My Very Worst Pitches
So all you need is a chance to get in a room and pitch your masterpiece, right? Actually, it doesn’t always work out that well. Let me tell you about a few of my worst pitch stories from my years in the Hollywood trenches. Once upon a time, Richard Dreyfuss and I sold Dawn Steele, then head of Paramount, a pitch for a feature. Before I wrote it, a year had passed and Richard’s star at the time had waned (due to his getting drunk and crashing his car into a tree and his subsequent battle for sobriety.) When it was time for me to start writing, Dawn called my agent and said, so help me God, “Over here at Paramount, we’ve lost our collective erection for the project.” When Richard and I went in to re-pitch it, I asked to have a fluffer sent in before we started. If you don’t know what a fluffer is, look it up. Richard almost fell off the couch laughing. Dawn, realizing that what she had said was repeated to me, turned beet red. It was the only time I ever saw her at a loss for words.
Arnold Kopelson, the producer of, among other things “The Fugitive” and “Platoon” decided at the last minute to show up for my pitch to Laura Ziskin, then head of Fox 2000. Since the remake I was pitching was for his company, and since he was a very powerful producer at the time, his attending made it all look pretty much like a slam dunk. Pitched my heart out for a good twenty minutes. When I’d finished, Laura Ziskin seemed very interested. That is, until Kopelson announced to one and all, that he hated it, thereby killing his own project. If the ground could have opened and swallowed me, I would have opted for that rather than sitting in the room, wanting to die.
Another moment where I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or weep was when I went in with a pitch to a studio exec at Universal about retired middle aged superheroes (way pre “The Incredibles.”) The exec seemed confused before I had gotten very far. She then interrupted me to ask very seriously if this was based on a real story. What, exactly, do you say to this? As gently as I could I told her that although I was unsure how to break this to her, there were no such things as superheroes.
Not sure how to deal with moments like these? Check out my two day Writers Workshop (June 23-24) where I’ll cover how to prepare for a pitch, how to pitch effectively and what to do when things don’t go your way!