Monday, April 02, 2012

Virtual Pitching: Help for the Pitch-phobe (Guest Post with John Alarid)

Today, I welcome my friend, screenwriter & Emmy Award-winning Writer for KNBC News, John Alarid. John has worked for NBC Studios in Burbank, California for almost 34 years. He has a long list of Golden Mike and Emmy Award nominations for working on numerous award-winning series and documentaries. His skills and talents have also been recognized by the Los Angeles Press Club.

As a journalist, John has covered a wide range of stories: the O.J. Simpson trial, drive-by shootings, bar brawls, witch cults and satanic ceremonies and cattle mutilations. His love for broadcast news, conspiracy and science fiction are what motivated him to pick up the pen and create a unique blend of true life, “what-if” conspiracy thrillers based on his personal experiences while covering topical news stories and events.

"My fascination with sci-fi thrillers began the summer of 1963 when I had my first “X-File” encounter," John says. "I was 13-years-old when I saw a UFO near Pan-Tex, a nuclear bomb assembly plant located in the Texas Panhandle. Since then I've been involved with hundreds of UFO related stories. In one incident, film shot of a UFO was requested by Air Force for further investigation. The film was never returned. Air Force authorities claimed they never received it. 

"My most enlightening “X-File” experience event occurred in 1974. Stanley Marsh III, a Texas billionaire and owner of KVII-TV, asked me and my crew to stay after sign-off one night. My assignment was to assist some political activists make videotapes of a bootlegged copy of what turned out to be the Zapruder film. I found out that the activists had obtained the footage from supposedly a disgruntled CIA Agent fled up with the cover-up of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. The stories shared that evening were considered “Classified.” I tell their story in my screenplay, A KODAK MOMENT."

I met John years ago when we were both Second Rounders in the Austin Heart of Film Screenwriting Contest. I reconnected with him again last year at the InkTip Pitch Fest in Burbank. We keep tabs on each other every so often, cheerleading & giving support when needed. When John told me about Virtual Pitching (something I had never heard about before), I was intrigued. He very generously agreed to share his experience with my readers. So... Hee-e-e-e-ere's John!


"Go ahead. Pitch me."
Pitching is something I’ve never had to seriously deal with, that is until just recently. In fact, for me, it’s been one of the most difficult things that I’ve ever done.

Talking to deal makers, shakers and players in person has never been easy for me.  I become very uncomfortable and extremely nervous whenever I do.  For whatever reason, I always felt uncomfortable during interviews or whenever I’ve had to sit across a suit-type person. 

Thanks to e-mails, I’ve been able to avoid the pitch process. In most cases, I just e-mailed my log lines and pitches, and hoped for the best.

The First Pitch

Last spring I attended my first pitch festival.  For me, it turned into a weekend disaster.  The basic idea of the InkTip Pitch Summit I attended was that you had three minutes to pitch your ideas. It was supposed to be similar to speed dating. There were about 200 agents and producer types crammed into a huge conference hall. Every three minutes four to five hundred hungry screen writers swarmed the room turning it into what look like an eating frenzy.

For me, it was terrible. It was chaotic, extremely loud, and impersonal. I couldn’t hear myself talk, it was disorganized, and to make matters worth there were several times when there was no one at the table to pitch my material to. Other than reconnecting with some former writing companions, the pitch fest was a waste of my time and $650 dollars. That was my experience. (Ami's note: For a slightly different perspective, check out "Tips for Surviving the Pitch Session." I actually liked the chaos...)

The Pitch Problem

This year, I found myself with a whole new realization of myself.   I had grown as a writer and as much I hated to, I needed to step up to plate and learn to pitch.  So I signed up for Fade In’s “Concept to Sale Conference.”  The first day of conference was supposed to have workshops to help us develop our pitching skills. The following day we would apply what we had learned during an all-day pitch festival where the pitches would be seven minutes long.

I figured seven-minute pitches would be much easier for me to do than the three-minute ones. So I signed up. However, through a fateful twist of events, a few days before the conference, things changed. A booking problem with the hotel forced the last forty that registered to be dropped from the conference.

For a few moments the thought of not attending was a real relief. But then I was offered admittance to the 16th Hollywood Pitch Festival in July. Plus I was given five Skype on-line pitches to the Hollywood On-Line Pitch Festival Virtual Pitch Fest that had been scheduled for the same weekend as the “Concept to Sale Conference.”

The Pitch Solution

So needless to say, I snatched up the deal and spent three days rehearsing my pitches.  And I’m sure glad that I did. I had up to ten minutes for each pitch.  It turned out to be a superior pitch session compared to my experience with the previous pitch fest I attended last spring.

On-line pitching is the way to go.  It's one-on-one.  There is nobody around except you and the agent and/or the producers. There were a couple times when I had to be rescheduled for another time and day. But other than that, it was one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. I pitched my material to ICM, WME, Robert Evans Company, Tower Hill Entertainment and the Brogan Agency. 

And guess what? All of my pitches turned out to be successful. ICM wants my rock 'n rolling romantic comedy The Road to Shambala. WME wants to see my kick-ass adventure film Blue Coats: The Whitecloud Chronicles.  And the Robert Evans Company and Tower Hill want those two along with my pulse-pounding thriller, A Kodak Moment

And although, the Brogan Agency was a no show, they did contact me several days later and apologized for cancelling out. They had some technical problems with their Internet provider.  So, they ask me to send them one of my scripts.

I don’t know about anybody else, but I sure was blessed with a bouquet of four leaf clovers.  I’m now reviewing and tweaking my material before I submit them.  I’ll keep you posted.

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