Star Trek: Voyager — A Pitch to Remember
#13, October 8, 2014
In this blog I'm going to show you how to pitch for a TV show! It's a foolproof method! (snicker)
I'm a major Star Trek fan. Always was, always will be. And back during the Voyager days, I got a chance to pitch for the show. Now, I normally wrote with my husband at that time, but I was testing out a potential TV-writing partnership with a friend of mine. We had been busily plotting a Frasier spec script when he told me he got an in to pitch for Star Trek: Voyager. I was completely woo-hoo!
So we worked our little rears off coming up with three solid pitch ideas and two backups, as I recall. I was very nervous as the pitch date came near. My friend and I practiced our pitch tactics, both of us so excited we could hardly stand it. When the day came, off we went!
Let me tell you about pitching. I'm no expert — I've only pitched for half a dozen shows maybe — but it's a bizarre activity. Stupid, if you really think about it. You're invited into an office, often an unexpectedly small bland office, and you sit in a waiting room as if you're waiting for a dental appointment. Sometimes the secretary then takes you into a conference/pitch room, sometimes a writer or producer does it. Then you proceed to act like a salesman.
A pitch requires that you describe ideas to producers/writers, even acting them out to create energy and excitement so that the producers/writers get excited, too. It's not easy. Most producers and writers have busy schedules. Many don't like pitches because they find it more difficult to deal with outside writers than the staff, who are already settled in and know the ropes. That's understandable. But... well, I digress.
A secretary ushered us into a moderate-sized conference room, and she sat down. Nobody else was there. Hmm. Then she explained that nobody else was available, so she would hear our pitches. I thought, "What the f^%$??," but what could we do? Perhaps some crisis had happened with the show, or maybe people were sick or suddenly detained or whatever. So my friend and I started to describe our ideas.
It gets a bit blurry in my head at this point, because I remember being completely disoriented by the total disinterest that permeated the room. I was disappointed. I mean, sure, hearing pitches isn't the most fascinating activity for many show staffers but... well, a few minutes later, a producer did enter the room. I thought, "Yes! Finally!" Then a few minutes later, as we were finishing up, I realized that he'd fallen asleep on the couch.
I could have lived with this experience. It wasn't fun, but hey, it happens. My friend and I were told that our ideas weren't accepted (quelle surprise). For one thing, two of them were too close to stories they were already doing or planned to do. (In my book, that's a major compliment, but somehow it didn't sound that way). But then — and I won't say who may or may not have entered the room to deliver the following information — we were treated to a lecture about what Star Trek fans did and did not like. This is where it got surreal. This person spoke to us as if we knew nothing about Star Trek at all. We were strictly told that Star Trek fans don't want to bother with character backgrounds. "They don't care about the past," we were told. "They want stories about what's happening now."
I'm not going to say anything further. I think you get the point here. Let's just say that I learned from this experience. It has stayed with me. It soothes me during long sleepless nights because, if nothing else, at least I know I can never be more gob smacked than I was that day.
Y'know how they tell us writers that we need to develop thick skins? This is why.