Here Comes the Pitch…

I’m sure I’m the last to link to this, but I can already see it’s going to take up way too much time in my life.

Last night while washing dishes I remembered two monologues I used to do in high school. I don’t know what it is about washing dishes where my mind goes deep inside its memory and tosses out things I really don’t need. Like my crappy “Slut Admits She Was Raped” monologue from my very first high school play “Running.”

It began: “Rest? I used to rest. But my stepfather killed my rest one month before my eleventh birthday… and a thousand nights after that.”

This is what happens in my head while I wash dishes. I find it oddly soothing. When I run I end up counting in my head. Counting steps, number of times I exhale, number of times I’ve passed a certain jogger. But washing dishes, all I can do is stand there and let my mind wander.

Yesterday was a good, very busy day. Had a morning meeting with someone from a network who liked a script of mine and wanted to let me know that if I ever had an idea for a movie for his network, just give him a call.

Don’t you love how easy that sounds? “I have a movie idea. I’m gonna give that guy a call so I can write it and get it made.” That’s what Hollywood is supposed to be like.

I had two pitches yesterday. One for television and one for a feature. The Pitch is a very strange beast. As a writer, you have to become a performer, a cheerleader for not just your own work, but the random ideas that every single person will have while you’re pitching. It’s storytelling with a possible Choose-Your-Own-Adventure at any time. You have to memorize something that may change drastically as soon as you’re done saying it. And for the most part? Nobody gets paid to do a pitch.

We pitched Oxygen the segments we’ve written so far, and it went very well. They’re happy with what we’ve come up with. It was seven of us walking into a room — writers, producers, executive producers — and we sat down with two execs from Oxygen (and another two were conferenced in on the phone). This is pitching as a team, to both real people and a telephone (I am proud of the moment I made a gesture to the phone, assuming they could “hear” whatever joke I was making with my hands, and then I described what I was doing, like “Pitching For the Blind.” I am truly a dork.) You laugh at each other’s jokes even though you’ve heard them fifty times, and there’s never a quiet moment as you do The Funny Funny Show With Cool, Funny Ladies, hoping they like you and want to keep paying you to write for them. Imagine your weekly board meeting assigning you a stand-up routine to deliver with a PowerPoint presentation. That’s a pitch. Now we’ll spend the next couple of weeks writing new funny stuff to go in and do it all again. Incredibly, this is my job these days. Yay.

The second pitch I did yesterday, the feature pitch, has been it’s own beast. We’re still developing it, making sure it’s the right pitch for this adaptation (of a non-fiction book), before we go out to studios. This nature of this pitch is then “The Pam Show,” where I talk for fifteen minutes, telling the story of a movie that has a fifteen page treatment. How do you tell the essence of the story without telling the whole story, so that it’s enough to convey what the movie will feel like without getting characters and plotlines confused? You don’t want to give away too much because if they see the whole movie they can just pass. It’s not just leaving them wanting more. It’s leaving them wanting to add their thoughts and notes, because they can pay you for that and they get excited to work on that movie and then everybody gets together and makes the movie. Many people make a movie. We often blame one person when a movie sucks, but there were so many people that went into making that movie suck it would blow your mind. So many people had to make such terrible decisions.

So the second pitch went well, which I wasn’t expecting, because it’s been a lot of work over the past few months and I was starting to feel like the composer Muppet with it. But I did it and they liked it and all a writer wants is for the producer to say “Good job, but I think we need a little more in the second act” and that’s really how Hollywood works.

So yesterday was a series of practice pitches for a time somewhere in the future where I will go in again and meet with the television network guy and pitch him a movie in my head. Then Team Funny will meet with Oxygen again and pitch them another funny half-hour. And then at some point I’ll go in with my revised-in-act-two pitch to the producers I’m working with on the non-fiction book. They’ll hopefully be satisfied with it and I’ll pitch it to various studios around town for about a month and then if it sells it’ll take about three to five months for the contracts to be negotiated and I might get my first paycheck for it sometime in December. And then maybe, just maybe, it’ll be a movie that you see sometime in 2007.

“HOL-ly-wood!”