It's amazing what you can learn without even trying. I was graciously allowed to sit at the table of a development director for a production company who had a table at the Great American Pitch Fest this last weekend. Zac has always been so generous with his information and time, and this time he let me sit with him for a full day of listening to pitches. The good, bad and ugly. Well, this is what I took from that experience.
1. Saturday is a full day of FREE, yes, I wrote, FREE classes about screenwriting for both the big and small screen. The classes are mainly about giving a better pitch, but others are just informative about the industry.
I loved the class about TV pilots, or writing for TV by Chad Gervich. He was upbeat and engaging, and blunt. And Ellyn Sandler was great also. The adaptation class by Jeanne Bowerman and Douglas Blackmon was so informative to new writers, they were engaging and their chemistry for the screenplay and each other was palpable. They are a great writing team.
2. There is just as much networking going on behind the scenes at a pitch as there is in the room. Both Friday and Saturday night I had the opportunity to meet some great industry people.
On Friday I met Dutch Doscher, short film writer director, and Pulitzer Prize winning author Douglas Blackmon who wrote Slavery by Another Name (his screenwriting partner is Jeanne Bowerman).
An old friend of mine drove into town to say hello, and I was able to introduce 2nd Unit Director, Jeff Danoff, who has worked on such films as 127 Hours, and Into the Wild to some of my friends. Jeff is normally very humble about his film work (stuntman, 2nd Unit Director, stunt coordinator, etc.) but he enjoyed sharing his experiences of working with such directing greats as Danny Boyle and Sean Penn.
On Saturday night I was so lucky to meet Kiyong Kim, a fellow with the Nickelodeon TV Writer Program, who was just a lovely as I expected. And there were several other TV writers I was able to chat with. But Saturday night was such a great turnout for the Script Chat writers from Twitter there is no way I can mention everyone without leaving someone out. But those who were there and read this post should comment and let us know what they thought of the meet up.
3. Oh, you want to know about the Pitch Fest...
First, the pitch fest isn't about selling your screenplay (it's great if it happens, but...), it's about networking. You get to meet and dazzle as many as 23 (more if you're lucky) manager/agent/production companies in one afternoon. You get 5 minutes to pitch your screenplay and answer questions about your work.
To those who pitched, we loved hearing them. And the pitchees need a great screenplay as much as you want to be the next writer to give them one. We heard many pitches, but I'm guessing only a handful will be requested by the company I sat with. (And Zac was nice enough to let me ask questions too. It was great to learn about how other writers work and write).
But so your pitches didn't go as great as planned... You met how many new people? You now have how many new contacts you didn't have yesterday? And one new person in the movie industry is MUCH better than zero.
There is a cocktail party after the pitching, and nearly everyone sticks around to have drinks. I met someone from a production company who was interested in the screenplay Slavery by Another Name, and I was able to put him in touch with the writers. It was a serendipitous moment, and even if nothing becomes of it, there was a connection.
I also met a comic book guy who works to put comic writers together with producers to make movies. This was a great connection for a friend of mine, so I made sure the two were introduced. This introduction was via Twitter because my comic book friend wasn't at the pitch fest.
And as fate would have it, I happened to sit down with a producer who was talking about his strange day. After he told his story he asked if I was a writer. I wasn't there to pitch so I said I wrote for TV. Engaged by our TV conversation he asked if I had any features. Well, yes, I do. I (very informally) pitched my thriller and he was intrigued. Little did I know, one of the other people at the table was also a producer and after my little impromptu pitch he gave me his card. "Send it to me."
I was also lucky enough to meet Holly Bowman, a lovely English girl, from Total Film. We had some great conversation about dogs and such. She also loved a silly pitch a writer was joking about with Zac. You never know when a joke may turn into a viable screenplay.
So in short, or is it long in this case, it's not about selling the script you came to pitch, it's about meeting like minded people and networking. I can tell you this, I met so many lovely people that I truly wanted to stay longer. The pitch fest isn't about the pitching, it's about the pitching AND all the networking.
If it weren't for pitch fests Scriptchat would never be, as Zac Sanford met Jeanne Bowerman when she pitched to him a few years ago. Zac introduced me to Jeanne, and from there we built the treefort that became Scriptchat.
Long winded, but anyone at the pitch fest who met me will tell you, that's how I am. I love people and this was the best weekend I've spent in a very long time. I can't wait to do it again soon. Thanks, Zac!!!