I sort of did a “no-no” in the last week of October, 2013. I was pitching to a session of “The Happy Writers.” My weekend was chock-full of other things I had to attend to, so I needed to avoid such Skype sessions as I had done previously — they kept me hanging around my laptop too long, waiting anxiously for the call — but I had decided to pitch my idea for a TV pilot that I had hatched late in 2012, then filed away.
Part of pitching this way is to find out if your ideas are going to even be of any interest to people in the Hollywood entertainment business. I had reached a point where I was looking at (most of) twenty years of effort (there were a couple of breaks and lots of time interference when I held salaried positions working endless hours, so that qualifies the “twenty years” somewhat) as all warm-up and preparation. That’s what it took to prepare me for this, and the rest was changes in the technology and economics that led to the possibility of these long-distance pitches being in my reach. Now, I felt, it’s do or die time, or die doing time, whatever. I want to go pro, and TV offers far more openings for writers than feature film screenwriting. It was time to test other waters, I thought.
But, I didn’t think anyone would care. I was used to getting some pats on the back, but I took all that in stride. It’s well-enough known that Hollywood is the place where you can “die from encouragement.” Anyway, it was a pleasant surprise to receive Joey Tuccio’s emails requesting my script on behalf of a manager and an executive from a film-financing company. But, it put the ball in my court in a big way. All I had was the story description. Now, I suddenly had to actually write a one-hour pilot.
Concurrently with all this, I was taking a four week course in selling a script from ScreenwritingU. I had just broken one of the injunctions, namely, not to pitch a script you don’t have. To me, I was just making a “pitch” — how d’ya like this idea? Turned out, all right.
Now, until and unless I can do better once again, I am eking out a living as a temp these days on the economic/emotional roller coaster we call “life.” It’s been a pretty tedious, treacherous, soul-sucking experience whose main virtues are the schedule and the lack of micro-management every second of the day, but the volume is tremendous and the amount of constant concentration has been intensive and very draining. Worse, I’ve been falling into the traps laid out by the format of the work and I’m not progressing toward full employment for all my efforts. Worst of all, in my sight, is that for the months I’ve been doing this gig, I’ve come home witless and useless, crinkle-eyed and happy to just cuddle with the doggies and hope to go to Heaven when I die. The tiny trickle of creativity I’ve had going has flowed only on my laptop on lunch hours and a little more on weekends, once I get past the errands and chores.
But, I wrote according to my plan, and thank God I had the plan. In the process, I came up with a couple of improvised improvements to the story; well, at least one bona fide improvement and one element seemingly out of left field, but relevant to my choice of master villain for the imaginary series I had nebulously planned to set up with this pilot script.
And, you know what? I wrote a great little one-hour pilot in nine days, including one weekend, and submitted it as a PDF in my replies to the request emails. I don’t know if those two entertainment movers and shakers still bothered to read them, or if they will at all. But, I now have a fine script and there are others I can pitch it to in days to come.
I opened my wallet a bit further — out flew a moth — and joined The Production Arts Group, as well. So, now I can report on the differences between the two services.
With The Happy Writers, when long-distance pitch fests are held, email announcements go out to the mailing list (Stage32 members have received some notifications this Fall, as well). The notices list the companies, and, most often but not always, the name of the person from that company you’ll be pitching to, at a cost of $45.00 for eight minutes. The only ways you can form an impression of whether or not it will be worth your while to try pitching to a particular person is research, such as checking the IMDB for their credits, and Joey Tuccio’s blurbs about them in the notifications.
With Production Arts Group, the organizers round up nine representatives for a quarter of pitching, at a rate of three per month. There’s a $59.00 fee to be a member and a $179.00 charge to sign up for pitching for the quarter. I had $40.00 refunded because I signed up at the start of November — October’s opportunities were already over. Once you’re a member, there’s a code allowing you to deduct your member fee from the sign-up fee, so the cost ends up being $120.00 per quarter after that initial quarter if you simply use the code. That’s an average of $13.33 per person to pitch, if you were to pitch to all nine.
But, you’re better off picking and choosing. You can still check the IMDB, etc., but at Production Arts, there are standardized audio interviews posted as MP3s with these reps, running usually 25-30 minutes long. You can get a pretty good sense of the personalities involved and what they’re looking for (and NOT looking for) from the interviews.
The additional difference is that none of these pitches are done “face-to-face long distance” via Skype. They are all to be written pitches. The reps are asked if they want loglines only, or with summaries and/ or bios of the writers. Follow their advice. They are also supposed to use the intranet email system built into Production Arts to give you an up-or-down reply, as well. Those I’ve pitched to, the three who have requested my scripts so far via The Happy Writers, just leave me dangling, trying not to think about their interest or disinterest and just carry on with daily living unless I happen to get a break. I did pitch to “the November three” at Production Arts and immediately received a pass from one of them. The other two have left me dangling, so far just over a week.
There is a lot of overlap between those participating as pitch recipients at The Happy Writers and Production Arts. But, overall, The Happy Writers gives you more numerous opportunities, which are also costlier per capita and you have less to really go by when choosing which ones to pitch. And, if you like the personal approach in your long-distance pitching, Skype is the way to go.
Anyway, these are the differences in these services and I hope this helps you budget your efforts as you, like me, attempt to go pro as a screenwriter.