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  • The Great American Pitchfest

    July 23rd, 2009

    Less than two weeks after the Santa Fe Conference, I took part in the ever-expanding Great American Pitchfest. I have been attending the Great American for about 5 years now – I’m officially a veteran. And I even attended the Great Canadian a few years ago, which is run by the same team.


    When I started with the Great American, it was a small event which probably had 250 writers in attendance and 40 companies. It was greatly overshadowed by other LA-based events like the Screenwriting Expo and the Fade-In Pitchfest. But I am so happy that in such a short time, the Great American has become one of the pre-eminent LA pitching events and conferences and this year there were over 2000 writers and about 80 companies (there would have been 110, but some companies think they are too important to show up). This is mostly due to the GA’s headmaster, Signe Olynyk, who has definitely stepped up her game.


    And with the new line up of classes, instructors, and panels, dollars for donuts, this is probably the best value for writers out of any of the conferences in LA. The classes and instructors were great. I was worried at first that my “No B.S. Guide to Pitchfests” class wouldn’t be well attended, but by fifteen minutes into the class, it was standing room only and I think it went very well despite the fact that I couldn’t use any audio/visual, which I didn’t know until two days before the event. So my power point presentation went out the window and the class was forced to (gasp!) actually listen to me speak. There were some other classes on theme, networking and making your archetypes more powerful – or some crap like that – but if you’re a writer and you’re spending money on pitching, then why wouldn’t you attend the pitching class, right?


    There were some other heavy weights teaching master classes like Pilar Alessandra and Blake Snyder, who are both fantastic. Michael Hauge, who is one of the most successful teachers around, was there teaching as well. The afternoon was full of 30-minute consulting sessions and I was booked solid for 5 hours. I was so glad that they went well, and I absolutely loved having the writers I met with come back up to me after pitching the next day, telling me how much I had helped. There’s nothing more rewarding.


    On day two was the actual pitchfest, which was run very well, but was still a friggin’ madhouse, in the best sense of the word. Writers stormed the room like Mel Gibson in Braveheart, all seeking their FREEDOM from obscurity and amateur status. I have optioned material from the Great American before, and last year there were 2 or 3 projects that I really enjoyed. This year, while the pitches were pretty solid, I was a bit disappointed in the amount of commercial material. That being said, I asked for about 10 scripts again and there were some goodies (I’m still waiting for a couple I think), but nothing I felt strong enough about to move forward on. Though there were at least 2 or 3 writers that I would keep in mind for the future. And really, that’s all you can ask for at these events.


    The downside of this event is that so many of the companies that attend have never produced anything, or are completely unknown. And if I have never heard of them, then I can’t expect writers to have heard of them either. Some are just random men or women who started their own company or are just trying to find projects they can attach themselves to. So, writers have to do even more due diligence and research when deciding to whom to pitch.


    Another highlight of Day Two was being a guest on Pilar Alessandra’s podcast, On the Page. I feel bad admitting that I had never listened to her podcast before, though I’m a big fan of hers. But it was a great time, and she was gracious enough to let me plug my own script consulting service (, and she made me into a listener. The networking was great, the writers were energized, and no one pitched me in the bathroom, though I did hear a couple of others get pitched there (definite no-no!).


    Overall, it was a great event that has really come into its own. Hopefully next year, they can wrangle a few more high-profile companies and that will really complete the event and raise its status even more.

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