So. Pitchfest 2012.
This year, I came armed with 4 copies of the film script Pray For Me, 7 copies of the revised TV pilot, and 3 first drafts of the TV pilot. That, plus I had about 40 one-sheets for Destiny Design, about 10 for Pray For Me, and a bunch of treatments for both. I had decided ahead of time that, since Robert is still interested in buying Pray For Me (provided I rewrite the 3rd act to his liking) and since Destiny Design is likely to be more marketable and easier to sell, that I would focus this Pitchfest on selling Destiny Design.
I did things a little differently this year, and I’m not sure if I regret it or not. I offered almost everyone I pitched to a complete script at the end of my pitches, unless they seemed totally uninterested. The conventional wisdom is that a producer will only ask for/take a script if s/he is very interested, because it involves a whole new slate of legal/intellectual property concerns. And the average person at Pitchfest gets .88 of a request for a script–so less than one script offer out of between 15 and 20 pitches average during the day. Well, I blew away that statistic–7 out of 11 producers accepted a Destiny Design script from me (2 asked for treatments only, and 2 declined). And for Pray For Me, I got one script request out of four, plus 2 treatment requests. This, on one hand, sounds amazing, and I’m very proud of it. On the other hand, I’m wondering how much of it was that I had scripts on hand so that their response was less a “Sure,” than “Why not?”
One of my best pitches was for a guy named Tim from Tagline Productions. He has been a producer for PSYCH on the USA Network for 5 years, and he was a producer for the show Man Up on NBC this past fall, though it was canceled quickly. He LOVED the pitch and even said he could see Destiny Design on the USA line-up next to Psych! (I actually have never seen a full episode of Psych, but I’ve seen snitches, and it seems respectable). He took a script, and the last thing he said, which I thought was very curious was that he could see a huge male demographic for the show. I heartily agreed with him, though I had never thought of it in those terms before.
I had 2 horrible pitches in a row. One was a producer who didn’t seem to have a very good command of English, and didn’t seem to be interested in what I was selling. He didn’t even listen. Three minutes into the pitch, he said, “Is this a sitcom?” I said, “No, not at all. Have you been listening?” He asked for a treatment, I handed it to him, and he whined, “But it’s SO long!” I snatched it out of his hand, said “I really can’t waste copies of this on people like you,” and got up and left the table, before the cowbell sounded. The next shitty pitch was kind of the same, though there were 3 producers, and it was clear they hadn’t designated someone to be in charge. So they justsat there. At the end of my pitch, they said, “So, what have you done with this show?” I said, “Uh, I WROTE it, I’ve done a table reading of it. That’s why I’m here.” I was mystified as to what they meant. Later, someone told me that it was getting to the point in the industry that a lot of producers wouldn’t touch your work unless you had already secured funding from other sources, or had actors attached to star in it. Clearly, this doesn’t bode well for the future of writers. The last thing they should be expected to take on is the work of producers! So I left that meeting confused and more than a little pissed. The last thing they said to me was, “It sounds like a great story. I hope you find someone in here to read it.” WTF?!?! They were all but admitting that they didn’t want to be the first to jump on a new writer or show, that they just wanted to attach themselves to something already in progress. What a waste of time!!!
All in all, I got 7 requests for a full script of the Destiny Design pilot out of 11 pitches. They start getting pilot shows together, casting in the late fall, and then shooting in January or February–so there’s no hurry, but I’d love to know if anyone will keep their interest in the project after reading it and sharing it with colleagues and their readers.
Of 4 pitches for Pray For Me, I got 2 requests for a treatment of it.
Robert, my producer-friend whom I met last year at Pitchfest, was there again this year, and a couple of 5-minute time slots, when he wasn’t busy hearing pitches, I sat with him to catch up. It was great to see him, and his news was even greater: In the past year, he has merged with 2 other production companies, and now, instead of making one low-budget film every year and a half, they are trying to slate FOUR movies a year for production! He indicated that his new partners would love my film and told me it was all the more important that I tighten/redirect the ending, to make a good impression on his partners. He was clear that he didn’t want to show it to his partners until he felt it was totally ready. But I was extremely excited, needless to say. We made a date for later in the week.
Two days later, I met with Robert. He invited me to his studio, where they were actually filming his latest picture! He gave me a tour of the lot, let me watch about half an hour of taping, and introduced me to one of his stars as an “up-and-coming writer.” The actor he introduced me to was Zoe Bell, who has been in quite a few Tarantino pictures, as both a stunt double (Uma Thurman’s in Kill Bill ) and as an actress in her own right. In fact, right now she is shooting both Robert’s film–called Raze–and Tarantino’s latest, called Django Unchained, so she’s traveling back and forth between sets. Very exciting.
So Robert and I sat down and quite literally, on the bus from South Central to Burbank, I had come up with a MAJOR change in the story of Pray For Me that would necessitate a radically different outcome. In fact the entire final 30 pages would be completely different. I texted my good friend Josh while on the bus–he has been in on Pray For Me from the start, when it was called Christ the Kink, and has read it many times–and he seemed to like the changes. I proposed them to Robert, and he loved the idea! He thought it might very well save the movie dramatically. For those of you wanting details in the changes, feel free to ask. I’ll just say, it’s almost changing one of the big premises of the movie, but I feel like it keeps the spirit of it intact. In a nutshell, I’m taking the whole Baptist Wedding Night scheme off the internet, and instead having them make films, dvd’s of it. For various reasons, that will give one of the 3 main characters a big chance to redeem themselves by the end, and Robert was worried that no one would be redeemed in the eyes of the audience.
I also told Robert that a couple of others may be interested in my movie, and asked what I should do if I got an offer. He said, “Remember, I’m not attached to your movie at this point. You need to do what you need to do.” I asked him if he’d like me to consult him first if I got another offer, and he said, definitely. I also asked if I should mention his company as a potential backer for the film, and he said yes to that too. So, no promises, but again, I’m thrilled that he remains invested in the project.