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  • Vancouver Pitchmarket Review – Updated!!

    March 17th, 2010

    This year for the Oscars, I was in Vancouver for the first annual Pitchmarket 2010, a screenwriting conference run by FTX West, where I was invited to teach a couple classes and take pitches. Now I had been to Vancouver a few years ago for a pitchfest event and one of the same people were running this event. So I was really looking forward to returning to Vancouver! I love the city of Vancouver – it’s like NY but cleaner, nicer and smaller. And everyone says ‘sorry’ when they bump into you on the street.

     

    Now, the Olympics had just ended a week prior to my arrival, but the spirit was still in the air – as was much of the signage and posters, which was cool with me. The cab drivers and business owners seemed much more relaxed however.

     

    I always look forward to these conferences – especially when they are outside of Los Angeles. It’s nice to get away, and Canada is sadly about as far as I get to travel to (seriously, doesn’t anyone in Europe need some screenwriting help?). I landed Friday afternoon after a delayed flight and as I was landing, my popping ears made me realize – oh yeah, I’m getting sick. And flying hurts. Good times.

     

    Once I landed, I was taken to my hotel which was…not what I expected. It was more like a residential living facility. Now the rooms were very nice and had beautiful views of all of Downtown Vancouver and the Mountains. But the Worldmark “Hotel” did lack a few things – air conditioning, wifi internet, toiletries and maid service. Thank God for Blackberries or else the other executives probably would have demanded another hotel. I don’t want to make it seem like LA Execs are prima donnas – but we are sometimes. I’m a really easy person to please – but when you’re sick, in another Country and you have a million things to do, little hotel perks go a long way.

     

    Anywho, I taught my classes Saturday morning – How to be Your Own Development Exec and No BS Guide to Pitchfests. They both were very well attended and I thought they went great (I will hopefully post some pictures soon!). The writers really seemed to respond to my No BullShit approach and they all seemed to take away something from the seminars. I was really impressed with the writers there, who all had some great questions and seemed really interested! Or maybe they were just placating me haha!  And I had brought some of my E-Books, which also sold pretty well. I can always tell even from looking at writers in my class, which ones are going to do well in their pitches. It’s like a 6th sense but without dead people.

     

     

    Saturday afternoon I had all to myself to play in Vancouver. I love days like this. And despite being increasingly under the weather, I was not going to let a cold ruin a beautiful day. So, I took a long walk down to the water and caught a SeaTrain over to North Vancouver and explored a bit. Then came back and walked all the way back to the hotel. That night, we had a lovely dinner at a very nice Italian restaurant and I was finally able to socialize and meet some of the other execs attending (they arrived later than I did so I hadn’t seen them yet). A couple of agents, a couple managers, and me. There weren’t that many execs from LA brought to the conference but we had a nice little group. I won’t dare repeat the items discussed at the dinner table, but a good time was had by all.

     

    That night, a group of the LA execs went out and partied. I probably shouldn’t have, but I can’t turn down a good time. One of the agents knew an actress in town who knew some club promoters and we all got into a couple fun hotspots. But it had been a LOOONG day with no nap time, so most of us were back to the hotel by 1am, a pretty mild night considering.

     

    Sunday was pitch day, but I woke up in Hell. I normally really enjoy the constant pitching, but my ears, nose, throat and body hurt. I had been taking cold pills since Saturday morning but they weren’t working. So I got MORE pills. And I could barely speak (teaching for 4 hours and screaming over music in the bars probably didn’t help). I will admit I became a bit of a diva and had someone get me tea and cold pills as the pitching began. THANK YOU to all the volunteers who helped me out!

     

    I was actually pleasantly surprised – the pitches weren’t bad at all. I probably heard about 30-40 pitches in 10 minute increments. And only a couple were really bad. Most had taken my class the day before and knew what I wanted to hear. And the ones that didn’t…well…it was obvious. Only one man sat down and said, “This isn’t my best work…you’re going to hate it…I don’t even know why I’m pitching this…” before he even told me his title. Never lose before you even play the game. You need to be confident and sell yourself and your project even if you’re unsure.

     

    And one other gentleman sat down and said he wanted to do a reality TV series on a very general topic, which I won’t mention, but didn’t have any idea on an angle, hook or premise. And when I politely told him that we don’t do reality TV – he just kept pushing. There was nothing I could do for him, so when I realized he was going to sit there for the whole 10 minutes instead of letting me sneeze and breathe in peace, I had to tell him that he needed to go back to the drawing board.

     

    If you just have an idea for something but no hook, angle, premise, concept, or story – guess what – you don’t have enough! You need to be specific and educated on the topic. I actually thought his broad concept could be an interesting half hour sports special, but it wasn’t not a series. And even if it WAS – I don’t do reality TV! Pitching me harder isn’t going to make me become a reality TV producer!

     

    I think the most common note I gave was that the writers’ story wasn’t going in the best direction possible or the set up wasn’t as good as it could be. Sometimes a writer has such a good idea but you can see the minute where it just went off-track and you want so badly to pull it back on the road and set them straight. That’s what I tried to do in my pitches.

     

    Out of the 30-40 pitches I heard, I asked for about 5 or 6 scripts, which is about an average number for these events. So who knows…maybe one of these will totally blow me away. I got a few pitches that really sounded great and I’m hoping the scripts live up to the hype!!

     

    Sunday night was our Oscar Party and while it was perfectly nice and fun and the food was pretty darn tasty (not to mention the free vodka!), I was full blown sick. I felt like crap. I was coughing and sneezing and worried about the plane ride home I’d be taking in 24 hours. So, once Avatar lost and Sandra Bullock won, I decided to forgo the late-night festivities and actually went back to the hotel, got all kinds of fuzzy on cold pills, and passed out before midnight. When I woke up, I only felt slightly better but the cough had gotten worse as had my ears. I was afraid my ear drums would literally rupture on the plane, but I was going to have to brave that chance.

     

    I bought ear-planes – the earplugs for planes that have been tested by like the Navy – so I figured those would help. And thankfully, I found a wonderful plane-buddy in Ellen Sandler, one of the other speakers at the conference and an Emmy-nominated exec producer and writer for “Everybody Loves Raymond.” She by chance had changed her seat and was now stuck sitting next to me. But we chatted the whole way about the business and writing and she even read my E-Book and loved it, which I took as a great compliment as her book is fantastic and quite successful.

     

    She was even nice enough to drive me home….awwww….I was thrilled to have gotten to know her on this trip and hopefully we will work together soon. I finally landed – with only minimal ear pain upon landing – but I was half deaf with totally clogged ears. Small price to pay I suppose for a fun and productive weekend in Vancouver!

     

    I want to send a big thank you to all the volunteers, helpers, sponsors, etc that helped put on a great event and chauferred my sick butt around! But most of all, I’d like to thank Danika Dinsmore who did a great job with the classes and pitchfest, Marcy Schacter, who put together a great event and kept it moving, and Joan MacBeth for suggesting that I attend!

     

    For those wondering, I’m hoping to be back in Vancouver before the end of the year to do a weekend of classes with Biz Books and Capilano University. I’ll keep ya posted! And if you know of a conference or group in YOUR town that is looking for a speaker, please, let me know. And hopefully I’ll see you all soon!

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