Pitching the Undercover Boss

th-1.jpegwww.LisaHaganBooks.com

In a wide ranging series of questions for uber-agent Sandra Martin, author of SNAPSHOTS, comes this hilarious story of following your heart and getting a show on the Discovery Channel. Not bad for a dreamer, Sandra.

1. A part of your career included television. What did you produce?

Early on I realized the power of television. I rarely watched it then, and rarely watch it now. I always had a good book that seemed far more interesting than television. But I’d listen to friends go on and on about a television series they were “caught up in” and worry about characters and what was going to happen next week.

When I had my first television series in Norfolk, Virginia, I always over compensated on research, then I worried about appropriate questions or smart meaningful questions. Sometimes, I knew more about the subject than the person I was interviewing. Generally, they’d written their book years before and I had, most often, read it that very week, so was really up on the subject.

Overcompensating, as usual. I prayed that whatever I said or asked would be enlightening and entertaining to the audience. That first interview, I was nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs. We taped on Tuesday and the show aired on Thursday nights at 7. I never watched it. I was already onto the next guest and research. I did get over being nervous. In fact, I totally enjoyed it.

Having my face on television was something that took me a while to get used to-as I guess it does everyone. People would stop me on the street and launch into a discussion about last week’s guest and I’d fumble along. It was strange. I loved the research, I loved the process, I wasn’t all that crazy about everyone knowing who I was.

Dreams had always been super important in my life and after my turn at my own series, I decided I’d rather develop documentaries. My Mom was an excellent dream interpreter and I was surrounded by Edgar Cayce expects on dreams. Dream researchers, Henry Reed and Bob van de Castle often spoke at ARE and I was the sponge gathering dream knowledge.

I started writing up a treatment about dreams while still living in Virginia Beach and once I thought it was ready, I pitched it to the networks, ABC, CBS, and NBC. They all said no.
During this time, I had a long series of dreams about Ted Turner.

I thought, what the heck, I’ll call Turner Broadcasting and see who the head of development is and send in a proposal.

Even though I was dreaming about Ted, I never thought I’d talk with him or even ever meet him. Dreams were about symbols and he was my TV symbol. He’d come out of left field and created an entirely new television channel-mostly Atlanta Braves baseball games and old movies. Not big money documentaries, but who knows, maybe TBS was up for something new. He was very successful-obviously-and I hoped to be the same.

One morning, I got my nerve up and dialed the number, asked for the head of development, and after a few strange exchanges, I was put through. A voice that seemed familiar answered and I jumped in-one of my vices in life, don’t hesitate, and spewed out my idea for a long series on dreams. I told him about how General George Patton dreamed about battles plans and how Abraham Lincoln dreamed about his own death – and on and on.

He said very little, just listened. After I was done and had wound down, and he had a tiny opening to jump in, he said,” That sounds interesting. Come over and show me what you’ve got.”

I asked, “Who do I ask for?” and he said, “Ted Turner, you’re talking to him.”

Our appointment was for the following week and I was an anxiety filled as any one person could be for the entire week. Plus I was going to be staying with my in-laws, who were not all that fond of me. Just one anxiety on top of another.

I flew down to Atlanta, my in-laws picked me up and I stayed with them overnight and drove their big Mercedes downtown to Turner Broadcasting. In Virginia Beach, my car was a Toyota Starlet: a roller skate on weeks. That Mercedes was big.

Turner Broadcasting was in a big anti-bellum house converted into offices. The entire drive down I was praying, reciting positive affirmations and hoping for the best.

I’m not sure why I was so nervous about meeting Ted, Mr. Turner, since I’d been dreaming about him for months. Or maybe I was nervous because I’d been dreaming about him-in one dream we were sailing, in another we were signing contracts at his desk surrounded by models of sailboats and another dream, we were eating fried chicken, in another we were dancing and I was amazed at how strong he was – very positive dream images.

Finally I was standing at the front desk. I was so nervous that I broke out in a total body sweat. I was dripping water off my chin. I had never and have never since had that happen to me.

The poor receptionist was trying to be helpful. She gave me a tissue, called up to Mr. Turner’s office and an elegant and beautiful woman came down the curved steps with a puzzled, questioning look on her face. She asked my name and asked me why I thought I had an appointment with Mr. Turner. I poured out my story of our conversation.

She and the receptionist looked at each other and then back at me and said, “Mr. Turner let his head of programming go the day before and Mr. Turner thought he’d sit at his desk to see what he’d been doing.”

So, I said, “I happened to call that one day he was sitting there?”

“Yes.”

She said that’d she’d ask “someone” to come and listen to my proposed series and she was very sorry that Mr. Turner had been called away for the day. She said, “Sometimes he is so busy that he forgets to give…”

I told her that was okay, she didn’t need to call anyone to talk with me, but she was determined. About twenty minutes later, two men came down those same steps, and escorted me to a conference room, where I pitched my Dreams series. They were polite, and non-committal.

I gave them my fancy proposal. Then they were determined to take me around and show me the entire office complex, the CNN set, meet people that might be interested in my subject. Throughout I protested that all of this wasn’t necessary because I understood what had happened. On top of everything, these two men, the vice president of TBS and the vice president of CNN took me to lunch.

On the drive back to the in-laws, I heard on the radio that Raquel Welch was in town promoting her yoga video and that Ted Turner was escorting her around.

Oh.

A few weeks later, I received the nicest letter from the VP of TBS saying “Your proposal on dreams is fascinating, but it is not right for Turner Broadcasting.”

I put the dream proposal on a back burner until I moved to New York City and started pitching it again. Eventually Discovery committed to produce it.

Of course, that is a long story, too, but with a happy ending.


To order more of these great stories with some recipes thrown in (stories need to be told with food), click on the title: SNAPSHOTS: Memories and Recipes 

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Visit on Facebook at ShadowteamsNYC or Beth Wareham

 

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