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Pitches man! 

This afternoon I took in the Inspired Scripts Pitch Match at the Delta Halifax where four writers, after months of training in the ways and means of pitching, are given five minutes to flaunt their screenplay wares. In this case, Rhonda Buckley, Scott Simpson, Walter Forsyth, and Chris Cuthbertson hawked three comedies and one thriller with varying degrees of pizzazz.

I found it most interesting, as I listened to the pitches and the questions that followed, the differences between how the audience decides to see a movie and how a producer decides to make a movie. Both instances seem to boil down to the same element – story, story, story – but an audience it is more superficial; does it look good/sound good? Producers are looking for a solid foundation on which to base an investment of time and money so look avidly for cracks and really drill writers for clarification on story points that were unclear, what characters are going to be on screen, and where, exactly in the story is the drama or comedy going to come from. The writers pitching spent a majority of their time on telling their story and barely any time introducing themselves and saying what they hoped the feel and look of the film would be.

Being a perpetual audience member, I found it odd to be hearing the whole story first and little to nothing about what the film’s influences were or who would be in it. From another panel discussion I listened to, I gathered that the audience does factor into the initial financing of films when making calculations of potential sales – the question of “has an audience responded to this type of film before?” is asked. Story is king in determining if the film on the table fits into a previously successful model.

But the pitches today were not at that level yet. These were stories without a home and the writers were attempting to get producers simply interested in developing their work further. I found that generating interest in the work is a 20/80 equation of content and personality. The pitches I responded most to – i.e. the ones I would go and see at the movies – were the ones that erred on the side of personality. The writer pitching, in a word, delivered their story rather than told it.

This is kind of unfair because all of the writers had well-developed product in their hands. Everybody’s story was involving on paper, but the nature of the pitch means you have to sell it out loud. Some writers fared better than others and one will be chosen to receive $20,000 in development money. We find out who on Friday at the Deluxe Toronto Awards Brunch.


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