Saturday, 10 November 2012

Pitch Perfect

Chris and I are on the verge of worldwide recognition. Well, verge may be misleading. ‘On the way to’ is more precise.  ‘Heading towards.’   Yes, we’re ‘heading towards’ worldwide recognition.
If you want to be a stickler perhaps ‘Planning for’ could describe most accurately our relationship to worldwide recognition.  ‘We are planning to prepare for worldwide recognition.’

Now, having said that, we are closer to worldwide recognition in the great scheme of the evolution of the universe than the first oceanic life forms were to growing feet and walking out of the water. That took 4,666 million years.

We’re closer than that.

And I’ll tell you why. It’s because our pitching  - and our attitude to pitching  - has got better. We are pitching to people who are more likely to catch.

For those of you not hip with industry lingo – unlike Chris and myself who are on the verge of preparing for worldwide recognition - pitching means to throw an idea into the mind of an editor/developer/commissioner and see how it blooms. Watch it come to life behind their eyes, blossoming into a fragrant and life-enhancing garden of hilarity, eroticism and poignant observation. The possibilities of the idea reach into the gullet of the developer and grasp her, asphyxiate her, knock her unconscious until, 18 months later, a fully-fledged runaway, worldwide hit is born.  

I know that in this scenario, our idea is like the alien gestating in John Hurt. Maybe with happier consequences, but still not pleasant for Mr Hurt.

Forgive me.  I’m distracted, preparing to plan to be on the verge of worldwide recognition.

We had our most recent pitch yesterday. I won’t say it was at an internationally recognised broadcasting corporation based in Britain that rhymes with -  KGB; I’ll say it was at the… Schmee-Schmee-Schmee. We were met by what looked like a (tall, handsome, warm, friendly) 12-year old in charge of development. Midway through the meeting I found myself leaning forward, looking desperately for a line in his face. Some indication of life etched on his brow.

‘Like a baby’s was his skin!’ I shouted at Chris through the foam of a chai tea latte at our debrief an hour later. ‘As though he’d just been ripped from his mother’s womb.’

‘Uterine skin,’ Chris agreed.

This pre-birth look didn’t keep us from liking him immediately – his clarity, his eagerness, his focus, his attention and the fact that he was obviously competent and probably, now we listened to him, over 21. He said yes, there was a home for our project. Schmee-Schmee-Schmee 2 did this sort of thing all the time. He’d been ‘entranced’ by the pitch, said it was convincing and I was obviously passionate. He was funny, present. Very nice smile.

‘But,’ he said. ‘I don’t want to mislead you. The bar for the writing is very high. For the spot you’re pitching, we are going with big names. Well known names. The biggest.’

He said a few well-known names. We knew the names. I won’t repeat the names but one of them was Schmom Schtoppard.  

He went on. ‘Not that a famous person can’t write a bad script. It happens. And someone no one knows can write something fantastic.’

He looked at us. ‘And that’s exciting. That’s what we want. How far have you got? Is there a script?’

I didn’t look at Chris.

‘Yes,’ I said. ‘There’s a script.’

His eyes lit up.

‘May I read it?’

‘No,’ I said. ‘You may not read it.’

He blinked at me. Here was an editor at the Schmeeb asking if he could read my writing. Asking for a copy of the script that I had written, presumably, for this exact purpose. And I was saying ‘No’.

I didn’t tell Wunderkind that that first draft of the script inspired the kind of comments that, in the most constructive way, tell you to treat every page as you would, say,  a waste oil: combustion, storage. Interring. Anything to prevent uncontrolled discharge of the words.

I looked him in the eye, steeling myself, as though he might reach into the nuclear waste compartment of my mind and retrieve the script.  ‘You will never, ever read that draft,’ I said. Icily. ‘No one I respect will ever read that draft.’

‘Ah,’ he said, negotiating the waves of defensive hostility rising from me like heat from a reactor.  He was very still. Then broke into a smile. ‘At least you respect me.’

After a luxuriously generous 50 minutes, he walked us to the door, saying he looked forward to reading my next draft.

 And he meant it. He said it several times.  We exchanged goodbyes. He had a nice hand shake.

‘Did you notice, Chris, he had a nice handshake.’ I sucked back a wave of tea and wiped away the foam moustache (the foam of the chai isn’t necessary but it adds the opportunity to impersonate Jerry in episode 157 of Seinfeld when George suggests they take a vacation from themselves and grow facial hair).

‘He had a nice handshake?’ Chris bit her lip. ‘That probably means mine was crap.’

I gasped.

‘You give crap hand shakes? Why would you ever give a crap hand shake?’

‘Because I’m distracted. I’m not thinking. I’m wondering where I’ve left my umbrella.’

‘You know, the crappest handshakes I’ve ever got, you know where they were?’

Chris downed her chai and shook her head.

‘In prison. When I worked in prison. These guys had broken and entered and stolen and committed grievous bodily harm and they had the coldest, weakest, flimsiest handshakes in the world. You’d think they had the cojones to rip off a bank, they could give a firm grip.’

I used the long spoon to stir the chai powder that gathered at the bottom of the cup.

‘One of the ex-offenders I worked with said it was because they didn’t trust me yet.’ A horrible thought occurred to me. ‘Maybe the prodigy thinks you didn’t trust him.’

‘He’s on our side, he liked us.’ She downed the dregs of her tea. ‘You just have to write a fantastic script.’

For whatever reason – the great confidence my parents had in me, the fine schooling I received, the support of my teachers, the fact that my friends still like to read excerpts from FLAXY: THE STORY OF A DOG, my first novel, at dinner parties – I know I’ll write a fantastic script. I’ve almost just told you, dear reader, ‘I’ve written a fantastic script.’ As it feels already done.

What is new is that I know I will allow this script, and from thence, all subsequent scripts, to burst out into the world and live. Do its job. Entertain the masses. I’m an entertaining-the-masses kind of girl.

And I thought to myself, biking home from the meeting, of the reason why I am only now ready for this new chapter to begin.

It’s because to negotiate worldwide recognition takes a degree of mental and emotional health I am only now capable of. Not to be overwhelmed by attention, demands, expectation – not to be cast into despair after you’ve reached the pinnacle of your profession and there’s nowhere better to go, not to be anxious as you break with old ideas that you’re not lucky, not deserving, that it’s dangerous to aim so high and to desire so much, that all this attention is immodest and obviously not lady-like – takes a self-awareness I have only begun to know.

If I had blasted forth, my hugely populist self, at any moment before now I could have – no, probably would have -  followed in the steps of Janis Joplin. Or Karen Carpenter. I would have ended up putting unwanted things into me (heroin) and keeping wanted things out of me (food). I would have thought external recognition had something to do with my worth. I could have been launched forth on the strength of one or two ideas then left twiddling my thumbs at the top of the tower thinking ‘Well, what the fuck do I do now?’ Devoid of further content. Panicked.

Every single pitch this year has been enjoyable; every single commissioner/developer/editor has been friendly, receptive, intelligent, funny and kind. We have gone from ‘It’s very well written, but too dramatic for comedy’, to ‘It’s very well written, but too funny for drama’ to ‘It’s very well written but tonally not right’ to‘ Go on. Show me.’

The real reason guys in prison don’t shake your hand with more confidence is because people full of self-regard don’t hold other people at gun point and demand their money. People who know and like themselves don’t break into other people’s houses, don’t beat up other people and don’t do heroin.

Just as people who know and like themselves know worldwide recognition isn’t the same as success. That success is something else altogether.

Chris and I are verging on preparation for plans to head towards worldwide recognition. Because right now we’re enjoying success. Everything else is foam.


Because all the writing and pitching and succeeding at MYPC is taking priority, this blog will now appear monthly. Thank you for reading and being part of the story.


  1. As always, this boy loves it. I have too many wrinkles and not enough money to be useful as a recipient of your pitch. But I receive your pitch and whack it back over the net at you like a... tennis ball of love.
    regards Anthony 'mangled metaphor' Toner. xx

  2. If the script comes close to matching the passion and wit of this excerpt, worldwide recognition and success will follow.

  3. You always make this reader laugh out loud -- do not swerve from your irresistible fusion of comedy and pathos. I feel you could write the classic of our times, a Comedy of Positive Thinking. It need not end happily. If you make us laugh along the way, it will hurt even more.

    Soon your best draft will meet a great editor and you will be off to the races.


  4. I have no doubt about your internal editor making sure you do not produce a nuisance or a blight upon the landscape of contemporary drama. So write well, charm the discerning youngster at the Fleeceegee, and I shall tell everyone, in a casual, happens-to-me-all-the-time kind of voice, "I'm an almost-forgotten acquaintance of hers! Really, I am!"

  5. May I echo all the above? I'm just constructing ideas for my next blog entry about art and abstract thinking and much of what you say - humourously tongue-in-cheek - is seriously true and has helped my own thinking. Not much I know but thanks for that at least. You will get to read it soon but it won't be a quarter as funny. When you get to my age, and you will, oh you will, you realise fame and recognition come a poor second and third to self-respect and settledness. Richard