Monthly Archives: June 2012

Pitched Over -Part 2


So much more to say about my time at the Great American Pitchfest this year. To recap, I spent most of the day Saturday sitting at Danny Manus’s No BullScript booth happily talking to people about my experience as a script consulting client of his. To find out more about that read Pitch Over -Part 1.

Sunday, Danny was nice enough to let me sit at his table as he was taking pitches for his old company. I was super excited to see pitching from the other side. I had an appointment to go to so I couldn’t stay all day, but in the two and a half hours I sat there I learned a lot about how amateurs pitch.

The bell rang and among calls for “more cow bell” the first group gathered into the holding area. The bell rang again and the day began. Hopeful writers clutching cases, folders, notebooks, swarmed the tables. One stopped at our table, shook our hands, plopped down and introduced himself. That was the last thing I understood. His pitch was all over the place. I couldn’t keep up with the characters or the plot I stared harder at his lips thinking that would help. It didn’t. Fortunately, Danny has taken thousands of pitches and with a couple of well worded questions he was able to clear it up. Oh! That’s what it was about. Though it was a pass, Danny was really sweet and gave the guy an extra minute to help him find the focus of his pitch. I hope to hell the guy used his suggestions the rest of the day. I realized then how important it was to say your title and logline first. Take a breath, then go into the story. Danny Manus explains what this does for the person you’re pitching to better than I, so I’ll tell you what he told me. It lets the person know what they are going to be listening to so they can focus on the flow of the story instead of trying to figure out what the story is. Lesson one.

The next person that sat down was a woman. She had a good pitch until she wouldn’t stop talking after she got to the end of the story. She started rambling about little personality quirks of the characters that I couldn’t concentrate on or care about because I was still trying to process the information about her story.  When you get to the end of your story shut up. Danny was still able to ask a couple of questions in the short time but there was about thirty seconds to a minute more that she could have had to be engaged with us if she had just stopped trying to sell. Lesson two.

The third person was a great conversationalist. She made a connection right away and I liked her.  However, she had nothing to pitch except herself and her hope to one day write the remake of a classic film. What the heck? You are a new writer, well because you haven’t actually written anything you are a new wannabe writer, and you want a company to put time and money into you because you have a good personality. No. If I had an intern job to offer her I would have. That way she could have learned, gotten connected, and stopped asking for stupid things. Sorry, I’m grumpy about it, but for God’s sakes have something to pitch if you are at a pitchfest. There are plenty of other times to network and chat. You wouldn’t even have to pay for the privilege. Be smart with your money and the company’s time. Lesson three.

The fourth pitch was from a writing team. I could tell they had studied and practiced their pitch quite a bit. Having a writing partner that you want to share the pitching time with requires that. It was clear and snappy. However, they chose the least interesting part of their story to focus on. Hot celeb falls in love with a small town nobody girl. Now this is the first one I’ve mentioned what was pitched because I honestly don’t remember the others. Since I was there to study how people were pitching, and not what they were pitching, I took no story notes. Part of why I remember theirs was because of how clearly they presented the story and the other reason is because Danny pointed out to them that they buried the lead. They mentioned the twist to this horribly over done plot in passing but that was all I had questions about throughout the rest of their pitch. Though I remember the twist I won’t say what it was because it had potential. Danny told them to really emphasize the original part of the story in the rest of their pitches that day. No matter how good the pitch, if the story is boring and something we’ve seen a million times no one will care. Lesson four.

The next one was a man with a great story with a boring delivery. No, I don’t remember the story. All I wrote down was great story with a boring delivery.  That’s really sad. I honestly have no idea what that great story was. If I had been there for the story I would have taken notes of course, but would I have remembered the writer who pitched it to me?  I have no idea what to say about this. If you expect this may be your problem practice, and get some help from someone who will be honest enough to yawn in your face. Don’t be boring. That doesn’t mean have a circus act. Just be clear and personable. Lesson five.

Lesson six? Be prepared. A man who had seemed so professional throughout his pitch killed that perception when he was asked for a one sheet. He took out some scrap paper and scratched his name and number on it with some quick notes. Really? I’ll email you a one sheet later this week he says. Um, how long did he know he was going to be pitching today? Why couldn’t he stop by a Kinko’s and print out twenty copies real quick? It made me wonder about his honesty and his ability to deliver.

Lesson seven? If you say this is the most original idea you’ve ever heard, there will have been a TV movie about it at least once a year for the last ten years. If you say this will be short, you will ramble on until way over time. It was weird how consistent it was for someone who blurted something before they sat down to do the complete opposite. If you aren’t absolutely sure you can deliver don’t put expectations on your pitch. It’s annoying because it calls attention to that weakness in your pitch.

Bonus lesson. Don’t tell the names of every character when you pitch. Just tell their relationship to the protagonist. I can’t remember who’s who by name that quickly. I can barely remember your name.

I did learn a lot from my two and a half hours listening to pitches. Taking pitches is hard. You want to hear a great story but there is so much other stuff about the human being on the other side of the table that can prevent you from really hearing their story at all.  It made me realize I still had a way to go in my own pitching and will be taking Danny Manus’s pitching webinar the next time it comes around.

Everyone Gets to the Climax Differently


This is an unplanned post to a question someone asked on twitter: “Do you usually come up with characters or plot first?” So I thought I’d sketch my process real quick.

This is just off the top of my head. I’m not a comedy writer so don’t analyze why this was on the top of my head, just work with me.

  1. I think wouldn’t it be funny to have two lesbians that look so much alike, one tall one short, that everyone mistook them for sisters?

    –That’s the nugget. It’s not a plot, it’s not anything. Just a stupid idea that could be interesting.

  2. So who are these lesbians? Where did they grow up? What do they do? How did they meet?

    –By answering these, and about a hundred more questions, I know who they are and which one has the most change in her (the protagonist.)

  3. Will she sacrifice the love of her life to keep people from thinking she’s in an incestuous relationship with her sister, losing her dream job because of it?

    –A little plot there. What are the obstacles? What will she loose? Who’s/what’s keeping her from her goal (flush out antagonist.)

  4. Then what are the end of act one (inciting incident), end of act two (all is lost), end of the movie (the end of the movie dang it! Do I have to spell everything out?)

    –These are your pillars to hang the rest of your story on.

  5. Fill in the rest of the story between the pillars and you have an outline.

Obviously, it’s a lot harder than this makes it sound but it is an overview of what I do.

Pitched Over -Part 1


As many of you know, I have spent the beginning of June networking and visiting friends in Los Angeles. I am exhausted but had a great time.  These posts about my trip will be part tips and part jibber jabber. Met many of my screenwriting friends from twitter in person. I was surprised at how easily our twitter relationships transferred to real life.  Those with who I have a more networking relationship, felt that way in real life as well. Same with the more playful vibe I have towards others.  Once again, I’m going to stress the importance of joining and being active on twitter.  If you are a screenwriter and are not using twitter as a networking and learning tool you are really missing out.

On June 2nd, I spent the majority of the day at The Great American Pitchfest (GAPF) in Burbank.  The night before I was still struggling to decide which of the free classes I was going to attend.* When Danny Manus posted a plea on twitter for people to help at his No Bullscript booth.  So, I attended Danny’s morning class on the first 10 pages of a script, and then went to tend his booth.  Most people who came to the booth were pleasant and had good questions. Others concerned me.  I met someone planning to pitch the next day without knowing what Final Draft was.  If you do not know what one of the main tools of screenwriting is you are not ready to be part of the business of screenwriting.  It would be like someone saying they are ready to perform surgery but have never heard of a scalpel.  You say the steak knife you used on your cat last winter worked just fine, but trust me a scalpel is better.  I know it’s hard, but calm down.  Don’t be in such a rush.  The only way it’s going to happen overnight is if you film it all by yourself in your granny’s private studio overnight.

The other strange question I got asked was if Danny got paid enough money so that he wasn’t just at GAPF to steal other people’s ideas. Now, I haven’t seen any of Danny’s financial statements but I’m sure he doesn’t go home after the Pitchfest, glue on his mustache, and laugh maniacally as he writes down everything he heard.  No matter how many times you  say no one can steal your idea, just the execution thereof, people still freak out. Even if someone did want to “steal” ideas, a place filled with mostly new writers is not the place to do it. Most of you stink at execution and ideas. That’s right. Most of you could not pay someone to steal your idea or your script. Yes, it is just that bad.  Check out the article Danny Manus wrote about GAPF to learn more about what kind of ideas were pitched.

I was lucky enough to sit with him for two hours of pitching the next day which I will go into in Part 2.

*The ability to attend multiple classes for free at GAPF is an awesome service for new writers but many of the classes were below my current skill level. I still would have attended the whole day of classes because even if 99% of the information is stuff I already know there is always something new to take away from any class.