Pitching, striking out & other depressing baseball metaphors
LOOKING BACK ON IT, I probably should have become an actor. Not because I have any interest in acting (my crippling stage fright puts the kibosh on that) but because I really suck at pitching. For the showbiz uninitiated, pitching is the official term used for trying to talk somebody into paying you for your story ideas. When it comes to pitching (continuing the baseball metaphor), I strike out. A lot. It’s pretty much what has sunk my screenwriting - and baseball - career.
Pitching is the perfect activity for an actor because it’s basically putting on a performance to sell an audience on parting with it’s money. The audience in this case (most often) is a Very Important Player. A Very Important Player is anyone who will give you money for your story ideas (that’s what makes them very important). Typically this is either a studio executive, a TV network executive, or a producer. A studio executive works at a movie studio. A TV network executive works at a TV network. A producer is anybody with money.
Being a producer doesn’t require a degree or diploma or any particular qualified skillset. A producer could be an academy award winning filmmaker or an Opthomologist who just won the lottery. For example, during my Starving Screenwriter days I pitched to a 24 year-old kid who sold inflatable furniture out of his parent’s Malibu beach house. Since he had money to potentially pay for my story idea, he was a producer (P.S., he didn’t buy my story idea. For the record I had nothing to do with his furniture deflating).
Anyway, the week after my movie came out, my then manager had me come to L.A. for two weeks “while the iron was hot” in order to pitch. While I was thrilled that Loaded Weapon was kicking box office booty, I wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of blathering my story ideas to a bunch of complete strangers who had the omniscient power to launch or crush my tender budding and pathologically neurotic and insecure screenwriting career.
Also, did I mention my paralyzing, flop-sweat-drowning performance anxiety?
Here’s an actual transcript from one of my pitch meetings:
VERY IMPORTANT PLAYER: (shaking my sweat-drenched hand, grinning like the Cheshire Cat) Nice to meet you, Dan! Hearing great things! Come in! Sit down on this unnecessarily uncomfortable and over-priced but stylish Scandinavian sofa!