Friday, June 17, 2016

The Art of Receiving Pitch Feedback II - The Sequel

Alright. Okay. Audible sigh. The struggle is real, people. The struggle is real.

I just got feedback on another pitch to another company via Stage 32 that I would like to share with you as a reminder of what we as writers are up against. This is a pitch to convince the industry insider to read your script. You pay that insider to critique the pitch - not the script, which is really just a way to prove that they did indeed read it, in my opinion, therefore justifying their fee.

Because I increasingly get the feeling that they don't really read them. Not really. Oh sure, they skim. Skimming could loosely be defined as reading. The point is that if all they do is skim when you're paying for them to read, imagine the effort they put into it when you don't use a service… You can't imagine it? Exactly.

So here's what I'm sharing. It's a TV series idea that I've written fifteen episodes for within the course of fifteen months. They're probably a little rough and in need of some polish or rewrite, but that's beside the point because I'm pitching the pilot and subsequent idea. I've edited down elements of the actual pitch here so as to protect the idea in case it ever does get picked up, but even the edited examples beg the question, "how can the reader miss this?"

So here's the industry insider critique. In pieces:

"I would add a section discussing characters and sample episodes since each one seems to be entirely different from the other.."

So here's a segment of the two page pitch they're commenting on:

 "Matt, at the core of the first season, struggles with the aftermath of [what he started]. It comes back to haunt him with every new [guest character] he encounters… He struggles with his place in [a new society] ruled by power hungry people… He develops from a lowly servant… to an equal partner… to an important member of [a rebellion]. Throughout the series, he manipulates the truth about his knowledge of [something specific in the original pitch] in order to survive among the power hungry people who try to manipulate him."

"Each episode focuses on a new [guest character] and how Matt influences their ultimate future. The second episode involves [insert character and detail]… Other episodes focus on [insert characters and detail on five more episodes]…"

How does this not qualify as "a section discussing characters and sample episodes?" The reader began her critique with "The document is well formatted, but poorly structured to pitch a TV pilot," then poses her question which is clearly answered at the start of the first paragraph that describes the series…

She then poses a series of questions she has about the idea that could well be answered beyond the limitations of a two page pitch. And lets be clear about this, the rules of using the Stage 32 service state that if your pitch runs longer than two pages, those pages won't get read. Still, the questions that the reader wants answered involve detail. Lots of detail. "What is the mythology behind [this element of the series]?" How does it carry over from character to character? How does it affect each character?  Oh, and here's a response to that last question taken directly from my two page written pitch.

"The characters struggle with their beliefs in religion and superstition, and with the importance of fortune... and power in their lives."

And here's a little something about the main character Matt that the reader apparently missed… "Matt… winds up… helping - and often times hurting - the oppressed masses that he identifies with, because [what he started] follows him at every turn, making him believe that he is cursed for having started it."

There's actually more detail in the two page pitch that I don't want to share here, but you get the idea. I went back to my letter and was able to find the answer to every question she asked right there on the page.

Some of you may read this and decide that I'm just bitching and moaning because it's a pass on reading the pilot. And I say, probably. I will also repeat what I have said before. Industry professionals are inundated with ideas and they are conditioned to say no. I will also point out that two pitches I made prior to this through Stage 32 for the same series idea were received with stronger feedback that makes me believe that the elements that this reader couldn't see are understood by others. But there is one element of the series that I can't share here that most of the people reading the pitch can't seem to grasp, and it's not necessarily that they don't understand that element. It's more about the fact that they don't believe in the concept of how it passes hands from one person to the next. And you'll have to trust me on this, that is insanely laughable in an industry where movies like The Grudge and The Ring exist.

The struggle is real, writers. Keep writing anyway.