I’m just settling into a buzz, am halfway through Stanley Kubrick’s BARRY LYNDON (my 1st viewing of this; I love Kubrick and his intermissions) and thought I should try to get this Monday blog posted, even if it’s only still Monday on my coast.
I’ll start by saying that when I woke up and drove into LA proper Saturday morning the sky was a strange combination of orange and gray – the color one would expect from a surrealist painting, or perhaps the remake of Red Dawn. No it wasn’t a Patrick Swayze-led apocalypse, it was most of Southern California on fire again. Sunday was worse – people were jogging wearing those white ventilator masks and my car was covered with ash – a finely gruff substance that it later occurred to me used to be other people’s belongings (like Christopher Lloyd’s house apparently. Man that sucks, I like Christopher Lloyd. But do you think that covered with ash and homeless he might actually stumble across a Flux Capacitor and go back in time to the 80’s, where his chrono-disorientation* might cause him to forget who he is and eventually find him a place driving a cab? Wouldn’t that be fucked up?)
So I was driving to downtown LA, something I do not normally do** so that I could attend Creative Screenwriting Magazine’s Screenwriters Expo at the Los Angeles convention center.
I was pretty pleased.
I did not pay to go to the event, instead my wife volunteered me to work it. In this manner I avoided paying the fee, which really wasn’t that much but more than I had at the time, and still got to attend. I saw an interesting writers panel and a free panel where several executive producers talked about what they look for in a pitch on Friday. Then Saturday I worked the event for twelve hours. Finally Sunday I came back and pitched two of my screenplays.
Going in I really didn’t have any idea what the fuck a ‘pitch’ was. I mean, I get the general idea, I’m there to quickly and tactfully bait people with money to sink said money into an idea I’ve drawn out.
A story I’ve told. Well, told only to the page at this point, but still, you get the point.
Yet in this business there are so many do’s and don’t’s, along with so many ideas about who wants what, that well it’s hard to know what exactly to do in any given situation. Like submitting samples of fiction to publishers or agents – some of them want this particular paper stock, some of them only want emails, some of them do not, under any circumstances want any email attachments or emails at all. Some of them want the page numbers in the bottom right, some the upper left, some god help you if there’s a page number anywhere to be found. I suppose they all look at their specifications as tests on whether or not you can read close enough to follow simple instructions before carrying through, but they should also know that if you’re serious this means you will burn out real quick tailoring every little thing every single time, many many times.
So anyway, what I wanted to know was, is pitching the same?
It seems so. But you’re face to face with the person, so it comes to them from a more pure place. There is no tangible format to consider for tayloring. There is however the less tangible ‘format’ of human interaction: body language, eye contact, speech pattern (how many times do you intersperse non-essentials such as ‘uh’ and ‘like’ in your daily vocalizations? How about when you are nervous?). All this weighs in heavy and it’s best to know how others do it and look good (or at least not bad).
One thing I learned, and it really kind of confirmed for me what I thought seemed pretty obvious, is that THE SHORTER THE BETTER. Sure, if you’re sitting down with someone, let’s say Ron Howard, telling him an idea, there’s a reason why you are there and you can probably be as passionately long-winded as you want. If Ron knows you, you’re good. But if it’s a first crack and a fleeting environment, best keep it inside of five minutes. Hell, I seemed to be hitting it at about two minutes, and I did okay.
Anyway, it was an interesting experience and if anyone wants to throw in a line about their experiences with pitching I’d love to read them. Not nearly as nerve-wracking as I thought it’d be, but by no means easy at this stage either. I don’t know if anything came of it but at least I figure I’ve broken the ice and demystified the experience a bit for future endeavors.
Now, on to the 2nd half of monsieur Lyndon’s story, wherein I think a lot of really bad stuff probably happens to our wayward journeyer.
* Yes I set about to think of the nerdiest grouping of words I could come up with.
** I’ve essentially become an agora-phobe since moving to LA two and a half years ago. I work full time and then return home to write my screenplays and fiction, a fairly marketable skill on this coast, but which usually takes more than I have to go out and ‘market’ – I always say it’s easier to write the fucking things than to convince someone to look at them and see that they’re worth a damn. So this convention was a step in the direction of ‘marketing’. But I digress.