Interesting discussion the other day with a professional hyphen (writer HYPHEN director HYPHEN script consultant) about my western.
They wanted me to pitch them the story, but without notes. Pretty much without any preparation whatsoever.
This way, they explained, it comes across as “more natural” and “less rehearsed”. I don’t necessarily agree, especially because I despise those momentary pauses which make you rely on saying “um” while your brain races to come up with the next words out of your mouth.
Despite not really having thought about the story that much over the past few months, I did my best to work my way through it and think I did okay. Maybe B-plus/A minus territory. Not fantastic, but not bad operating with pretty much no prep time whatsoever.
I made sure to include key story points and not go into too much detail, and tried to sound excited and upbeat while describing the high-octane action.
After I’d finished, there was a dread-inducing silence that grew with each passing second (maybe 3 in total, but felt more like neverending).
“Hmm,” came the reply. “Not bad.”
Not exactly a standing ovation, but I’ll take what I can get.
They listed what they liked and what could use a little work. Surprisingly, they felt the ending was a little ‘soft’ and their explanations why, to which I calmly disagreed and gave my explanation why.
Even more surprisingly, they then revealed they’d only read up to page 15 and wanted to hear my pitch to see if the rest of the story warranted continuing.
(Just to set things up, this person claims to have given 3 pages of notes just on the first page alone for other scripts. Apart from a few comments about the dialogue, they didn’t really have any for mine, and that when they usually get to around page 10, they jump ahead to the middle, then to the end. But mine they wanted to keep reading. Make of that what you will.)
After hearing my rationalization for the ending, they admitted that they should “probably read it to see if they agree.” In theory that will be happening this week, but we’ll see.
Our discussion then turned to my experience and some of my other scripts, 2 of which they requested to read. A victory, no matter how you slice it.
Looking back, I could have done a much better job at pitching my story – if I’d known I was going to have to do it. Still, if I’m going to be sending out queries about it, I should be prepared to talk about it in a moment’s notice.
So while I while away upcoming hours engaged in the rewrite of the mystery-comedy spec, I’ll try to make the most of potential down-time and re-read the western and maybe put together some kind of FAQ/cheat sheet in case this kind of situation arises again.
And it probably wouldn’t hurt to do the same for those other two – just for good measure.