Friday, March 21, 2008

'Keep pitching, I can hear you!"

Early on in our writing careers, we had finished a spec script that a lot of the studios liked, but, didn't think was commercial enough. Still, they were open to hearing our ideas, so our agent sent us out with our first feature pitch. The idea was that we would meet with lots of the big players at the studios, and maybe we'd get lucky and sell something.

With pitch in hand, the Bob & Rob corporation started off on a pitch tour. We were very well prepared with our little comedy idea as we had carefully worked out all of the finer points of the was pretty close to "bullet proof", at least in terms of story and logic. Whether or not anyone would get excited about the idea was any ones guess. So, keeping in mind that we had very little experience with real "behind the gates", show business, (we had been struggling actors before discovering writing, a story for another blog), we prepared to take the plunge.

So, as would become our routine on pitch day, we car-pooled together to the meetings. Another part of that routine was to sing "show tunes"! We used it as a vocal and energy warm-up. Yeah, two "straight" guys toolin' around Hollywood harmonizing songs like, "Sit Down, You're Rocking The Boat" from "Guys and Dolls". We should add, it was a routine we would continue for years, until we both got really nice cars and wanted to drive to meetings separately...the singing just wasn't the same without the harmony, so Sports Talk radio replaced "Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm", from "How to Succeed in Business". As it turns out, a can of Classic Coke just before a pitch serves as a perfect pre-pitch warm-up.

Back to pitch week...this particular event occurred on our second or third professional motion picture pitch. It was at MGM, (pre-Sony). Big lot, big sound stages, big pitch...with valet parking by the way. Picture two guys rollin' up to the MGM gate, in a Camry, singing at the top of their lungs...seriously. We liked to time out the show-stopping numbers right as we got out of the car.

We made our way to the main executive building and signed in at the front desk. Moments later we were inside the offices at the studio comfortably sipping our Classic Cokes and running lines for the pitch, (in the early days we had the outlines for the pitches memorized as if on stage waiting for the curtain to be raised). After a brief wait, we were guided back to the offices of the exec, we'll call him "Jimmy Pee" Nice office...lots of leather...not a lot of eye contact with Jimmy Pee, as we were introduced. "So, your agent says you guys have a pitch I just have to hear, he grumbles" We performed some form of idle chit-chat and soon enough it was "showtime."

We start pitching our guts out...(we should mention that this pitch sold the next day to another studio, so we weren't just doing a dog and pony show, we had a pretty good story here...not that we're above a good "smoke and mirrors" pitch from time to time... they sometimes lead to great scripts.) So, we're going along pretty well, hitting all the act breaks nicely, tracking characters and dolloping in the funny as needed. We were buzzing along at a brisk pace, when suddenly, Jimmy Pee abruptly stood up and strolled over to the other side of the room...he gestured for us to keep talking as he opened a door in his office...he flicked on a light and stepped into the little room...a little RESTROOM! Then, without hesitation, and the door wide open, he unzipped and began to unleash his high-six-figure urine into his MGM toilet!

To be clear, let's reset...Jimmy Pee was pissing in his private toilet not five feet away from two guys pitching him a movie! We could hear every squirt, drip and drop in this well insulated office. But, in spite of the fact this was our second showbiz meeting, we still knew just what to do...nothing! We fell silent for a second and looked at each other, we may have held hands to comfort one another, it got pretty blurry at that point...then, without missing a beat and with the sound of urine splashing into the toilet bowl, Jimmy Pee yells out angrily..."keep pitching, I can hear you"! And we did, like a couple of desperate Willy Lomans, we raised our voices and pitched like nothing was wrong..."Yes, so, the second act twist is when the father and son reunite after 20 years"... FLUSH!...and he was back in his seat.

Minutes later the pitch was over...if we're not mistaken, we shook his hand...not sure he took the time to wash, (actually we know he didn't, but to admit that just makes us sound that much more desperate, if that's possible!). As we headed home that afternoon, there would be no singing...we had been violated, we even had a hard time making eye contact with each other.

A little later we got a call from our agent, "Jimmy Pee liked the first part of your story, but he felt it fell apart at the end"...Oh, really Jimmy Pee...Ya think!

Now, if that were to happen to us today, we would never stand for that kind of treatment...we'd voice our displeasure and...oh, who are we kidding, we'd do the same thing, but maybe have a better third act, one that could withstand a guy urinating through it!

Years later we did see Jimmy Pee again...he was on a panel at a producers seminar. When it was his turn to speak at the podium, we thought about climbing up on stage and relieving ourselves in front of him... but, we decided to take the high-road and not get kicked out of showbiz...besides, outside we'd just relieved ourselves on a really nice Jag, with the license plates "JimmyP" least that's the writers ending.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

About the blog name...

Not long ago we were approached to do a rewrite on a film being shot in London...the studio execs, based in LA, were apparently frustrated by the work they were getting out of some of the "non Hollywood" writers. Our agent sent them a sample of our work and since our style was close to what they were looking for in their project, they wanted to hire us. The story got back to us that after the exec read our sample script, he called the producers in London and shouted..."I want to hire these guys...I want to use "Professional American Screenwriters"! Ha! We've been called a lot of things in this business, at times we may be professional, and yes we are Americans who get paid to write screenplays...but rarely, if ever, do those words all collect together as a description of who we are. Come on, look at our names, Bob & Rob, nothing flashy there. But, there was something sexy about being referred to in such a grown-up, almost regal manner...and we are ex-performers so we do enjoy the accolades, (Bob more than Rob) and it does kind of roll off the tongue. So, somewhat reluctantly, we have accepted the unofficial title...Bob & Rob Professional American Writers! Or, if you prefer - "Just A Couple Of Hacks Who Sit In A Room And Argue A Lot!"

What we thought we'd do with this blog would be to post some of our most bizarre and ridiculous screenwriting stories. Our short film "Hiding in Walls" was so well received, we thought we'd continue with the same basic theme of "you won't believe what happened to us today". Welcome to our strange little world of being Hollywood Screenwriters...the Professional, American version.