Dear Dr. Paige Turner: Pitch Meetings Part 2 – A Disaster Story

Dr. Paige TurnerYou may think you learned all you need to know about how to take a pitch meeting in Paige’s last  column.

But that’s just the beginning of the story.

Here’s Part Two of her reply to “The Beav” about movie pitch meetings – the fantasy and the reality.

Over to you Paige.

B.E.

 

Dearest Eager,

What could possibly go wrong in a pitch meeting?

E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G.

As in anything possible, as well as things far beyond the furthest stretch of your imagination.

I’ve taken a seat on either side of the desk many a time. I’ve donned The Exec Hat, as well as worn a fetching Producer’s Chapeau, and let me tell you dear reader, just when you feel confident that you know how to pitch a movie idea, and what to expect in a pitch meeting, SURPRISE! Your sweet fantasy can turn into a terrifying nightmare in a flash.

The phone rings and the Exec takes the call.

Look politely off into the distance. Strive for invisibility.

The phone rings and the Exec does not take the call.

It just keeps ringing. Smoothest pitcher I ever saw in this situation said, “And then the phone rang,” and kept right on going with her story. Now that’s how to pitch a movie idea!

You start your pitch and the Exec says, “Stop!”

They have something similar in development and are cutting you off because they don’t want to get sued. Have another pitch or two prepared. Act as if you are unfazed. Nonchalantly josh, “Well you certainly have great taste,” and move on. “I’ve got a smart comedy with romance and a broad teen comedy. Would one of those be up your alley?”

The Exec hates, loathes, despises your idea from the word “Go,” and failed to pass Poker Face 101.

It hurts like hell as all the air is sucked out of the room, but you must press onward, pitching through the pain. Cut it as short as possible. Go for the highly condensed CliffsNotes version.

Those are pretty run of the mill scenarios that every writer should be prepared to face. I’ve survived meeting disasters too outlandish to be believable in a movie. A few are simply too painful to for me recount, but here are a few that put many horror movies to shame.

Pitch meetings can be horror stories.

The Exec starts to fall asleep.

Yes.

Really.

I was having a delightful time developing a smart, high-concept thriller with a terribly handsome writer who had captivating green eyes and a sexy English accent. He was brilliant and a terrific storyteller however, when spotted strolling the halls of a studio, his agent’s phone rang with calls from woman execs eager to meet with him.

I booked pitch meetings all around the town. We were set for a late afternoon pitch when the Exec’s (presumably) busy schedule left us cooling our heels in the waiting room. Reluctant to simply bail, we stuck it out until at last, we were shown into the conference room dominated by a huge, round table.

By this time it was dark. The Exec sat across the vast expanse from us, parked her elbow on the table and propped her head Asleep at the pitch meeting.up with her hand. As the hot writer pitched his heart out, ever so slowly, the Exec began sliding…

down…

down…

down…

along the polished wood surface.

The writer jumped up and began animatedly acting out what happened next.

Tragic.

Some catastrophes are so outlandish that they are simply entertaining.

Snake Plisskin finds himself inadvertently in a pitch meeting.My all-time favorite fiasco story comes from my gal pal Barri Evins who, as President of Debra Hill’s company, at one point had an office in the production trailer for Escape From LA. While hearing a pitch from a husband and wife team, one of the three doors to her office popped open and there was Kurt Russell, in his tighty-whities.

Kurt, ecstatic that fifteen years later he could still fit into his original Snake Plissken outfit, was expecting to find a costume designer on the other side of the door.

The writers, seated in the corner, couldn’t see a thing.

Kurt and Barri however, shared quite the wide-eyed double take.

Talk about “Pitch us interruptus!”

No lesson here about how to pitch a movie idea, other than “Expect the unexpected.”

Sweet dreams!

Dr. Paige Turner

 

 

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