Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Pitching in a sedan

To begin this tale, I'll start with my preparations for my interview for the Writer's Arc Fellowship.

First, I scoured the 'net. I have a post I've been working on (and will hopefully finish in time for my holiday break next week) about the various screenwriting forums (Wordplay, Done Deal, Artful Writer and Two Adverbs) and their pros and cons. I found that one of the previous fellows who kept a partial journal on the Writer's Arc website kept a more detailed and comprehensive journal on one of these forums. I then proceeded to read EVERY POST he wrote regarding his entry to and experience in the program.

That was Saturday.

There are pieces of my strategy and preparation I will not reveal, because I don't want some other resourceful finalist (who isn't one of my scribosphere friends) stealing all my ideas. This IS a competition after all.

However, there are relevant pieces to this story. Let's just say that the former Fellows names were published, easy to find, and I MIGHT have contacted one of them to get some insight into the process.

Oh yeah, I'm ruthless. Take no prisoners.

On Sunday I talked to former Fellow who was not the journaling guy, mostly e-mail though we had a brief phone conversation on Friday. Found out what I needed to know.

Sunday I went to Creative City Cafe and worked on my pitches.

I'll post all the details of how I constructed my pitches next week, particularly if my method nets me a fellowship (otherwise, I'll be posting my method for feedback on how I could have improved it).

Finally, on Monday night I met with good, trusted screenwriting friend (and blogger) who I will not name because he might not want me to. Anyway, he let me try my pitches out on him, he gave me feedback and helped me figure out what order to pitch my ideas.

So, I spent a lot of time working on my pitches, preparing for this pitch meeting.

Monday afternoon the Writer's Arc sponsors called me.

Hi, this is the Writer's Arc. Is this Shawna?

Yes, hi! How are you?

Good, I was calling to see if we could move up your interview tomorrow.

Milisecond of panic. Can hear a pin drop.

Sure, when would you like to move it to?

(In my head: 'please don't say today, please don't say today...')

Are you available an hour earlier, at 11 AM?

Of course! (In my head, I hope I don't have a meeting!')

Great, we'll talk to you tomorrow at 11.

Looking forward to it! (Crap.)

I had a 10 AM meeting, which I don't really remember much of because I kept looking at my Blackberry to see what time it was. My perfect plan for the noon pitch was to go out to my car in the parking lot, give myself some time to get into the right frame of mind, and casually scan my notes before the call starts.

What actually happens:

The meeting hasn't ended and it is 11:02. The phone is going to ring, I KNOW it is going to ring. 11:03. PHONE RINGS. Crap!! I answer -- false alarm, it's a work related thing, but it gives me the excuse I need to jump out of my chair, dart out of the conference room without even giving my boss a glance and head out to my car. Meanwhile I'm on the phone with this lady who wants to schedule a 12:30 meeting and can I call in for it...look lady, I'm waiting for a very important call, I'll give you the moon if you will just hang up RIGHT NOW. Instead I said, "yes, sounds great, talk to you then, thankyouverymuchgoodbye."

11:05 I'm in the elevator, headed down from the 9th floor, and WE ARE STOPPING ON EVERY FLOOR.

11:06 I look like some weirdo rushing through the lobby of the office building as I head to the parking deck. I take the steps two at a time, which, by the time I reach the 3rd level, I realize is really really STUPID, since I'm about to take a phone call with people and very much need to sound like I have not just run up 5 flights of stairs.

11:08 I'm in my car. I pull out my laptop and load up my pitch notes. The sun is shining brightly into my car and the screen on my laptop is pretty dim, so I mess with my coat, trying to drape it over the back of my seat the block out the light, and fail miserably. Can't sit the laptop on my lap because it is too wide in the driver's seat. Had I been thinking, I might have considered sitting on the passenger side, but I had just run up 5 flights of stairs and hadn't really given a lot of thought to how I should sit in my car.

11:13 I accidently shut down my computer. Reboot, relaunch...now I'm thinking I'm near the zone, they are going to call any second. Though it is nice out, my car has heated up and I start sweating.

11:18 I finished scribbling some last minute reminders to myself, things I want to make sure I mention and I keep glancing at the time on my Blackberry. Panic sets in. Maybe they have the wrong number? What if they tried to call when I was in the elevator but I didn't have a signal? Maybe I have the time wrong? The day wrong? Maybe they aren't calling me at all and it is all part of an elaborate joke? I try to shake off the nervous thoughts by playing Spider Solitaire, but it is hard with the touchpad when your finger is shaking slightly.

11:20 Phone rings. I'm on. Showtime. And it is like I'm back in high school, ready to go out on stage during the play. I drop my panic like a bad habit and close up the solitaire. I segue into my chitchat and eventually the pitch.

Total call time: 32 minutes and 22 seconds.

The pitching went well, I think. I know I didn't completely bomb out and I didn't sound like a blithering idiot, but oddly I felt I started strong and ended weak, which sucked, because I saved my best pitch for last and I felt I muffed it, I know I've pitched that story better. Sucks.

Good news: I ask how many Fellows...could be more than 5! All depends on how the interviews go. They felt they could handle a group of 6 or 7, which is good news for all of the interviewees. Confirmed that the program is 16 weeks.

So now, we wait...until Monday. My aunt told my mom that she put in a good word for me with God this week, so I've got that going for me.

Thanks again to everyone for the encouragement. Win or lose, I feel pretty darn good about myself, particularly as this was my first time entering a feature screenplay contest of sorts. Nicholl here I come! :-)


Matt H said...

Hilarious, Shawna! That's what I call a glimpse into the writing process. Glad to hear your pitch went well. Mine is tomorrow at 5. Still have not decided which fifth idea I should pitch. It's like getting ready for a date or something. (I know I look good in the Hugo Boss, but what if she's an Armani gal? Not that I own those kinds of clothes anyway, but it's a hypothetical.)

Also congrats on having the chutzpah to track down a former Fellow, contact them, and get the skinny. That's the kind of moxie you need to make it in this crazy business.

Good luck to us all!

writergurl said...

LOL... we should start calling you "Sherlock". Way to prep. Wish I had had some of that prep. Oh well, nothing I can od about it now.

Your Aunt and mine sound an awful lot alike!

Best of luck to all of us!

Chad said...

Wow!! SO excited for you!!

Chris said...

Heh, your experience sounds similar to mine, Shawna. I was at the computer typing up my notes in anticipation of my call later that afternoon (like five hours later) when they called and asked me to move up to one hour from the moment they were calling. Interesting. Maybe it wasn't really about the scheduling?

Of course I said yes because: (1) has to look good if you can be accommodating and still handle the change-up; and (2) the extra five hours wasn't going to help me be any more prepared. Unlike you, I didn't do any of the advanced recon on the program beyond what is on their website. I focused more on knowing my five ideas and trying to get two or three pages worth of synopses down to four or five bullet points per pitch (genre, premise, theme, characters, plot).

And yes they were about 15 minutes delayed in calling me, while I'm sitting in this basement conference room wondering if I actually don't have signal on my phone, despite the bars on the display showing I'm totally signaled. And then trying to make sure some random straggler doesn't come into the room and interrupt me while I'm on the call.

But like yours it all worked out in the end I think. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

bravo for not imbibing while waiting

writergurl said...

Huh. I didn't get asked to push my time back. And they were only about 3 minutes late calling me. (I love how everyone knows how many minutes off the mark they were.) I made sure I was at home (the bennies of working for yourself) for the call so I had none of the "I'm gonna be interrupted" nervousness. Although, inexplicably, the dog started barking in the middle of things. But, I got her to shut up and we continued on. We were on for a little less than an hour.

MQ, I imbibed AFTER the call (it was on Friday at 2 PST, which is 5 EST, so I felt it was OK).

Shawn said...

You couldn't have planned it any better, Shawna! Hysterical story. I'm sure you nailed the pitch. People always do better than they really think. Congrats on getting this far!

Joseph said...

Good luck!

oneslackmartian said...

GOOD GOD JESUS ALMIGHTY! I felt more tension and suspense reading your post than I’ve felt watching any movie in the last 3 years! Maybe because it dealt with a screenwriter whose career was taking off and about to be stalled if the pitch meeting didn’t unfold. Anyhow . . . Great Post!

You go girl!!