In Part I, I described the prep work my producer and I went through for a pitch we were taking around town for an adaptation of a Young Adult novel. Now it was time to go off on “the dog and pony show,” as my agent once affectionately described it.
It’s always best to arrive earlier than later, so for our first pitch, the producer and I decide to meet 20 minutes early. We go over last minute notes, how we’re going to intro, etc. We finally get called in 15 minutes after our scheduled appointment.
I try to be animated, acting out lines where necessary, adding beats of silence when appropriate. (By the way, it’s perfectly acceptable to bring in notes to refer to. Just don’t read the entire pitch and remember to make eye contact.) We’ve also prepared visuals to show during the pitch.
As we go through our spiel, I watch for tell-tale signs of sleepiness or boredom. He’s nodding his head enthusiastically and he looks awake. But judging by the questions he asks at the end, I may have been wrong. The exec has problems with the mythology, which he’s confused about, and makes some comparisons with “Twilight” and why we’re not “Twilight.” So apparently, it wasn’t “Twilighty” enough. No surprise when we hear later that it’s a strike out.
For our next meeting, we go over strategy again. We decide the visuals are distracting and decide to bring them out after the pitch instead of during. We also decide to explain the mythology up front.
Our next pitch is to someone who says she’s a fan of the YA genre. Plus she actually knows the mythology. That’s a promising start. But during the pitch, I notice she’s sighing a lot, tapping her foot and staring off into space. “We’re doomed!” I think. We’re sinking like a cement block. I start to speak louder and with more animation and my partner skips parts so we can end this quicker.
That’s another thing about pitches, though. It’s practically impossible to gauge reactions. To my surprise, this exec has actually been paying attention. Her questions are on point, and she tells us she really liked the pitch and she gets it. She’s a fan, but she just needs to do research on the numbers on the book and get back to us.
Ultimately, that will prove to be our biggest stumbling block. The book is by a first-time writer, and as mentioned in my previous blog, isn’t something that’s high on the radar in the book world. It wasn’t a best seller and she passes. We soldier on.
By the fifth or sixth pitch, I think we’ve got it down. We show the visuals at the end only if we think they’d be interested. Instead of my partner intro-ing by talking about how much of a fan I am of the YA genre (and I try hard not to cringe), I do a spiel about some research I’ve dug up. The YA demographic is the most literate demographic (no kidding) and the numbers in YA book sales are continuing to grow. I talk about how our movie has all the elements that YAs look for according to a study, and how our story will actually appeal to both male and female audiences. So now we’ve armed these execs with tangibles that they can then repeat to the higher-ups.
I feel like we totally killed in our last pitches. We walked out feeling good from the reactions we got at the end. But once again, the low book ranking just isn’t working in our favor. So we know this is our Achilles Heel. But persistence and a steely armor against rejection are necessary tools in your arsenal in the Biz, so we still don’t give up. We decide now that this story could actually make a great television series. There’s more acceptance in this arena of material that doesn’t already have a huge, built-in following.
Now we’re back to the drawing board. By switching gears to television, it suddenly gives us the liberty to come up with all new content and original stories, and this is actually the fun part for me. The book has provided a good jumping off point, but now we can really kick in some creative juices, new characters, twists and turns, and surprises that even we’re surprised about. Why hadn’t we thought about TV earlier?
So the saga continues…