Facing Fear at Pitch Fest 2017: A Personal Account
May 5, 2017
Before registering for the “Development Process for Film and TV Class,” I assumed it would follow the structure of our previous coursework. Write, edit, rinse and repeat. For me, typically, the hardest part would stem and be rooted in, constructive criticism.
Though criticism continues to be a personal challenge, I’ve adapted to learning how to take critiques without being offended. And, while logically it’s easy to process criticism, as an artist – let’s be real – it’s always difficult to stand at the precipice of a classroom with your professor and peers eyeballing you, as you wait for the imperial thumbs up or thumbs down.
Still, there was a familiar comfortability and something I’d gotten use to in our screenwriting classes. So, Development Process wouldn’t be much different. Right?
Developmental Process was strictly a class that was designed to refine our ability to communicate our thesis projects to prospect buyers. How to pitch a script – thoroughly and effectively.
Though I had long heard about having to pitch your scripts to a studio executive or agent, I figured this experience would come somewhere down the road in that thing called “the real world.” Nothing I had to worry about in the near future. Apparently, our professor, Mr. Travis Knox, wasn’t aware of my plan to delay this process for as long as possible.
Our final assignment was to pitch our thesis script to a variety of real life, flesh and blood agents, managers and different production companies. All people who had not only creative merit, but had the potential to get your script produced.
An inner panic began to simmer and then boil.
I had spent the majority of my introverted life using any possible excuse to get out of situations that involved facing a group and explaining my creative work. I could write all day long, but talking about it – that’s an entirely different matter.
Though facing the blank page each day is challenging, the words and letters will never jump off the page and judge you. The computer won’t start talking and make statements such as: “This idea isn’t for me” or “I’ve already seen something like this before.”
This is where writing takes on a new strain of fear.
Will they like my idea?
Will I make any sense?
Somehow the answers to these questions always correlated into a self-defeating premonition: Will I ever be good enough to be a professional writer?
But if you never try, you’ll never know. So, I did.
After the initial shock dissipated, the fear returned the night before we traveled to Los Angeles. Pitch Fest was to be held on the Sony Pictures lot.
In times of emotional crisis, I’m not ashamed to say I like to turn to self-help books and this situation was no different. I went straight to my Tony Robbins collection, where I read a chapter concerning the term transformational vocabulary.
Transformational vocabulary is a fancy way of taking certain negative words we use and turn them into positive words, since what we tell ourselves ultimately becomes our reality. Instead of telling myself, “I’m nervous” over and over again, I would repeat to myself, “I’m being challenged.”
With this mantra zipping and zooming through my subconscious: “I’m being challenged. I’m being challenged.” I began to believe it.
And this girl doesn’t back away from any challenge.
I made my way to Culver City with my friend and classmate, Chelsea. Practicing our pitches back and forth to one another, we became more comfortable with explaining our thesis projects. When we finally made it to Sony, I was assigned 10 different people to pitch.
My preconceived notions of what Pitch Fest would be turned out to be faulty. My nervousness soon turned to exhaustion. As I went from table to table, my anxiety shifted into the need for endurance. There I was talking about how the story is personal, then easing into the story structure and making sure to cover the themes and development of character.
No wonder they call these meetings the water bottle tour. I had to pace myself. This is a marathon, not a sprint. By the end, I got nine out of 10 positive reviews of my thesis project. Not only was I exceptionally proud of the positive reviews, but personally, I was most proud of overcoming my “fear of the pitch.”
Simply, at the end of the day, learning how to pitch and execute an idea wasn’t for those I was staring at; it was for me. I was able to kick fear to the curb, and strap myself confidently into the driver’s seat. You see, I learned that I can be nervous, uh, I mean, challenged, and come out the other side, victorious.