Monday, April 09, 2007

The Lost Art Of Pitching...Not Baseball

Pitch is actually quite impressive for such a little word. Look it up in on online dictionary (only kind of dictionary I’ve used for the last eight years) and you’ll get about twenty definitions. If you count urban slang then you’ll get about ten more, half of them probably British.

For the sake of clarity, I’m talking about pitching creative ideas. As aspiring screenwriters this is something that we will all have to do, and do well if we hope to sell our material. Old timers who have had experience in the industry tell me it’s a “lost art”. I always felt that term made it sound so mysterious, as if pitching as it was originally understood is buried somewhere next to Atlantis.

Pitching must be a lost art, because I’m not too good at it, and most screenwriters I know aren’t too good either. Sure, we can all convey our ideas, but it’s not the same as what those old timers talk about. They talk about going into a room and having a riveting conversation that turns strangers into family. By the ninetieth minute they’re on the edge of their seats and you’re on top of the table as you walk them through the same amazing experience the audience will have. Can people still do that? I know I can’t...not yet at least.

There was no doubt that my pitching muscle needed strengthening after what I would call my first official pitch session. All in all it went fairly well, but as the two men studied me for flaws I couldn’t escape that feeling that I wasn’t in control. It’s my pitch, my idea. I should be in total control, but their eyes, their gestures, and their comments began altering my idea and even how I felt about it. It’s a warm smothering feeling. I imagine it would be similar to making out with the facehugger from Alien.

I felt creatively stronger after the session, but I also realized that I still have a long way to go. In our world, pitching is an ability worthy enough to be a superpower. I hope writers aren’t passing up the opportunity to study this lost art.

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