The Art of the Pitch
So I've been busy the past week, trying to be proactive about my screenwriting career, something that I'm just not very good at.
I'm really not the bang-on-doors, get-your-script-to-everyone, look-everywhere-for-writing-jobs kind of aggressive person that you really need to be to give yourself a better shot in this business.
In a perfect world, screenwriting would just be about words on paper. But it's not.
So about a month ago, one of the smaller companies I worked for started sending me writing samples for a project they had bought the rights to. It's an intriguing true story with a lot of possibilities that interested me, while the company was looking to hire someone cheap and good to write it, and searching through the ranks of recent Nicholl finalists and semifinalists and non-WGA writers of that ilk.
So I contacted a writer I knew, and asked her if she was interested in teaming up and trying to get this gig, because I thought that our different strengths would mesh perfectly on a project like this. She was interested, the company read our writing samples and was interested.
And my fellow writer and I then spent much-longer-chunks-of-time-than-we-ever-expected really busting our asses figuring out this story in a beat-by-beat, character arc, fairly complete way.
And then figuring out how to pitch it as a team, whether to take turns telling the story, or to have one person telling the story and the other person coloring it in along the way.
We practiced with friends (while trying to break the story until the night before the pitch) and realized that most of the ways we were trying really, really sucked, particularly since we had yet to have a tight, complete, lean pitchable plot take.
So we figured that out, and concluded that by far the best way to do it was for her to tell the whole story in 10-12 minutes, and for me to just shut the hell up the whole time that was taking place.
So yesterday we had the meeting -- and we rocked it. The pitch was smooth, not a misstep, she told the story, I shut up, though after the story pitch I got a chance to talk about character and a lot of other stuff that shows we've been thinking about the story and we get it and that I was more than just Teller to her Penn.
So there's no telling if it is going to lead anywhere -- there are a zillion ways to take this material, the next step is three or four writers/teams getting a chance to pitch directly to the boss, but a lot is going to depend on whether our take meshes with what he is really looking for (which apparently changes on a fairly regular basis).
But ultimately we got to tell the story we wanted to tell, we told it well, and it's all going to rest on the story, and you can't ask for any more than that.
So fingers crossed.
But at the minimum, I learned I could colloborate with someone else, we both some some good, satisfying real-life pitch experience, and we put ourselves out there.
And sometimes screenwriting is simply about doing more of that.