just be real about that and let them know. If they say we are being too ambitious, we would just have to defend it and move on. After all these are executives, they already know what it will cost, so if we give too low a figure in an attempt to look attractive, they would have seen immediately that our budget was lacking. I strongly believe our approach worked in our benefit.
Stage 3 was the ultimate stage. We simply took out an action figure of Boris and set him in front of the judges. There was immediate pandemonium in the crowd. I saw some jaws dropping. This was our secret weapon, jumping off the screen on to the judges desks. I even saw judges taking selfies with it.
In the end it was down to Tale of Shadows and Bim and Bam from Trinidad. We HONESTLY thought we were going to place second because Bim and Bam was impressive, it was solid, the characters were super cute, the intro vid was fun, the presentation was comprehensive. So when we realized Tale of Shadows came first, we all had to process for 2 seconds before realizing what just happened. The win was so paralyzing that we ended up leaving the auditorium long after everyone left and while the care taker was cleaning up and giving us the evil eye to leave.
It was as if a huge feel of relief and fatigue that took over.
Award Day was here and we were tired. Oh so tired, but there were too many good workshops and business connection meetings to pass up. I attended the "How to pitch to Cartoon Network" ,"How to create a winning Pitch Bible" and "How to choose a winning team". Literally had to have a 5 minute power nap before the ceremony.
I will spare you the details of the ceremony itself and cut to the chase. "Tale of Shadows" won 2nd place for best Caribbean Short; Best Jamaican Product and of course as already stated, best pitch. Nothing can compare to this feeling and though we won, this is only the beginning as we already have to be focusing on what next. In fact even at the after party we were discussing our next steps.
This was a hell of a ride, and it was only the beginning. I look forward to the rest of the journey.