Donkeymentary gallops off with top prize at Summit pitch competition
March 1, 2009

All it took was six minutes, a well-timed joke and a great sizzle reel for Bars Media’s Vardan Hovhannisyan to claim the prize at Realscreen Summit’s So You Think You Can Pitch session, co-produced by City Lights Television and hosted by comedian Chris Wylde. Contestants were competing for a three-month option with City Lights Media on their idea and a free pass to next year’s Summit.

The winning pitch was Donkeymentary, one episode of a six-part series on island life around the world. Donkeymentary focuses on the island of Lamu, Kenya, where donkeys are essential to its economy and way of life. Hovhannisyan follows three characters and their stories: a doctor at the donkey sanctuary, a successful Lamu capitalist, and a boy who dreams of having his own donkey. This light-hearted project is a strategic departure from Hovhannisyan’s last film, A Story of People in War and Peace.

Judges Dirk Hoogstra, VP development and programming at History; Kent Takano, VP programming for Fine Living TV; Elise Warner, director of development at MSNBC; and Dave Noll, president of City Lights Television gave the pitch a score of nine out of 10. Hoogstra said that Hovhannisyan’s tape perfectly set the tone of the series. ‘I would pay good money to see Chris Matthews introduce that one,’ quipped MSNBC’s Warner at the session.

Hovhannisyan says the uplifting nature of his project could be seen as a TV tonic for troubled times. ‘In Lamu, the people don’t care about the financial crisis. Donkeys also don’t care about the financial crisis,’ jokes Hovhannisyan. ‘Donkeys don’t lose their jobs.’

‘It’s been a little complicated explaining that I came in second to the donkey guy from Armenia, but once he got up there, it was like, ‘There’s no beating this guy,” says runner-up Kimberly Carroll of Divine Redhead Productions. Her project, The Bad Girl’s Guide to Enlightenment, is a comedy/lifestyle series that explores sassy methods of self-improvement.

SailorJones Media’s Barbara Jones pitched, a multimedia project for pet owners and enthusiasts.

Randy Harris from pitched Into the Drink, a project that’s part diving show, part beer tour. Harris cleverly coined the term ‘drinking and diving’ for his fun-loving series.

Lastly, Hans Rosenwinkel from Evolution Media pitched The Forgotten War in China, a one-off that takes unseen 16mm film to tell the story of clandestine military involvement in China from 1930 to 1945 by American, British, Australian and European military forces.

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