The clicky pen guy, the drooling executive, and the speaker phone.
The lure of the pitch is that you go in with an idea and the studio gives you money to write it. Our favorite pitch story is that the writer of the Bette Midler comedy “Hocus Pocus” went into a meeting, threw a fistful of candy corn across the table, and said, “This is your movie.”
And they gave him money.
We’ve sold a number of spec scripts, but haven’t had all that much luck selling pitches. Not that we haven’t tried. We’ve tried a lot. In our second-worst pitch meeting ever, the executive pulled out his pen, clicked it open, and looked at us expectantly. We told him the first sentence – and he clicked his pen shut. But he didn’t stop us – he let us talk for another fifteen minutes, selling our little writers’ hearts out. When we were done, he said, “Well told.”
(Insiders’ information: if an executive says, “Well told,” your pitch sucked.)
We might as well have quit as soon as we heard the second click of the pen.
In our worst pitch ever, we had a meeting with a high-level producer at Universal Studios. It was us, him, and his three development assistants. About five minutes into our pitch, we heard a funny sound from the producer: snoring. We looked at the assistants, and they just nodded like nothing was odd: “Sleeping? We don’t see anybody sleeping.” So, for another ten minutes, we pitched our idea to the sleeping producer. (We remember him starting to drool, but maybe we’re exaggerating.) Anyway, when we finally stopped talking, he jerked awake… Blinked at us… And said, “Well told.”
We’ve only sold one pitch, and it was a total fluke. We had a meeting set up, and we’d taken weeks preparing a full pitch.
(More insiders’ information: pitches take so much time to prepare for that you might as well just write the damned script.)
When we reached the office, the assistants told us that the producer had been called to New York for a meeting and couldn’t make it in person. But they had him on the speaker phone – he could give us three minutes.
We gulped. Shouting into the speaker, we told him the story’s beginning, middle, and end, and three scenes we loved.
He didn’t laugh… but he said, “Huh. That’s funny.” And hung up.
We drove away, certain this was our third-worst pitch ever. (Or maybe our second. Snoring guy will always be number one.)
The next day our agent called and said congratulations, we’d sold the pitch.
We’ve loved speaker phones ever since.