Posts Tagged ‘how a pitchfest works’

36 hours in LA, my way

October 12, 2010

Welcome to LA - a breath of fresh air. This is really what it looks like - at least to my cell phone camera.

Ok, so I already wrote about what a dork I am, and how the cast of Glee wouldn’t let me play triangle for them if I tried (I’m that not-smooth, folks). That was the first part of my first real day in Hollywood, LA. And by the end of this first part, where I left you last, I was signed up to go do a pitch the next afternoon. I had also agreed about a week back to check out a band called Abney Park – a Steam Punk band from Seattle, USA, with a friend who I’ll call Wrestler – not his real name, but if you see him, you’ll see why it fits.

How do you spend a day in LA? Well you get as high as you can. The Observatory is a good start. See what I did there? I know. I suck.

The little white dot on the hillside in the top right is the HOLLYWOOD sign, which really needs straightening out... but I was more interested in this sign. I think it's great that you can't smoke in the nature reserve - at all. But of course, it's not enforced. Smokers are always desperate enough to chance it, and a couple puffed away nearby.

The Observatory is like a combination of Signal Hill, Lion’s Head, and an observatory and a museum. It’s quite literally the first place I’ve been to in America where I didn’t have to pay to park or to walk around. It’s really incredible looking down over this huge city, with its yellowing smog, and seeing at least 20 aeroplanes and helicopters in the sky at any time. It’s like some kind of post apocolyptic sci-fi scene.

Kwah kwah kwah kwah kwah kwah... they're everywhere, so much that I hardly hear them anymore.

Then back to West Hollywood. Which is pretty much my perfect place to live, except that it’s not on the beach. There’s plenty happening on Hollywood and Sunset Blvds all the time. There’s everything from great Thai food restaurants to no-tel motels with water beds and adult movies services signboarded, to LIVE NUDE GIRL bars, to restaurants with Rat Pack Credentials, to Amoeba records… one of the last stores of its kind, with the record industry paying the ultimate price for its stubbornness on digital.

A guy playing shoegazer music for tips broke my heart and got my dollar. This restaurant is the first American restaurant that I've been to in a week that doesn't have Halloween decorations up. The Christmas decorations are still up here, though. Either that, or they're extremely early.

Welcome to the museum… There’s a joke going around that Capitol Records, that LA landmark and tower of song, has downsized to one floor, and now rents the rest to internet companies. Ok, I lie. I just made that up. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it were true. The bit about downsizing to one floor is true though.

Mommy, you dresses you funny.

Speaking of the past… Steam Punk. I can’t say that by the time 10.45pm came and I was still standing in line, I still thought it would be worth it. I was exhausted after 14 hours on my feet. I was stressed about pitching the next day at the Screenwriting Expo. I still had to drive home from LA. And the people in the line outside Bar Sinister reminded me a bit of the old days of Cape Town at Playground, or The Rift. I was never that into black clothing. Had I really come all the way from Cape Town to LA, only to find myself surrounded by obese people dressed up as suicidal chambermaids? Crowds of Hipsters walked past on their way to a cooler club, shouting out mocking comments to the line of goth types snaking around the block at Bar Sinister.

Things got marginally spicier though, when Wrestler went to get a light for his cigarette and asked a BDSM couple higher in the queue.
“Sure,” says Dom-guy. “But you have to spank her.”
Wrestler laughs and reaches for the lighter.
“No, seriously,” says Dom-guy, while Ms Sub waits patiently in position.
Well, smokers… you’ve all seen them looking through the ashtrays at the end of a party… they’ll do anything. And plus, the girl had a cute ass. I know because saw it in detail later when Wrestler gave me a tour of the club, including the upstairs BDSM playroom, where she was bent over a chair with her hands intricately bound in stockings behind her back, and two men taking turns gently teasing her with a leather whip. Wrestler recognised her without being able to see her face.


Abney Park. They're lovely.

Now I was loving the old fashioned club with it’s high ceilings and ornate interior, like a Mad Men set. And Abney Park (from Seattle) weren’t much like the crowd. They’re fun, funny, don’t take themselves seriously. But know their shit musially – listening to them I realised which trend inspired Madness’ latest album, which is possibly their best ever. And Abney Park’s lead singers are undeniably sexy. To see what steam punk clothes really look like – cause most of the crowd wasn’t wearing them on Saturday – check out the less hot but better-lit shmodel version here. Steam punk is like technology for luddite discoverer party people. It’s like Cowboy meets Columbus. It’s really pretty cool.

Steam Punk is punk for luddite inventors, so this lightbox is meant to be powered without batteries - body heat or friction or something. Other toys included spyglasses. Actually it all fitted in nicely with the Camera Obscura I saw at the observatory earlier.

Anyhow, then I drove home. A long, long way it seemed, at night. And after a quick nap I was in my car again and cruising back LA way. I gathered myself. I felt like I might faint or sweat myself to death. I got in line. Kept moving. I pitched to my first production company.

It was an amazing feeling. A total rush. Terrifying. Actually, a bit like a mixture between a fairground ride and a slaughterhouse tour, a casino and speed dating. Pitching a screenplay at Golden Pitchfest works like this:

1. First, you take a number. Well actually you pay to take a number. $15 at the Screenwriting Expo, more if you buy off a scalper, nothing if it’s an all included festival
2. Then you move into room one, where they stun you show you the layout of your final destination, so you can figure out which processing area table to head to once you go in.
3. In room two, you sit on the chair labeled with your table number. I think this is in case the production company person is done early and wants to come fetch you. Or to stop the screenwriters fighting over seats? Weird… we’re way too nerdy for that shit. From there, you can hear the DING as the pitch time begins, the frantic buzz of voices pitching, and the DONG! as everyone gets up and leaves. You’re next.
4. You scramble for your table, with five minutes to tell your story. You try get it done in 2 minutes, to leave time for questions/excuses. If they hate it, they just say “thanks”. If they like it or pity you, they ask for a 1-page printed summary from you. If they really like it, they actually call you, or promise to.
5. When your time is up, you get out of there. Because another screenwriter is already standing by the table, grinning maniacly at the poor dude(tte) who’s about to be subjected to the burden of dashing another poor nerd’s hopes and dreams.

So, in a nutshell, aaaahsome.

After the first taste, I was hooked. I literally stood at the table like an addicted gambler, counting out my last cash dollars to buy another two tickets. II wanted to win, I was sure I would win, if I could stay in the game a little bit longer.

The score? I got two “can I keep the one-page” responses, and one “parents won’t let their kids watch this, so not for us, but I love it”. I headed home to catch up on my assignments for the week, another big fear squirming in agony as it breathed its last panicky gasp of deathbreath. Bye-bye, sucker!