When A Screenwriting Pitch Goes Bad by David Willis

Watch the video interview on Youtube here

Film Courage: Have you ever pitched to one of the studios?

David Willis, screenwriter/producer: Yeah, I pitched to one of the indie studios once a particular script, I mean I pitched to them.

But this one particular indie producer, I was brought into a meeting to pitch to him by another producer (who was a woman) and she says “Come meet this guy and we’ll pitch him this movie.” So I came in, I pitched him the movie, and it was a romantic comedy and the male character (the lead character) starts out with one girlfriend, breaks up with her and ends up with another girlfriend by the end of the movie. And the reason I bring that up is because to pitch it (this guy, this executive) he says “So is that what your life is like?” “What do you mean?” “Well this guy, he’s got all these women in your movie. He’s got all these women! What the hell is going on?” And I go “He has one girlfriend and he gets another one. I don’t think that’s really a lot?” And he says “I don’t know, that sounds like a lot to me. He seems like a womanizer, that’s what he seems like his life is like to me.”

And I’m like “Oh, okay?” This anger was coming at me. And I’m like it’s just a weird meeting.

Anyway, so we leave and the woman producer that I came with she goes “I apologize.” And I go “What’s going on?” And she goes “Well…I’ve been dating him and he wants to be exclusive and I don’t want to be exclusive.”

So all this guy was doing was sounding off at me as a way of telling her you know “Why won’t you be exclusive to me?” That’s really what the meddle was about. That was the weirdest pitch meeting ever because it had nothing to do with me, you know? And some times it’s out of your control. What can you do? You just do you job, pitch, pitch, pitch, smile, do your job and that’s it.

Film Courage: At least she was there to tell you that because you wouldn’t have known otherwise. You would have thought it was you. 

David: And I was not dating her by the way.

Film Courage: No, no, no. I get, I get it. But at least someone was there to tell you because so many times things like that happen and there isn’t any reason for it and we’ll never know! But at least you got to know that. So when you went in to do other things [pitch other projects] that experience was always in the back of your mind and maybe it’s totally not about me, but I don’t have that woman there telling me the story as to why someone is acting this way?

David: One of the first pitches I did, I came in with a pretty famous writer. We’d written something together and we were pitching at Paramount. And as we were pitching, he was talking and we had this long, super complicated, really detailed pitch that we thought was wonderful, he was describing it. And as we’re pitching, as we’re telling the story, the guy (this executive) he starts to do this [David Willis imitates a man falling asleep].

Film Courage: Oh no.

David: And after awhile we realized “We’re putting him to sleep!”

Film Courage: Oh no!

David: We’re putting him to sleep! And you know, we’re comedy writers so we stopped and we started talking about it but what a note to get! “You’re putting me to sleep.”

We actually, literally, put this guy to sleep and so that was like a huge lesson for us…we learned keep the pitch short. We went into all these frickin’ details, you know? So we’ll never forget that one.

Film Courage: Yeah. Well, there was no note-behind-the-note. You knew what was going on with that one, okay?

David: Indeed.

Watch the video on Youtube here






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