Someone pitched me a project the other day. He had obviously worked very hard on it and was very passionate. But he made one serious mistake: He let his passion spill over into annoyance and then arrogance. After giving me a long speech about his credentials, and why his experience justified me listening to the project, he then went into a diatribe about what was wrong with people in Hollywood and why they haven’t responded to him. I understood his frustration, because after all, I’ve been out here for more than 20 years working in the industry, so I get it.
But honestly, he got rather demanding about me reading his proposal. So I mentioned that I have a stack of proposals, scripts, and projects that come into our office on a regular basis, and while I appreciate his passion, everyone thinks their project is the next big thing.
The conversation went downhill from there. He said, “All the other scripts you receive are from amateurs, and mine isn’t, so you should read this.”
I could go on and on, but the bottom line was he wanted me to set aside our own projects, and take the time out of my schedule to read through his project, respond, and eventually produce it. I don’t have a development staff, so I told him I’d have to put it in line, and that was the last communication I had with him.
The lesson? I’m sure this guy was a good guy, and meant well. But when you pitch a movie, book, or other project, don’t be pushy, angry, or bitter. It simply doesn’t help your cause to get frustrated at the guy you’re trying to win over. I know it’s tough out there because we pitch our own projects at Cooke Pictures on a regular basis. But trust me – arrogance doesn’t help you gain support.
Whenever I encounter someone like this I always remember Producer Ken Wales (Amazing Grace). Years ago he was pitching the idea of taking Catherine Marshall’s famous book “Christy” and turning it into a movie. He pitched and pitched. Years went by. It’s all Ken would talk about. I can’t imagine the frustration he felt after literally hundreds of closed (and slammed) doors.
I even pulled him aside at one point as a friend and said, “Ken, give it a rest. Nobody wants to produce a movie about a turn of the century farm girl.” But Ken wouldn’t give up. He stayed positive, cheerful, and I never once saw him angry, resentful, or bitter.
Then, after years and years of pitching, Jeff Sagansky at CBS bought it as a TV series, and it ran successfully for years.
No matter how frustrated you become, just remember Ken. Never become a jerk, and never, ever let them see you sweat.