June 30th, 2010
By Danny Manus
What a weekend. As many of you know, June 26-27th was the 7th annual Great American Pitchfest in Burbank, CA. I continue to think that the GAP is becoming the premiere writers’ conference in LA. Not only is it a great chance for writers to attend great classes for free and score some free consultant swag, but the pitchfest is a great way for writers to meet and connect with execs and just maybe – maybe – get their big break.
I think I was at the Pitchfest for about 27 hours this weekend, and it was definitely time well spent. It started for me at the ass-crack of dawn on Saturday – and for those who don’t know me, I’m not an early riser or morning person. Morning people scare me. But, worried I would oversleep, my body jolted me out of bed at 5am and, unable to press my internal snooze button, I got ready and headed out early.
I arrived before 7am – I was the first person there. But that was okay because it meant I got first crack at tables. And momma didn’t raise no fool – I grabbed some prime real estate across from the Writer’s Store – and set up shop. My lovely interns showed up to help and I got ready for my class which was to start at 9am. This was my 3rd year teaching at the GAP but it was a class I hadn’t taught at this event before (“Become Your Own Development Executive”).
I walked into the large room and the first thing I said was, “there’s no way I’m gonna fill this room.” But, by 9:30, I pretty much had. The class went perfectly – even without the use of power point, the class was a hit! The rest of the day was spent running between my private consultations and my table, making sure my interns weren’t overwhelmed and that people were signing up and hopefully buying my E-Book, “No B.S. for Screenwriters”! If there’s one rule that will always hold true, it’s that writers love free shit. Pens, candy, notebooks, bookmarks, postcards, etc. Whatever was on a table – writers grabbed it up like it was crack.
Now, Saturday wasn’t quite as busy as I was expecting – but there was still a good turnout. Hopefully next year, more writers will realize that the chance to take free classes from some of the best in the biz is an invaluable experience and shouldn’t be missed – especially before pitching to a room of execs! I guarantee the ones who took the classes had more luck than those who didn’t.
Anyway, the day went great and congratulations again to the winner of the free 30 minute phone consult raffle –Heathyr Clift. And as the classes and consults came to an end, and the tables were dismantled, the party began. I decided to forgo the karaoke – even though I’ve been known to rock the house on occasion – and had dinner with some new, good friends and chatted it up with my colleagues. The day finally ended around 10:15pm when I got home, totally exhausted. I don’t even remember taking off my shoes before hitting the bed, knowing all too well I’d have to be up early in the morning again for the pitchfest.
Sunday was…organized chaos. But that’s what a pitchfest is supposed to be. And to their much deserved credit, Signe and Bob put together a wonderful event that was run better than any other pitchfest I have been to (and I’ve been to dozens!). And the reason the GAP is different is that Signe and Bob are good people who treat everyone with respect – the writers, execs, teachers, consultants, etc. And as the execs traded cards and stories, and the writers stormed the tables Braveheart-style, it was almost scary for my poor interns who returned to listen to pitches with me for the day. Welcome to Hollywood.
The pitches just kept coming – I didn’t get a break the whole morning. And throughout the day, I heard a few great pitches – and a few bad ones – but maybe everyone had read my book or my articles because to my delight, I didn’t see ONE person there in costume or with a stupid gimmick. And that’s a victory in my eyes! And now, as I request my chosen scripts, it’s time to see if the writing is as good as the pitch. But even if it isn’t, the Great American Pitchfest 7 was a weekend to remember and I can’t wait to return next year.
Please make sure to tune into my weekly column for The Business of Show Institute – this pitchfest gave me a whole bunch of new ideas! And follow me on Twitter @nobullscript for daily screenwriting tips, rants, news, and more!
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 (www.nobullscript.net), 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.