I am flying to LA today to pitch my first project.
I have my reservations about the "pitch process," but it has been the process since television began.
When I was teaching my class about "The Art of the Pitch" at UCLA last spring, we focused on the import of grabbing your audience right away. Make a personal connection to the material. What brought you to the story you are about to tell? Was it something you read? Something you lived through? Someone you knew? Starting with something personal is always the best way to engage a listener. It feels like they're being told a secret and it makes people lean in.
My first day of class began right after I signed my deal to become a producer. I had to tell the class that I intended to teach this class from the point of view of a "buyer," but now that I am a producer, I am a "seller." I have never been the seller before, even when I worked for two studios, I was not at the forefront of selling projects. I was more involved in developing the scripts and maintaining the creative integrity when they were on the air. I have never actually sold anything.
But I know what is most important to me in a pitch: enthusiasm, clarity, brevity and a kernel of a personal anecdote.
I think we have that with the pitch we are bringing out to market this week. But no matter how many relationships you have. No matter how long you've been doing this. No matter how much expertise you have. Selling a pitch is hard.
When I first went to work for a cable channel (a million years ago), I was surprised how hard it was to attract the high-end writers to come work for us. The cable budgets were much smaller than the broadcast network budgets, so we needed to be open-minded to all kinds of development strategies.
One of those strategies was reading "busted" pilot scripts (the ones that were passed on by other networks), as well as spec (written without payment) pilots that writers used as writing samples, but didn't necessarily intend to sell as a pilot.
We (the network) had so much good fortune with busted pilots and spec pilots, that it became as much of a strategy in our development as the traditional "pitch model."
Pitching a series can take months, if not years, to develop.
But when you have a spec script, you bypass the first six months of the process. A network either likes it or doesn't. It is so much more efficient.
But that said, I am no longer the buyer. So I am going to take out my first pitch, because that is still the way most networks prefer to develop projects.