I had to do my first verbal pitch for a feature film the other week. If you've even seen 'The Player', it's that bit where the Hapless Writers try and convince the Studio Executive to invest millions of dollars in their movie, which is usually as yet unwritten, by making it sound like the best thing in the world. The quickest way to do this is the 'X crossed with Y' format ('It's like Magnolia crossed with 2001! But funny! And with heart!).
Now I hadn't actually realised I was supposed to be pitching in that meeting, so I was a bit taken aback when after some perfectly nice rambly chat about science fiction of the nineteen seventies, we cut to this (to me) complete non sequitur:
EXEC: So, Big Financial Man will be coming in in just a minute, so if you're okay to do the pitch now...
EXEC: Did I not say his schedule had changed and we were having the Pitch Meeting today?
ME: No, I thought this was the Pre-Pitch Meeting.
EXEC: Ah, it was, but now it's the Pitch Meeting.
ME: (whining) Where did the 'Pre' go? I liked the 'Pre'!
EXEC: By the way, if during the pitch, Big Financial Man starts picking his nose, or wanders off for a wee, or just, you know, gets up and wanders off, he's not being rude, that's just how he is.
ME: Okay, but if during the pitch he does any of those things and I PUNCH HIM IN THE FACE, I'm not being rude either, it's just how I am.
I didn't really say that last bit, but I was within my rights I reckon. 'Just how he is', honestly. It's like that stupid Levellers song with the chorus 'Only one way of life and that's my own' which all the stupid hippies in my sixth form used to sing along to in a smug self-righteous way, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the same sentiment could equally well be used to excuse the actions of anyone from Hitler to the people behind Big Brother, who I don't place on any kind of moral parity by the way, Hitler being clearly mentally ill and lead astray by those around him.*
But I digress. The pitch actually went very well, and then segued into a discussion about Benjamin Disraeli, who hadn't been part of the pitch in any way, so I'm not sure how he found his way onboard, to be honest. Weirdly enough, I felt better having to pitch it out of the blue, as it's very easy to overthink these things, and end up sounding horribly stiff, and thrown by the simplest question. Like 'Why should I go and see this film?' for example, which I tend to answer with 'I wouldn't, cinemas are all icky and full of talking children and mobile phones, ew, wait for the DVD' which misses the point rather.
Anyway, in the end it went to The Other Guy - it wasn't an original idea, the film company had bought the rights to an Obscure Thing and were looking for writers to develop it, so I had written a treatment and it had got down to the two of us - but as I got the call on my way to BBC Drama where I'm developing a thing set not a million miles away from Cornwall (okay then, it's set in Cornwall), I didn't mind too much.
Still, my first proper film pitch. And he only picked his nose a bit, and I didn't punch anyone, so frankly a good day all round.
* Warning, I am not an actual historian.