Son of a Pitch

Because I’m so bloody important a fixture in our local entertainment industry (yes, dear, that’s an all-points sarcasm alert), it’s my pleasure to speak at the 2010 Northern California Screenwriters and Filmmakers Expo and Pitch Fest next Friday in Napa.

At 8 a.m. You know, before even Starbucks staffers have rubbed the sleep from their eyes.

To many creative types, rising before noon is such a Herculean task it’s easier just to party all night. To wit, if you arrive at 8 a.m., I’ll serve mimosas and keep the party going. You see, it’s different up here in wine country. In Hollywood, a market place of ideas where inflation is the rule, one bright idea can yield the price of a Hummer in a matter of hours. In wine country, you get a hangover and 20 minutes with a self-proclaimed micro-mogul. Well, that’s what you get at 8 a.m. Less early-risers will interface with major studios, agents and more name-droppings that can fit on this birdcage-liner.

Of course, enduring such hardship is part of my job, seeing as it’s my name on the company shingle and I’m too fiscally responsible (read: cheap) to pay my team to do it.

Moreover, I’m a veteran of these sorts of affairs. Years ago, I took pitches at a sceenwriting expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center and received 200 pitches from screenwriters the world over for reasons I can only attribute to my Bob Evans-style sunglasses. Flash Lely and I did the same in Portland, Ore., a couple of years ago and were astonished by the sheer amount of dolphin stories presented to us. Yes, dolphins. I’ve witnessed this time and again – multiple iterations of the same bright idea. Or dumb idea. It’s often difficult to discern if similar projects are the result of a moonlighting muse whispering the next big thing into the ears of more than one filmmaker or simply outright theft (or in industry parlance, a “market trend”). A couple of Capote movies, a pair of asteroid spectacles, Alexander the Great and Alexander the Also-Great are all big budget examples of films hailing from the litter box of Hollywood’s most prevalent pet – Latin name: “feline xeroxes” – the “copy cat.”

At one expo, each hour brought another breathless screenwriter rhapsodizing about deceased spouses returning to their lovers but reincarnated in the wrong sex. Original? Sure, to them. All five of them.

The day only brightened when some dude pitched me the imaginative, but fatally asinine, “Hitler’s Bath Tub,” about a claw-foot tub that drains the life from bathers. The sensation of having heard something new was dimmed only by my sudden fear of some schnook pitching me “Mussolini’s Ottoman” about an angry footstool.

In the end, when one is taking pitches, one will hear many that have legs, as they say, and many more that have shrunken flippers where legs ought to be. But then, who am I to judge? To paraphrase Chevy Chase, “I’m Daedalus Howell and you’re not” that’s who, which is a rather rude way of saying the only difference between me and those who visited my table was on which side of the table we happened to be seated.

Not to wax too Zen, but if you were one of the multitude who shared your project with me, please know that we are one in this contorted continuum of champagne wishes and caviar dreams – and I empathize completely. Were it not for some hilarious machinations of fate and perception (which my vanity precludes me from disabusing) I could very well have been pitching you. That is to say, we may differ in name but are peers in spirit. So, who am I to judge? One of a jury of your peers. My verdict? Guilty of aspiration to the nth degree. Your sentence? Life in letters – scheduled to commence immediately.

And get some Bob Evans-style sunglasses.

The Northern California Screenwriters and Filmmakers Expo and Pitch Fest runs March 26, 27 and 28 at the Silverado Resort, 1600 Atlas Peak Rd., Napa. For more information, visit