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?


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