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    Sunday, March 29, 2009

    The Pitch

    Pitching is an odd thing. Basically what you are doing is trying to convince a production company head or studio executive that they should read your work, and then give you money to make it, or help you find the money. In the case of film you have somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes to do so. The advice I’ve been given was keep it short, between 10 and 15 min., and sell the first act heavy, the second act strongly, and by the time you get to the third act, they’re either interested or not. Two hours of movie condensed into 1/8th of the time. I was also forwarded a useful quote by Terry Gilliam on the subject of pitching by an old friend I’ve recently become reacquainted with.

    "Move your hands a lot. It makes them think something's happening."

    In my case, this past Friday, I was pitching a TV series idea to the head of a production company. More than that, I was supposed to have two other of my TV series ideas in my pocket to soft pitch after the main pitch.

    Now, the way I got the meeting was that my script was read and agreed on unanimously by the four “gate keepers” of the company to be moved forward for the Principal to read. When I arrived however, he had not yet had a chance to read it, so I changed tactics a bit and pitched the entire two hour pilot, act by act.

    I’d woken at 5:00 AM, and between 5 and 6:30, I had knocked out a rough two and a half page outline of the script. I did this so if I got lost or confused during the pitch, I’d have it to remind me where I was and what happened next. It turns out I needed it more than I knew.

    I arrived on the Lot at 7:30 AM, and got a coffee at the commissary and sat outside to sort of relax and focus before the 9:00 AM meeting. I’d woken in the middle of the night with a sinus infection coming on, so I also wanted time literally for my head to clear. I also arrived early so I could pre scout the building the meeting was going to be in on the lot. I had never been on this lot and knew that if I didn’t know where I was going, I could easily get lost and arrive late.

    Coffee in hand, I sent a quick text to a member of the production company to let them know I was on the lot and would see them just before nine. I did this for a few reasons. Should the meeting get pushed, they knew I would be nearby, also if something came up, I was ready if they needed me early.

    Just before 8:45, I availed myself of the restroom and then went to the meeting. I let them know I was there and then waited nervously as the rest of the staff arrived for the meeting. Now, this being my first “official” pitch meeting, I didn’t know what to expect exactly, but in many ways it worked to my advantage.

    When the time came, I was ushered into the office of the head of the production company. I was told to have a seat on the sofa opposite his desk as the rest of the development staff took seats to my right and left. I was basically now pitching to 5 people, but four of them had read the script. A little small talk first and then the pitch.

    Now I became a writer because I’m no good as a performer unless I have a few drinks in me. So, needless to say as the next 30+ minutes passed of me listening to myself rattle off my story, I was acutely aware of where my shortcomings were as they happened. But, whenever I was in doubt, I had the outline. I didn’t worry that every now and then I would break eye contact with the person I was pitching to double check where I was. If I saw him becoming restless, I would jump directly to the “action” of the act and then use my outline to make sure I knew where I was and what I had left out. But truth be told, even I was tiring of listening to myself by the end of it.

    Luckily, it seemed to work, as he agreed to read it with an eye on taking it to a specific network. His exact words were, “Now I want to read it.” Of course later he also pointed out all of the other scripts on his desk as an indication that while he would read it, it wasn’t going to be the next day. I was interrupted a few times during the pitch for good questions, and tried to answer them as well as possible.

    Once the pitch was over and he agreed to read the script, I was asked what else I had, and did quick 5 minute set-up pitches of the basic idea of those series. Of course talk was also made about the upcoming pilots in the works and I had also printed out a list of the in production pilots for the network he had his deal with. Since he had not seen this, I gave it to him. Always come bearing information that they may not have. I had a feeling they hadn’t really looked into it yet.

    On my way out, an hour and 45 minutes after the meeting had started, I made sure to shake everyone’s hands and thank them for reading my work. When the mention of a certain network was made, not the one they have a deal with, but the one he is eyeing to take my pitch too, I quickly said that if that was the case, then I did have a script that would work well for that network too. I did a quick 1 minute logline pitch and informed them that they already had it and a signed agreement, which sparked renewed interest and the person I had been dealing with throughout this entire experience sad he’d send it around.

    I don’t really have a point to all this other than a sort of overview of what happened, it’s just always a good idea to be as prepared as possible, but don’t over prepare. These things shift, be ready for anything, and try not to plan out how you think it will go.

    Later I was told that the meeting had gone well, and that getting him to read it was a major step.

    But, I have to go to work tomorrow like nothing happened, because there is always a possibility nothing will. But I think it’s starting to look good. Wednesday, April 1 will mark my three-year anniversary here. It took me that long to get a pitch meeting, and I have very well regarded and influential people who I know here. Just because you know someone important doesn’t mean they can help you. The truth of the matter is, most of them won’t, that’s just the way it is out here. Truth is that what I’ve found out is that the people you think might help you are most often the one who won’t. It’s usually not malicious, because if they're that successful, they’re usually too busy.


    -mike- said...

    Gary Bungu is my hero . . . really . . . he always has been. Make that leap for all of us!

    Fabricationist said...

    He is mine too. Though, that being said, he is the sum only of his friends. Without them, he is lost.

    tnbonairediver said...

    Sending positive vibes your way to get something going.

    zenzer said...

    A bit late to the party but that was a good read. Thanks for sharing. I hope it helps you take the next step.