Hello you. Now, I never previously thought of this blog as the kind of place where you'll read screenwriting-centric advice. Journalistic advice I can give, after 19 years of doing it. Screenwriting? Relatively-speaking, it's a new world to me. Done it for over a decade, but only 100% seriously since January 2006.
Clearly, though, I was wrong about not giving screenwriterly advice. Because I can give it when I fuck up. And after last night's well-organised Stellar Network's Pitch Up event I have advice to give. Oh yes. Believe.
I ended up in a circle of 15 people, presided over by Wall To Wall's chief executive Alex Graham. There were more people than perhaps anticipated, so pitches were assigned a two-minute limit. Which threw me into mental tailspin, as my pitch was five minutes long. Far too long for this kind of event. Rather than describe the cold-sweat hell of my pitch in detail, I'll give you the general idea via a series of 'do not's...
DO NOT Bring a mood board to this kind of event. It's fine for professional pitches, but at a public pitch-fest it makes you look mad. I quickly realised I was the only person with a board in the entire room of 80-or-so attendees, and was put in mind of seeing a woman carrying a guitar at the Pitchfest event of LA's Screenwriting Expo last year. How I chuckled at her, knowing that I'd never do anything so eccentric. Ahem. It was a good board, but it didn't belong here.
DO NOT Have a five-minute pitch ready for this kind of event.
DO NOT Edit the wrong things out of your five-minute pitch, in order to cut it down to two minutes. I threw the baby out with the bathwater, losing much of The Big Proposition and ending up with bare bones plot. Which leads me on to...
DO NOT Fall into the classic "and then this happens, and then this happens..." trap. As Alex sagely noted during our session, "The trick of pitching is to get ME saying, 'So then what happens?'." What he ideally wants to hear in a pitch is The Big Idea, which he 'gets' and can see the big picture. Then, once he's hooked, he wants you ready to take him on the journey of the actual story.
DO NOT Forget to mention a key character in your pitch. Then realise, and slip them into the pitch, too late. The word "Argh!" springs nimbly to mind here. Jesus.
Despite the lousy nature of my pitch, I did earn a round of applause - partly, I suspect, because I was the first to pitch and partly through collective relief that it was over. Alex didn't seem to hate the idea at all, but the pitch wasn't clear enough for him and he obviously wasn't keen on its story-heavy content. He wasn't sure if my 30-minute TV drama was in fact a TV drama, as it seemed too "dark and edgy". He was positive, though, and gave me some good feedback, based on my two minutes of babble. And he later agreed to read the script. So that's good stuff, given that I'm far more confident about writing than talking.
It was a great session, with only one irritation. Three members of the group, who were pitching together, were clearly only interested in their own two minutes. During almost everybody else's pitches, they yapped, chuckled and whispered amongst themselves. Call me harsh, but their apparent belief that there was nothing to learn from either other people's pitches or even Alex's feedback to those pitches, possibly accounted for their own pitch being pretty much incomprehensible.
Anyway, pitch-bitching aside: Andy Pillock was in my group - and he won! Fantastic stuff. Mr Pillock flew the flag for the Scribosphere, and if he tries telling you at over his place that Alex chose him out of sympathy for being the 14th person to pitch and therefore having less time, dismiss him like the modest charlatan that he is.
It was a fine event for networking, too. There was a fair assembly of writers and film-makers in the bar afterwards, including Piers and Christine. I made a couple of good new writing pals (hello Adam, hello Kulvinder) and enjoyed debating Piers over whether the words 'actor' and 'actress' really should be regulated to 'actor'. When the bar shut, he and I hit another booze-house for some whisky action, talking about being a writer and the neverending process of self-improvement and learning. A great night.
Earlier that day, too, I was driven to Pinewood Studios to interview the Dragons of TV's popular Dragons' Den show. I interviewed them in the Den studio, where they sat in a row, just like they are on the programme, with large piles of cash on side tables. While I can now see how intimidating it must be for the show's entrepreneurs, I'm also pleased to report that the Dragons are both witty and amusing.
Good day to you.
PS Preparing a pitch can, by itself, help the development of your script (which, in this case, is the one I'll be delivering to the Red Planet Prize competition). While putting the pitch together, I realised there was one supposedly pivotal scene which just seemed wishy-washy and blah when you attempted to verbally describe it. So that scene has now become much stronger as a result. Good day to you again.