Book Excerpt – Rehearsal Scene

“Should we get started then?” Maggie huffed. As if these delays were all Emma’s fault.

“Yes, definitely,” Emma said. “The tea things are all set now and we can deal with the rest of the props later.”

“Is there water in the pot?” Julia asked. “So we can work with drinking the tea?”

“I GOT IT!” Lucas came out of nowhere and swept the pot away downstairs.

The actors set themselves, while Emma pulled her coat over her shoulders and sat down with her script. They started rehearsal with one of the annoying parts where Algy and Cecily flirt in the garden. Emma was torn between enjoying Andy’s performance and wondering how much they were really acting. Megan was clearly into him — was he into her too? Was he even single? Or straight? Had Emma made a complete fool of herself during that last conversation, or just a partial one? How was she going to get to know him better when all they did every night was work and go home?

Rehearsal moved on, through more arguments and more flirting, until they got to the scene where Cecily and Gwendolen have tea. Frank brought out the tray with the pot, and stood behind the table that was between them.

“Shall I lay the tea here as usual, Miss?” he said.

“Yes,” Megan replied. “As usual.”

He set the tray down on the table, then he turned and walked back off stage.

“Frank.” Maggie called after him. “FRANK!”

It took him several seconds to recognize his name and turn around.

“What?”

“You don’t exit yet, dear. Stay out there with them.”

“But that’s my only line.” He looked totally perplexed. “I’m done after that.”

“No. No you’re not. You have to stay so you can hand Gwendolen her tea and cake.”

Frank sighed and walked back out on stage. The ladies gave him a moment to set himself, then went on with their lines. After they sniped at each other for a while, Megan picked up the pot and poured the water into a cup. She mimed dropping in sugar cubes, then primly handed it to Frank, who delivered it correctly.

Julia took it and drank, immediately spitting it out all over the stage. Gwen was supposed to turn up her nose at the excessive sweetness, but Emma guessed spitting was a valid choice, too. Whatever worked for the character. It took her a second to realize that this wasn’t part of the scene, that Julia was genuinely spitting and wiping her tongue.

“This is full of dust!” she exclaimed.

“Oh my god, I’m so sorry.” Emma ran up to look. Of course, these weren’t cups she’d taken out of a cabinet in someone’s kitchen. They’d been sitting in the filthy attic for god knows how long. They had to be washed first.

The Great American Pitchfest, 2014

Great American PItchfest

I’d turned my idea of a TV show about a theater crew into a pilot script, and set off to try and sell it at The Great American Pitchfest. This was a weekend-long event in Burbank. It started with a series of workshops about pitching and writing on Friday night and all day Saturday, and ended with the actual Pitch Day on Sunday. 

The workshops were interesting and I met some very nice people. Mostly weird, deluded people, but nice.

On Pitch Day, they filled a giant ballroom with 120 agents and producers, seated at numbered tables. We were given a directory with their details ahead of time, so we could pick our best bets.

Out in the hall, they had poles with the numbers hanging (see photo), and starting at 10am, several hundred hopeful writers lined up behind their chosen numbers. Someone rang a cowbell, and they ushered the first group into the ballroom. Everyone had ten minutes to find the right table and make their pitch, and then the cowbell rang again. The first group had to get up and leave out the back, while the second group came in the front. Then we could go get in another line, as many times we wanted, until things ended at 4pm.

When my turn came I went in, sat down, and energetically made my first pitch, now finely tuned by what I’d learned in the workshops. The guy really liked the idea, but then nicely explained why it wasn’t his type of project. I thanked him, left at the cowbell, and immediately had to find a chair so I could put my head between my knees. But then I got up and found another line.

I ended up doing fifteen pitches throughout the day, three of which ended with script requests, which I think was a pretty good return. I went home the next morning, feeling really good about myself, and so excited I got to have this cool experience.

But then you’re supposed to play this game where you email them but they don’t respond, and you have bug them every two weeks, to prove that you’re really serious. And after spending more time immersed in this world, I realized that the dream was even more unrealistic than I’d originally thought.

Which was totally okay. I’d tried something, and had an adventure. But after sending three or four reminders to these people, I decided to quit the field. 

But while I’d been writing the script, I’d had a bunch of ideas about the ending, and in particular a clear and beautiful vision of exactly how the final scene would go. I wanted to write that scene, and finish the story. And while you need other people and lots of money to make a TV show, you can write a novel all by yourself. 

I’d never written a novel before, but I’d also never written a pilot script or pitched to a producer before. How hard could it be?

It started as a pilot script

After my husband basically dared me, I couldn’t stop thinking about how to write a TV show about a theater crew. I built up this whole picture in my head. The main plot would be inspired by that crazy first time I stage managed, when I had no idea what I was doing and everything was falling apart around me. The characters could be all the different types of people you meet in theater. There could be a subplot with a love triangle, based on how I met Brad. I really liked it.

It kicked around inside me for about a year and a half, until I decided to research making it happen. I found this thing called Pitchfest, in California, which is kind of like speed dating for aspiring screenwriters. They bring a bunch of producers into a huge ballroom, and you have 10 minutes to pitch your idea. If they like you, they’ll ask to see a script. It was a giant longshot, but I wanted to try.

I was too late for that year’s event, which was just as well, because it took me the whole year to write a pilot script. Brad even invited a bunch of our actor friends to come over and read it for me. Then, in June of 2014, I got on a plane by myself to Burbank, and reached for my dreams.

To be continued…

Cover photo shoot

Big thanks to awesome photographer and my publisher, Daniel Coston, for taking some incredible photos yesterday. A few months ago, I had a clear and strong vision for the book’s cover, and mocked it up in Photoshop using stock images. Then I doubted myself, and mocked up a simpler idea. Daniel said no, the first one is better, and then HE MADE IT REAL.

Equally big thanks to Kenzie Phillips, who is a bit too pretty to stand in for a character based on me, but did a great job giving me exactly what I asked for. And thanks to the Rep and Ben Jameson specifically, for giving us the space to shoot. Also to Brad for lending a hand.

Now I have to do the whole cover layout with the title text and everything, then we’re almost ready to publish the book!!