'Excuse me, Miss, do you know Horseferry Road? I'm looking for the Channel Four building. You know, the big TV place, where John Snow and Skins and Davina McCall live? I have business there. I was specially requested to come, as a matter of fact. They have my name down at reception and everything...Oh, you know, the usual, just giving a pitch to a panel of Top TV Executives...'
But if random Londoners failed to look impressed by my having an appointment at Channel Four, the building itself did not disappoint. First, you can walk back and forwards out the front, making the 4 sculpture come together and break apart in your view, just like it does on the station teasers, or whatever they're called. Inside, the place is a mixture of the Death Star, a concrete bunker, and a Marriott hotel. I was shown down some narrow winding concrete steps to a circular chamber, where there were already about twenty people waiting, sipping wine and chatting in hushed tones. I had a couple glasses of red, just to oil and calibrate the pitching gyros.
At the appointed hour, the fifty or so of us were shown in to a screening room. Tom Sutton from Stellar Network introduced the panelists, Sarah Edwards and Madeleine Knight. He also thanked Alexandra Denye for doing most of the work, organising and setting up the event.
Then, without further ado, the pitching commenced.
My hands? Clammy.
My throat? Dry.
My mind? A blank.
Fortunately, the set-up was not as threatening as I'd feared. We pitchers pitched from our seats in the audience, standing if we wished. It was a bit like Question Time. As it went on, I relaxed and took notes.
There were several pitches I thought sounded very good. I should explain at this point that the pitches, with one exception, were all factual or entertainment, mine included. I'd read the mini-CVs of the panel, posted on the Pitch Up website. When I saw that they were all that way inclined, I decided to have a go, reasoning that factual programmes need scripts too. Why not?
So, bear that in mind as you read this summary of the feedback, though much of it applies to drama and comedy, I would think.
- Feel-good. It's the credit-crunch, don't you know. People are going to want cheering up. They're going to be huddled together in the snow, watching through shop windows, so give them something happy to keep them warm.
- Accessible. Don't make snotty, stuck up programmes. Entertainment is for the masses.
- Watchable. Visual medium and all that.
- Noisy. Ever seen a circus come to town? Like that. Clowns, not ninjas.
- Big. Commissioners are always asking, 'Where are the big ideas?'
The panelists said it should be very clear. Commissioners ask, 'What will I see?'
If you're pitching something that needs a big presenter or celebrity, you should already have the talent lined up. Be prepared to answer the question, 'Who have you got?' (I hear Russel Brand and Jonathan Ross are looking for a gig.)
What's your subject? What sets it apart from the rest?
Be able to sum it up in 2 sentences. If you can't, rethink it.
When my turn came, I'd calmed down enough to make a coherent pitch. I kept it short and provocative, and was rewarded with being asked just the questions I'd hoped they would ask. I did not win, nor was I a runner up. (Yet read on.)
When it was all done, there were the usual huddles of writers and independent producers, swapping cards and talking about each others' ideas. I met some interesting, creative people, and will be sending them friendly hellos over the next couple of days. The panelists were swamped with people wanting a word, so I just waved and thanked them, and made my way out.
So it was a pleasant surprise when I got home to find an email from Stellar Network, letting me know that one of the panelists had asked for my contact details - she'd actually expressed interest in the idea! No word yet, so I've stopped holding my breath.
Never mind. I count it as a partial success. My pitch was good enough for someone to want my contact details. Okay, so she may not actually get in touch but still...not too bad. It just goes to show, you need to get out there, because you never know when you're going to be in the right place at the right time.Thanks to Stellar Network, and especially Alexandra, for another cool event.