Angelo J. Bell: The Gray Area of Pitching Hell

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by Angelo J. Bell

I had a pitch meeting last week with a cable network that’s now vying for position in the drama space. The network is steadily making moves to develop and air content that its existing massive audience will gravitate towards without flipping the remote control.

Consider this: 12 or 15 years ago USA Network was a fledgling network trying to find its place in the growing number of cable channels and networks. Now, USA has been top network, with a distinctive style for over a decade.

Wouldn’t you have liked to be there on the ground floor, pitching ideas to the network?

So would I. And the ongoing opportunity at E! Entertainment Network offers a similar chance. To date, I’ve pitched five shows to E! I’ve had bumps and bruises, great pitches and pitches that suck. But I’ve always known where I’ve stood.

This last pitch offered no such benefit.

It wasn’t a bad pitch because I knew my story and characters, I was confident but not arrogant. And like I mentioned…I’d met with these folks several times already. Unfortunately I still came away thinking, “What the hell just happened?”

The words flowed, the excitement flowed and the story was impeccable (it’s over 6000years old, with a contemporary twist). Still the meeting resembled a discussion about what could go wrong when an Oscar-nominated director is developing a story with a similar backdrop.

That’s not to say that the setting is crucial to the story. It isn’t. The setting is merely a device to drive conflict. But, for this Oscar(tm)- nominated director, setting is the story.

Apples and oranges?

I don’t know. I came away feeling like I had been pleasantly spanked for coming in with an idea similar in title and concept to two ideas already submitted. But, it wasn’t a spanking as much as a verbal exercise in futility.

I literally thought to myself, “Why am I here again?”

So, the.meeting took the wind out of my sails for a bit. I’ve had pitch meetings where everyone in the room was excited, nodding, laughing, taking copious notes. And I’ve had meetings where I performed so badly that I wished I could crawl under a rock after.But this…this was another animal.

But today, working off a mere 3hrs of sleep I got to chat with my buddy Ramona for a @TRStudios podcast about filmmaking and pitching. Talking aloud reminded me that this isn’t a sprint, its a marathon. And this business is full of gray areas.

On to the next pitch.