What is a pitch fest? Simply put, it is a happening at which writers cough up tremendous amounts of entry fees (plus travel, food and lodging) to be one fish in a sea of scribes, so they can sit in front of overworked and under-or-no-paid assistants and/or interns, and try to sell them their scripts.
As usual, I’m the voice of dissension. I’m not very fond of the pitch fest. Obviously, my opinion is in the minority, as pitch fests continue to sprout up and get
more lucrative *bigger and better*. Here’s the rub: pitch fests, as a cottage-industry, exist for one sole purpose – to make a lot of money off of writers.
*sighs* I wish we writers weren’t so needy.
A few reasons that you should think twice before spending the dough:
Pitch season runs summer to early fall. Coincidentally, that is also tourist season in L.A. Airfare is higher, gas is higher, there are few hotel deals and even eating is more expensive. Add to that your entry fees, and you are looking at a cool grand (at least) for a few days of frustration.
You are not pitching to executives
Yes, yes, I know the pamphlets say that you are – but you’re not. Trust me.
The people taking your pitches are, for the most part, assistants and interns.
Assistants and interns are terrific people. They have thankless jobs. They work long hours, often for little or no pay. They do the grunt work. Establishing relationships with them is a very smart move, for the dedicated intern will eventually become an assistant, an assistant will become an associate, and, eventually, might climb the ladder to the executive level.
You should always treat these hardworking folks well – not simply because they might someday become “someone,” but because they are living, breathing human beings.
But, because they are human beings, they have human flaws. They are forced to give up their weekend to go listen to twelve hundred writers pitch their masterpieces, and, by one o’clock or so, you could walk in with CHINATOWN in hand, and they wouldn’t hear you after “Hello.” They’re tired. They’re hungry. They have headaches. And they’re not getting paid extra for this.
You lose your singularity
Hollywood is not about contacts. Hollywood is about relationships. You cannot establish a relationship at a pitch fest. By hour three, no one listens. You’re just a lemming in a crowd of thousands of lemmings. Your voice will most likely drone. Your story will not be heard. And you just spent a shitload of money to
get there be ignored.
Pitching is free
You don’t have to pay anyone to pitch. I repeat – you don’t have to pay anyone to pitch.
What you do need to pay for is a Hollywood Creative Directory. Then, you write and rehearse a most-excellent phone pitch.
Make a list of movies that are similar in style and tone to the one that your screenplay would represent. Look up the credits, and see which production companies produced these movies. Get your HCD, and look up the players. Get on the phone – do not email – and call these companies. Greet them pleasantly, and ask if the company is accepting queries. If you are told “Yes,” then ask who you might direct your query to. Be prepared to phone pitch, for at that point they may ask you to pitch your query over the phone. Be professional; be courteous.
If they accept your phone pitch and ask for you to submit, please ask for the name of the person that you are speaking to, and the name and title of the person that you will be submitting to. Send them your script in the manner in which you were directed. Do not try to be clever. Industry standard. Three hole punches in white paper. Two brads. That’s it. Pretty packages are the mark of an amateur.
If they ask for a query letter, the above also applies. For a query letter, follow up in a week. For a script submission, follow up in a month. Hundreds of scripts are submitted each week; it takes time for the readers to get to yours.
This is what we call Dialing for Dollars.
Another thing that you can do is follow the above instructions – and ask for a pitch meeting. Schedule several, and fly out to L.A. when things are quieter and less expensive. This is your time to shine – and you will certainly stand out more in a one on two session, than you will at one table in hundreds crammed into a meeting hall, the voices of thousands of writers echoing around you, and threatening to drown your voice out.
Are there awesome pitch events? I’m all over AFF and the pitch contest. Most pitch operators are nice people. Very nice. They began the journey on the road paved with good intentions. I don’t think of them as thieves, or unethical… but they’ve learned to work a system for profit. They are feeding on your dreams – and you’re paying them to do that. With a smile.
Just another pitcher of Kool-Aid being passed out to the masses. When will it stop?
Now, go write.
HRH – Princess Scribe
What I am reading: Honestly, I’m writing, not reading. Unless you count the Charlie Sheen Quote Generator.
What I am watching: I have BADLANDS in for tonight. I’m in a Malick vein these days….
A Royal Shout-Out: Three, count ’em, three friends have launched (or are preparing to launch) new web series. First, Groovy Falcon’s Todd Faulkner and Nicole Greevy with their biting satire EXORCISTS 667 (coming soon!), second, the lovely Alexis Niki and MY BITCHY WITCHY PARIS VACATION – playing this month at the LA Web Fest and last, though never least, Patrick Hayle’s collaborative venture TWENTY FOUR MINUTES, a send up of the beloved series, 24. You guys rock!