What It Feels Like: Pitching Your Script

INT. OAKLAND APARTMENT – DAY
In a messy living room with way too many throw pillows, three lady writer-types wearing sweat pants gulp cheap wine and stare at their abandoned notebooks. SHANNON (almost 30), perky and into cussing, and ELLY (30 something), sarcastic and into love songs, are among them. Shannon breaks the silence.

SHANNON

We’re going to PitchFest.

 THIRD LADY WRITER

Oh, where’s that?

SHANNON

L.A.

THIRD LADY WRITER

What do you do there?

ELLY

We’re not sure… and actually, it’s in Burbank.

THIRD LADY WRITER

What’s the difference?

ELLY & SHANNON

We’re not sure.

Everyone drinks their wine in silence.

FADE OUT

This was the general sentiment pre-PitchFest. But now we know what’s up.

This is what you do. You spend three years writing a script. (Do it with a partner to make the whole experience that much more pleasurable and miserable.) When you’re ready to sell it, spend two months working on a marketing ploy. (Make sure that partner of yours likes to do marketing junk.) Buy the partner pass to The Great American PitchFest. (Only a four hundo.) Buy other stuff. (Figure that part out yourself. I’m talking plane tickets and other obvious adult purchases. Deodorant. Hair products. Nuts. You get it.) Write your pitch. (Practice your pitch a lot. It helps if your partner has a drinking problem.)(I’m not talking about you, Shannon. Calm down, Shannon.)

Pre-PitchFest, you’ll get a list of PitchFest attendees. I’m talking producers, studios, agents, managers and others. Review that list. Then research each one — figure which outfit supports your vision. These are the people you will want to pitch to. It’s pretty similar to dating, but we were told to NOT offer sex… so… Anyway, outside of your hilarious script and the awful memory of having your picture taken for a business card, this is the most important part of the PitchFest experience.

It’s all about time. TIME IS GOD. You think you have all day to pitch, but you don’t. You have about 5.5 hours. You think that is a long time. It’s not. There’s something you have to factor into this 5.5 hours of 5 minute pitches: LINES. QUEUES. WAITING.

“Shannon, we have to pitch to MOVIECORPSBUYSEVERYTHINGFORMILLIONS.”

“OK, let’s find MOVIECORPSBUYSEVERYTHINGFORMILLION’S sign.”

“There it is.”

“Looks like 8 other people also found it.”

Those 8 people in front of you represent 40 minutes of your 330 minutes of pitching. It’s similar to speed dating. A bell rings every five minutes as swarms of hopeful people rush in to woo the people seated on the other side of a hundred or so tables.

We got in 14 pitches. We were happy with that. And you know what also comes with the lines? New friends. You don’t want new friends? You might want to look for a new business then. We’ve learned over and over again that relationships pump the blood in that organism known as Hollywood. So you better learn how to make friends. (I’m great at it, obviously. Shannon struggles. She’s so introverted and cruel to strangers.)(A different Shannon! Calm down.)

The most often comment we got while talking to people in line was: “Let me guess, you ladies are writing a comedy.” It was hard letting them down when we told them that we were pitching a horror/action/gnome suspense thriller. Wait, what’s a genre again? Seriously, that’s a question we have heard a lot in classes. Including this zinger, “Can you tell me what genre Water for Elephants is?” Really, you paid $50 for a lunch to ask a panel of experts that question?!

It’s a hellava day really. You start out nervous and twitchy and full of pizzazz for that GDbaby of yours. (Replace human babies with scripts please.) The energy is crazy big. You finally get to meet these amazing, talented people who can make your dreams come true and surprisingly, they are SUPER NICE!

The industry people are all scribbley notes and hoohas for days. You start to build confidence! People like you! They like your One Sheet! (Make a One Sheet. We know a guy.) This is so much fun! You could do it for a living!

Then lunch comes. Then you eat. Then you go in for your first afternoon pitch.

And at first you have a welcoming laugh-riddled convo and before you know it BOOM they are staring you down like they are Clint Eastwood and your pitch turns into a Fembottian ramble of words you know while your partner just stares off into space thinking about – I don’t know – WORLD ANNIHILATION and you pray the gong thingy gongs or whatever so that you can run, run, run so far away and never go back and you have no idea what your script is actually about and if one more person asks you, you will describe to them in detail the story of Groundhog Day and pray they don’t notice 1) THAT ISN’T YOUR MOVIE AND 2) IT’S ALREADY BEEN MADE.

People try to be nice in the afternoon, but they are tired – dead tired. Can you blame them? Out of 330 minutes, you’ve pitched for 55 of them. The industry folks have been pitched to for a full 330 minutes. Eeegads. WORLD ANNIHILATION.

By the end, you sit down, you smile and then have your heart dissected into tiny pieces while your grandmother watches. “SO WHAT’S YOUR PLOT?” “WHY AREN’T THEY ON A ROAD TRIP?” “DO THEY FALL IN LOVE AT THE END?” Grandma, help me! But she can’t. (I’m not sure why a grandma makes this sadder, but it does.)

Word to the wise: get the important pitches in early because the later the day goes, the more the virus spreads. And the incubation period is only like ONE HANDSHAKE TOPS.

We highly recommend ending the day at the local Marriott bar – The Daily Grill. Shannon’s happy place. You settle into some comfy leather couches, order some chicken wings and a round of whiskey on the rocks and decompress. YOU’LL KNOW IT’S TIME TO GO WHEN YOUR BELOVED WAITRESS INFORMS YOU THAT ALL OF THE MAKER’S MARK IS GONE AND IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT.

Results. Out of 14 pitches – we got 10 requests for our script. Some folks have read our script and have said some very kind things. We’ve had a meeting. (Well, we had drinks in which our script was discussed.) We’ve kept in touch with new writer friends who are brilliant and full of ideas and passion. We’ve made industry connections we can always fax if we want them to read us. We’ve entered the script into writing festivals. The dream’s not dead. We have confidence! But at times it feels like the afternoon of PitchFest all over again.

(And as far as we can tell, Burbank has nothing to do with L.A.)

(But we do love The Daily Grill and wonder what genre Water for Elephants is.)

Don’t worry Nora, we will always make some trouble on behalf of women!

Both of us have been devastated at the loss of Nora Ephron. She has been our role model from the moment we decided to write a screenplay. So many lines in our script, CHICK FLICK, pay homage to her masterpiece When Harry Met Sally. Hell, we almost called the film When Erika Met Sophie!

Nora was the master of writing complex, quirky, lovable female characters who were strong in their decisions. These women were bold and sweet in the same sentence. How sad that that is so rare. So today as we mourn the loss of our great idol, we raise a glass of whiskey and vow to honor her wishes:

 

Lady Collaborations

“I’ve always been a woman who liked to think herself in control of her own destiny.  What I found, though, was that in order to collaborate with destiny, I had to collaborate with other women.” – Laura Goode

This article echoes how Elly and Shannon feel about collaborating with other women to write strong, female-driven movies.

http://blogs.indiewire.com/womenandhollywood/guest-post-collaboration-not-competition?page=1

For three years, we have been writing, CHICK FLICK, and along the way have learned a lot about the joys of collaboration. So much so that we now run a lady writing group called Bitches Who Write. Each month about 10 female writers gather to share their work and to inspire new creativity.

As Laura says, “[It feels so authentic] to be making a film about women actively pursuing an objective, an agenda, and a destiny, about women who support and inspire each other to ‘Do Something’ and ‘Be Somebody.’” This is the heart of what CHICK FLICK is about, and we are super pumped to know that other lady collaborations are writing about strong women making bold choices. Although, I doubt that script has as much cussing and bourbon drinking as ours…