Monday, October 4, 2010

Day 262: from the pitcher's mound

Yesterday I had the opportunity to pitch to about 20 producers, from Broadway to Off-Broadway to non-profit theaters, at a writer/producer "speed date" held by TRU (Theater Resources Unlimited)note: if you are in the theater business and don't know this organization, you absolutely should.  They do amazing things and have been so helpful to me.   TRU sets up producers at stations, and then writers each get 2 minutes to pitch their play, followed by 2 minutes for the producers to ask questions.  A whistle blows and the writers rotate to the next station.  It's completely relaxed and no pressure at all. NOT.

Participating came about very much at the last minute for me, so I only had since Friday to prepare my pitch and put together a packet of materials, including a one-page synopsis (which is much, much harder to write than you might guess).  I completely lost my entire weekend to this task, as it is surprisingly difficult to distill a 2 hour play down to a couple of sentences, all the while attempting to capture its essence.  How does one capture the essence of a play whose strongest quality is how real it feels?  How familiar the characters are, how true the dialogue sounds?  When I drafted my pitch and tried to say that ("with strikingly honest dialogue and hauntingly believable characters"), I was advised that I can't just say that, I have to show it.  But how do I show that?  It's not as if I can quote a few lines from the play, especially not in 2 minutes.  I still don't know the answer to that question, and I kind of had to just let that go.  I attempted to just say enough about the play to pique their interest to want to know more -- the goal was not to get a producer to sign right then and there, but to hope they might want to read the script or attend the reading in November.

With the help of the comments from the folks at TRU and my director's input, I ended up feeling as well-prepared as I could last night.  I learned a lot -- most importantly, that the plot summary I felt I had shortened as much as I possibly possibly could was still way too long.  While a few producers wanted to know more about the story, almost all of them wanted to know right away what kind of piece it is, where it is in its development, and what I want out of them -- so they know whether or not to bother being interested.  Then they can hear more about the story if they want.  I so wished I could have had a few minutes to think between producers, to try to shorten my plot summary after I'd heard that a few times, but there just wasn't time to think.  Fortunately, the whole process is intended to be a learning experience, a place to practice pitching and to learn what works and what doesn't.  And I definitely did.

The very, very best part is this: even with my imperfect pitch, 3 of the main producers (and 2 of TRU's producers-in-training) expressly asked to be invited to my reading on November 2nd!!! 2 of the 3 are Broadway producers at that.  Who knows if they will be able to come, but the fact that they were interested enough to ask thrills me.  It means I did manage to get something across about my work, I managed to present myself and my project in such a way that they want to learn more. 

When I began this project 262 days ago, I have to say I never dreamed I would be at this stage already -- that I would be pitching it to Broadway producers and actually having them be interested.  Who knows what will come of it, but it is a very auspicious beginning for my little baby.
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