As I walked onto the stage of the packed Frick Fine Arts building in Oakland to make my pitch, I thought that this is certainly not something that I ever imagined that I would do. I was there to present a script I wrote entitled “The Birthday Present” to screenwriter Carl Kurlander, producer Eric Gold, actress Marcy Kaplan and founder of Readers Unlimited Asher Garfinkel. It’s not something many people get to do actually, so the moment was a bit intimidating.
Before I took my place at the podium, I spotted my wife, my parents and two of my students (Dillon Monier & Joel Richard) in the crowd. At that point I knew I was ready, and so, I gave my pitch.
The Writer’s Pitch is one phase of the Steeltown Film Factory, a Pittsburgh-based competition that awards up to $30,000 to a local filmmaker to produce their film. My script was written for a screenwriting course at Chatham University. I am currently enrolled in their Film & Digital Technology graduate program. The class was taught by actor/writer Randy Kovitz, whose support for my project went well beyond the confines of the classroom.
After the pitch, the panel of judges offered feedback much like the TV show American Idol. Further feedback was given via written coverage provided by Readers Unlimited. Based on said feedback, I was to submit a re-write, then wait to hear if I advanced to the semifinals.
It was a daunting, borderline excruciating artistic process. I was proud to say that I made it through, and will admit that it was actually great fun.
Of course, it wasn’t great to hear that I did not make the next round – the Director’s Pitch. But any disappointment I felt was curtailed by the tremendous amount of experience I accrued from the process. I will always remind myself that not everyone gets to do what I did on that beautiful Saint Patrick’s Day in 2012.
As rare as the experience was, there were a dozen other people who went through it that same day. It was very gratifying to see how many people care about the same thing I care about: people like Michael Rubino, Chris Preksta, and the men who comprise the comedy troupe Hustlebot. Rubino., a Seton Hill grad. whose dad and brother are both Bearcats, is part of a team who created a modern radio serial called Dodge Intrepid and the Pages of Time. Besides being the co-creator of Pittsburgh Dad, Chris Preksta is also the visionary director of the science fiction series The Mercury Men. The four guys otherwise known as Hustlebot, who won the first Steeltown Film Factory, are inching ever closer to having a series on Comedy Central.
They were among the many whom I had the good fortune of shaking hands with that day at the Writer’s Pitch.
My greatest takeaway, however, is the notion that experiences should not always be outcome-based, much like a movie should not always be judged solely by its ending. No, I did not win. I won’t get to hold a big check with my name on it, but I did have the opportunity to dig deeper into a project of mine and present it to people from the entertainment industry. In doing so, I stood shoulder-to-shoulder with other members of the local film community, and hopefully laid the groundwork for future Bearcats, like Dillon and Joel, to do the same.
I may not have won, but I certainly did not lose.