On… pitching Leave a reply So, I went out to LA to pitch two tv shows to producers a couple of weeks ago, and I’m heading back next week to pitch them again, this time with the producers, to studios and networks. I’m excited. I love these two shows. And I love pitching. I really do. It’s odd, because in most ways I am a total writery writer: I recharge when I’m alone. I think about things way too much. I have a rich inner life (in other words: I play a lot of make-believe in my head. Like a LOT. When I’m walking on the street alone you will catch me muttering to myself and doing pretend reactions… oh yah it’s seriously lame). But I must have a latent showoff inside of me somewhere, because I love pitches. It’s probably the same showoff who liked to act in high school, until she discovered directing at college and the utter joy of being in charge of everything, and then in her 20s realized that writing was like breathing: easy, invigorating, and essential to life. (Though I often wonder what would have happened if I had actually pursued directing instead of assuming it was a club I would never be invited to join, and what would happen if I pursued it now… Never mind, that’s a thought for another post, or another year.) Where was I? Oh right. Pitching. Pitching is just so much damn fun. It’s a cross between a job interview and a date. I used to LOVE job interviews (a chance to talk about me? come on!) and I LOVED dating (a chance to talk about me, to guys who hadn’t heard all my adorable anecdotes? Again, come on!). I also really, really like meeting new people and talking to them about their lives and finding out what they think is interesting. I like telling people about the aforementioned make-believe stories that I made up in my head. Most of all, I like it when other people get as excited about the story as I am. That’s all that pitching is: connecting with the person, and telling them a story. If they’re not excited about the pitch, then it’s probably because I lost focus and just plain told it badly. Or my accent got too distracting (I have a weird Hong Kong accent, somewhere between London and Australia but people think I’m Irish or South African or anything – but it’s a legit Hong Kong accent. My sister has the same accent, other expat brats have the same accent. If I hear someone in a bar with my accent I accost them like, ‘YOU MUST BE FROM HONG KONG or Singapore or maybe Dubai’, and I am always, always right. Okay sorry, back to the point). It might also be that they’ve heard something like it this season and thought it was stupid so my idea is tarnished by association, or pitched something like it a few years ago and failed badly, or bought a similar idea from someone else last week and can’t buy it again. There is always, of course, the chance that the reason they’re not excited is that the idea is shitty, but I try hard not to not think that. I have a healthy amount of self-doubt and self-loathing, but by the time I’m in the room, I force myself to believe that the reason I flew all the way to goddamn LA and sat in traffic in a stupid Lyft and woke up at 3am with jet lag and adrenaline and got lost on the Warner Bros lot AGAIN and asked the security guys to give me a ride in the golf cart (side note: the moment I started hitchhiking around lots on golf carts, pitch life became a lot more fun and I got many less blisters, plus they get really excited that I’m there to pitch which means I get a LOT of high-fives) was worth it. Anyway, I’ve told (and sold) enough damn stories by now that I know that when an idea makes me tingle, it should make other people tingle, too. If the idea doesn’t land, it’s not the idea’s fault, it’s mine. Another reason that a pitch doesn’t land is the simplest: they weren’t listening. Seriously: listening to a pitch is way harder than actually pitching it. It is very hard – practically fucking impossible – to listen to a WALL of words. And characters descriptions and background stories and plots and themes. I can’t imagine having meeting after meeting where you have to listen to some nervous writer stutter his or her way through a pitch and then assimilate every piece of it and rebuild it in your imagination, and then analyze it and really think about what it will look like, who will watch it, and what the advertisers will think. It must be beyond exhausting. You can tell when people stop listening – it’s like a little light in their eyes goes off. They nod a lot, but they’re clearly thinking about lunch, or needing to pee, or their boyfriend, or wife, or that new Winona Ryder show, or how amazing Leslie Jones is at tweeting the Olympics. I can’t blame them. If you came into my office right now and told me about your eight best friends and how you know them and why you love them all, I would remember, at best, two or three of those friends. Wouldn’t you? But you can tell when someone is really listening: they go into a sort of trance. They write things down. They stare at you, barely reacting, but totally involved and engaged. They laugh at the right parts, and most of all they ask ‘so what happens next?’ That’s when you know it went okay. But you don’t always know. You can’t. You just smile, walk out, and hope for the best. So if you need me over the next few weeks, that’s what I’ll be doing… walking out of pitches, and hoping for the best.