“A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Pitch Meeting”
I’ve wound up wearing a lot of different hats over the course of my writing career. I started out doing comic book scripts, but over the last two-plus decades, I’ve written professionally for kids’ books, licensed-property novels, movie novelizations, original novels, and video games.
One hat I’ve been trying to wear for a while is “film/TV writer.”
I’ve done it once. Sort of. Shawn deLoache (a good friend and occasional writing partner) and I managed to sell a live-action pilot last year to a major children’s programming outlet. Following a purge of top-level executives by the parent company, however, that project is not moving forward. (Not at the moment, anyway. We have further plans.)
Part of getting involved in the Hollywood scene in the marginal way that I have is that I’ve been doing rounds of pitch meetings. I don’t live in L.A., much to the frequent vexation of my manager, so about twice a year I fly out there for a week and stay with friends and do what I’ve heard described as “the couch and water tour.” That’s where my manager, Alex, reaches out to a bunch of studios and production companies and schedules meetings, and when I get there, I always have to sit on the couch in the waiting area, and an assistant brings me a bottle of water.
I’ve been through two different kinds of meetings so far.
The first is what’s known as the “general” meeting. “I’ve got you set up for a general,” Alex might say. That’s where I’m meeting some people for the first time, really just a get-to-know-you kind of thing. Generals are easy. There’s not much in the way of pressure. I mean, yes, you need to make a good impression, but it’s basically setting up groundwork and building relationships. I try to be charming, they’re charming, everyone says lots of nice things to each other. Occasionally it involves lunch.
The second kind is the actual *pitch meeting*. That’s where you try your damnedest to sell a specific project. You have a tight, cohesive, exhaustively-rehearsed pitch ready to go; sometimes there’s a little bit of small talk before you launch into it. Other times, you walk into the room, shake their hands, and they immediately say, “Okay, let me hear what you’ve got.” That’s much more nerve-wracking—though, to my intense surprise, I’ve discovered that I’m actually pretty decent at the formal pitch.
A year ago, during a week of generals, after I told people about my Middle-Grade Urban Fantasy novel trilogy (“Five Elements”) and my Urban Sci-Fi novel trilogy (“Gray Widow”), I frequently got asked, “So, Dan, what else are you working on? Any pet projects?”