Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Pitching & Puking
Pitching a project to a network or studio is a fine art. It is an important Dog & Pony show that all good writers and producers have mastered. They have rehearsed over and over, practicing on everyone from the dog to the baby to the wife. They have carefully scheduled their "spontaneous" jokes as to appear witty and off the cuff. They have done some serious Googling about the people they are pitching so they can "just by chance" mention a ski trip to Teluride. "Oh really, you ski? What a small world!" Any edge you can get, anything you can tastefully do to stick in their minds after you walk out that door is key because, unfortunately, a good idea just ain't enough.
Like anyone, I have had good pitches and I have had bad pitches. I have had some where everyone is laughing and bottled water is squirting out of noses, I was being hailed as this great new find blah blah blah. Doesn't always mean they bought the idea, but at least they know I give good meeting and will have me back the next time.
My bad pitches have been bad. Like that dream where you show up at your high school naked. Yeah, that bad. I always go in with the same upbeat tone so usually if a meeting is taking a header it's because the Exec wants it to go that way. They are your audience. Any audience can laugh or throw tomatoes at will. Some just like to throw tomatoes.
One thing I have always found frustrating is when you are in the middle of a pitch - you are really hitting your stride - and something interrupts you. Maybe their assistant pokes their head in for a quick answer on something. Maybe it's a phone call they "just have to take" or maybe the Exec has fallen asleep. Whatever the reason, it is hard to get the room back up to the energy level you were building towards. You have to call an audible and adjust.
I have had pitches interrupted for almost every reason on the planet - but today was something new.
My partner David and I had a pitch at a cable TV network. Which one is not important. We had several ideas to throw at them and had worked out in detail who would do what, who would chime in where etc.
David and the Exec had met before so he took lead. They swapped stories about this person and that and so on. Then we started to pitch out our first project. The Exec was laughing, she was totally into it - we had her. Until...
"WHHHOOOOOOOOOP!" "WHHHOOOOOOOOOP" "WHHHOOOOOOP!"
"Are we being attacked?" I thought.
The Exec frowned, "Guys, I am so sorry. We're having a fire drill. C'mon, stick with me."
So we joined the Exec and walked down 12 flights of stairs to the street where the rest of the network was milling about. Those designated as "Jr. Fire Marshalls" or whatever were taking roll call. And we just kind of stood there.
Some other Execs gathered around and after some brief introductions some awkward industry talk ensued.
"So, why did that Seacrest show get cancelled?"
"Did you ever work with_________. What an asshole."
"Man, did you see _____ last night? That show sucked." "It pulled a good number, though." "I know, I wish I'd have thought of that..."
Then the fire drill was over. Everyone started shuffling back towards the building. No surprise, the elevators got incredibly backed up by AN ENTIRE NETWORK trying to squeeze into the little 8x8 boxes. The Exec suggested we take the stairs.
The stairs? SURE! NO PROBLEM!
12 flights doesn't seem like a lot. I just looked at it as I typed it and said out loud, "It doesn't seem like a lot."
Fuck you. It's a lot.
Oh, I was fine by the 3rd floor, hell I was doing pretty well by the 6th floor. But somewhere around 9 it hit me. This is exactly what I chided those fuckers on "The Biggest Loser" for bitching about. One them actually puked. Pussy. "It's some lousy stairs, suck it up!"
Hell no. My legs started shaking, my thighs were burning, my breathing was getting heavier and heavier. I couldn't even stop because I had a long line of employees behind me all moving like Autobots.
By the time we got to 12 I was done, toast. I limped behind the Exec back to their office. Once inside, I literally laid down on the floor. I did this because A) it played really funny and got a laugh and B) I really needed to lay down on the fucking floor.
Ah, but this isn't the end. We were in the middle of the pitch. That interrupted pitch that was going so well you just have jump right back in at the same momentum. Yeah, right.
David continued with the pitch. I didn't chime in at the appropriate time because I was trying to stop from puking in my mouth. On top of that, I was sweating profusely.
Now, those who know me know I shave my head. Sure, it makes me simply irresistible to that select number of the female population that digs chunky bald guys, but it also means that I have removed a major line of defense vs. sweat. Basically all I have to protect myself is my eyebrows - and if those malfunction I will probably drown.
So now I trying not to puke and drown at the same time. I know I am up next.
The room turns it's attention to me. Gulp.
Let's just say it was not best pitch.
But I didn't puke...and got to take the elevator back down.
at 2:03 PM