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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Take Me to the River

Sorry to have been grumpy earlier today guys; mama gets tired and mama hates whiners. Or should I say whingers?

Sorry too about the title of this blog post - might not make sense. Feelin' a little Al Green today.

On the Sony lot today for several hours, and will be again tomorrow all day, doing pitch coaching for the Fade In Pitch Fest. I probably heard 50 pitches today and of those, I would say that 3 were WOW pitches. Good ideas pitched well. The rest - well, a few just sad pitches and a lot of meh pitches. Two things struck me today. One, I was shocked - shocked I tell you! - by the number of writers who didn't have loglines. Didn't. Have. Loglines. Had pages and pages of scribbled notes but couldn't boil their script down to a logline. Two, the number of writers who droned memorized pitches at me and were dull, dull, dull.

I told writers again and again - look, if you aren't enthusiastic about your own story, how can I be? Liven it UP some! Smile! Relax! Be excited about your pitch! Some writers, upon hearing that, busted into huge grins and their entire countenance changed. That! See - that you! Be that you while pitching! One guy had a truly cute pitch - I would have read the script in a heartbeat. But his delivery was so boring. He was one of the guys who totally changed when I interrupted him and asked him to please allow himself to grin at the truly funny, unique thing he had just said about his main character - because it WAS really a great thing. He grinned from ear to ear, bashfully and began again. And did a great job.

Going to a pitch fest is like speed dating. How you look and how you feel are a huge part of how your pitch is received. If it's a scary pitch - pitch it in a scary way. If it's funny - for god's sake smile! I heard grown men pitch to me in pinched voices of such nervousness that it broke my heart. On the other hand, there was this one writing team, two women, and not only did they have a fun pitch and a script I would totally read (and will) but they had such fun energy. They were engaging and funny and dressed well; I would have bought snow from them if I were Sarah Palin.

Personality counts. I know so many writers are shy and quiet and I feel for them. It's hard to pitch. Pitch Fests are not everyone's cup of tea. I personally feel that they are touch-and-go in terms of how valuable they are - it really depends - but they can be a great way to meet people and practice pitching. One guy had a sheaf of papers on which he'd written his notes. He picked up his notes and began to read. I reached over and took them away from him and turned them upside down. Now pitch. And he did. And the more I encouraged him to tell me why this is an exciting story, the more a passionate, unmemorized pitch began to emerge from him. Turns out he's been thinking about this story idea since 7th grade. Turns out that this was a story about fathers and sons and loss and revenge. Turns out that the place he is from has informed his passion for the project. And his pitch improved 1000%. He went from oh god make this pitch stop to oh wow, this is interesting simply by putting down his notes and making eye contact and remembering why in the hell he spent a year on this project.

If you really cannot smile, relax and be enthusiastic about your pitch, pitch fests are probably not for you. How successful would a door mouse unable to make eye contact do at speed dating? Well - how successful is anyone at speed dating? That's another blog. But if you really, really struggle with this - skip pitch fests. If you are lucky enough to get in a room for a real pitch, you will have the warm up period of small talk. You don't have that luxury at pitch fests. So think long and hard on this before you spend your money on a pitch fest. And for the love of Obama - have a logline before you go!!

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5 comments:

Luzid said...

Julie, nearly everyone's finances are tight these days. Given that, would it be worth my time to go to one of these pitch fests?

You received my pitch at Canter's pretty well, and I wonder how it would have fared at this weekend's event. Between consulting fees and everything else, I have to plan my spending carefully.

What would you suggest to the writer on a semi-shoestring?

Julie Gray said...

Luzid - personally, if finances were tight, I would skip it. But that's just me. If you can afford it, then great.

Christian M. Howell said...

I say all the time that writers I come across are too passive. Your heart is already out there when you write a script.
You have to be as excited when you pitch as you were when you came up with the idea, wrote your outline and got to FADE OUT.

I did OK at last year's Fade In. I didn't hook Bruckheimer but I got interest from smaller companies.

I'm spending as much time now studying film theory as I am writing, but I love this and just want to know as much as I can.

Jargon is very important when talking to people. You have to convince them that you've done your homework, and I mean Bachelor's, Masters level homework.

Désirée said...

I fear for the day I must present a pitch. I've made a fool of myself those time I've been in that situation so far. If I'd been a speaker I would have been a politician. If I'm enthusiastic nobody understands what I'm saying :-)

E.C. Henry said...

You're a very nuturing lady, Julie Grey. Would LOVE to pitch to someone like you. MOST people I've pitched stories at Expo and like events don't seam interested. It's like they GOT to be there, rather than they're honestly looking for the next "big" thing.

Best advice I can give anyone pitching is to be prepared to leave the person you're pitching to a "one sheet." I came unprepared twice (shame on me) not being able to leave behind a "one sheet." NOW I won't go to a pitch event without that ready.

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA