My 52 hours in the Southland

Just like being there!
This is exactly what it looks like!

As all you phenomenal readers/followers out there may be aware, I was in Burbank last weekend for the Great American Pitch Fest.

Simply put, attending was one of the best screenwriting-oriented decisions I’ve ever made. I’ll get to the vaguely specific details about that in just a moment, but first, allow me to go over some of the supporting topics, starting with…

Networking

I came armed with a new batch of business cards and the attitude of “Dammit, I’m gonna meet people!”

And I did. At the Friday night mixer. At the numerous classes/panels/workshops on Saturday. Even just stopping to introduce myself to folks sitting around a table in the hotel lobby.

Many are first-timers, nervous at attending one of these kinds of events. Certain that everybody else is a seasoned pro just brimming with confidence, whereas you’re feeling hesitant to even open your mouth and say something.

You know what? Almost everybody feels that way and is a little nervous on some level. Sure, others are a little more extroverted than some, but as I can personally attest, it’s a lot more fun when you get to know people. Besides, why pass up the opportunity to expand your personal network? That writer you just met from halfway across the country could turn out to be a vital asset somewhere down the line.

On a more personal note, I have to mention that the weekend was also a golden opportunity for me to actually meet several of my “Ask a Script Consultant!” interview subjects, including Pilar, Lee, JG, Signe, Tracee, and Steve. The interactions weren’t long, but each proved to be just as charming in person as they are in print.

Pitching

The whole point of the weekend, and why I was here. First, the prep.

As I mentioned, there were panels aplenty where a lot of advice was given out (and sometimes contradicting something else you just heard). I had the benefit of having signed up for the pitch boot camp, where you and another writer would give your pitch, then exchange suggestions on how to potentially improve it.

I polished and honed the pitch for my western over the course of about six or seven run-throughs to the point where I had it down perfectly, then used that as a template for the fantasy-adventure.

As intimidating as doing this is, it all comes down to you being comfortable while having a pleasant conversation with somebody else about your story. The objective is to get them so interested that they really want to read your script. It’s not easy. Listening to other pitches, some writers would give vague story details, while others might go into too much detail.

As was pointed out, you’re also pitching yourself. You’re showing that you’re passionate about the work, hopefully have a pleasant personality, and are someone people would enjoy working with.

Now, a rundown of the results from the actual pitches:

(side note – As I would sit down with each person/pair, I’d ask how they were doing/how their day was going/etc. I’d rather start things off pleasantly rather than just launch straight into the pitch. Everybody was in good spirits throughout the day and seemed to be enjoying themselves. Many added that the quality of the material being pitched was very impressive.)

-13 total (although it felt like more)

-Two said “Thanks, but it’s not for us”

-The rest asked for a one-pager. More than a few asked “What else have you got?” (followed by handing over the other one-pager)

-Just about everybody said, “Wow! That was a great pitch!”

-One script request

-Two asked for follow-up emails

-“This sounds perfect for us!”

-“This is exactly what MAJOR PRODCO is looking for!”

-“We have to continue this conversation offline. Here’s our card. Call us.”

To say confidence levels were running high at the end of the day would be an understatement.

Epilogue

-All of my follow-ups have been taken care of. Since each one of them is also dealing with a lot of the pitches they heard, as well as working on their current projects, I expect it’ll be a while before I hear back from anybody. As always, fingers firmly crossed, hoping for the best while I bide my time and return to working on my assorted projects.

-Turns out I’m actually really good at pitching in person, or at least in a face-to-face scenario. Too nervous to do previous pitches via Skype, I’d always submitted a written one, which yielded zero results. This new confidence and willingness to be seen makes me feel that I’d have a much better chance of success in the future.

Conclusion

I’d started the weekend feeling very nervous and anxious about whether or not I’d do a good job. As time passed, I was able to relax and enjoy myself, which probably played a big part in how it all turned out. I had a great time, and left feeling closer than ever before to getting a professional writing career going.

If you’ve never been to a pitch weekend, I highly recommend it. You’ll meet lots of great people, make fantastic connections, learn how to get the most out of your pitch, and just have an awesome time.

-My only complaint was that since time was very limited, and I didn’t have a car, the enjoyment of pie did not take place. Maybe next time.

4 thoughts on “My 52 hours in the Southland

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