Wright Words: Why I said ‘no’ to 'Shark Tank'

Published: Tuesday, July 15 2014 5:00 a.m. MDT

Updated: Tuesday, July 15 2014 5:32 p.m. MDT

My family first discovered ABC’s “Shark Tank” two seasons ago. We’d been fishing for shows we could watch together, and it didn’t take long before we were hooked. (Get it? Hooked? Like a shark?)

Like millions of viewers, we enjoy watching the entrepreneurs go into the “tank,” as they say, and make their case for capital. Everyone has a favorite investor, or “shark,” and we enjoy trying to predict who will get a deal.

For nearly as long as I’ve been watching the show, I’ve been itching to cast my own line. A few months ago, I finally decided to approach them with a business appropriately called “Wednesday Letters — The Movie.” The company wraps together everything associated with the novel and brand and seeks to get the film made with all the accompanying merchandise, tie-ins, etc.

I’ve raised some funds over the past year and I’ve committed to getting the film made after a number of false starts. But high hurdles remain in this very competitive marketplace, and more than one potential partner has been shy about the book’s Christian elements. (That’s a topic for another column.)

Filling out the applications and submitting the video took much longer than expected, but I pushed on because the more I spelled out the ideas on paper and film, the more excited I became about the prospects. For the first time in forever, I could close my eyes and imagine myself buying a ticket and eating overpriced popcorn.

When I mentioned on Facebook that I was applying, it became one of my most commented, shared and like posts. Even strangers who recognized me around town asked how it was going and wished me luck.

I knew, of course, that others had tried and failed in the tank with film ideas. The glaring difference was that to my knowledge, no one else had pitched the sharks with proven source material. This wouldn’t be some pitch with two guys wanting to make a generic movie about motorcycle racing. This is taking a best-selling book with a large, passionate international fan base and adapting it to the big screen.

Not long after submitting my video and application, I received encouraging phone calls and emails from producers of the show. They asked me to submit an even longer application, by hand, and to rush the documents as soon as possible for an upcoming meeting. They asked, “How quickly can you do this?”

I camped by my inbox waiting for the new application to arrive. I expected the questions to be more detailed than what I had previously submitted, but I also knew they’d taken a pretty good look under the hood already.

When I opened the document, I couldn’t tell if I was applying for a reality show or for a job with the Secret Service. Candidates being vetted for vice president have been asked fewer questions. About the only thing they didn’t ask is why in the fourth grade at Rose Hill Elementary School I routinely selected tater tots over fries (the fries were too salty).

Though I’m obviously no expert, I think I understand the abundance of caution. It seems every year we read about someone being kicked off one show or another for not having previously revealed some interesting nugget. The last thing the producers and networks want is “Entertainment Tonight” or “TMZ” reporting embarrassing facts about a racist rant, a DUI conviction or some other disqualifying detail.

So, to prevent this as best they can, they require a level of disclosure unlike anything I’d ever seen before. For example, one of the questions required me to list the name and airdate of every talk show or news broadcast I’ve ever appeared on. Considering my current career, and my previous work as a political talking head, solving the immigration crisis might be an easier assignment than reconstructing every television appearance of my life.

As I started the application, it became clear that even if I could gather all the details, including a lot of personal information, some of the items were off limits. I discovered that a few of their requirements conflicted with other confidentiality agreements I’ve already signed for other legal matters and business transactions.

Simply put — giving “Shark Tank” everything it wanted would mean disclosing information others don’t want me to share.

That night I discussed the dilemma with my wife and together we decided that rather than try to work around the conflicts, it was best to decline the opportunity to proceed and to move on. There was no guarantee I’d make the final cut anyway, and bowing out felt right.

Naturally, we remain huge fans of the show and can’t wait to see what’s in store for the fall season. We wish the producers and everyone who appears the very best.

Finally, as I’ve written before, I’ve been very familiar all my life with fishing for failure. But no matter how many times I find failure on the hook, I’ll always throw my line back out and take another shot.

Why? Because you won’t catch anything unless you’re fishing in the first place.

Jason Wright is a New York Times best-selling author of 10 books, including "Christmas Jars" and "The Wednesday Letters." Learn more at jasonfwright.com, or connect on Facebook at facebook.com/jfwbooks or by email at jwright@deseretnews.com.

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