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When little fish swim

A Whistler screenwriter pitches at the Banff Television Festival and celebrates the survival of O


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We hit the road at dawn on a Saturday morning. The winding highway snakes through the mountains, inspiring us to bounce our ideas back and forth; I’ve always found driving to be conducive to stimulating the synapses – I suspect it’s the feeling of physically going places that encourages the mind to do the same. Ten hours later we arrive in Banff. And we’re still talking.

On Sunday morning Robert and I attend The Great Canadian Pitch Fest, a precursor to the Banff Television Festival. We’re participating as producers, and for the first time I’m going to be on the other side of the pitch, since writers and other producers will be pitching their ideas to us . Robert’s interested in meeting comedy and sci-fi writers for other projects he has on the go. Hopefully we’ll also discover the do’s and don’ts of pitching.

The "pitchers" are allowed five minutes. The first woman we meet is so nervous she’s shaking. She rabbits on at a mile a minute. I feel like I’m being peppered with a verbal BB gun. The bell rings. She leaps to her feet like a prize fighter and marches off. Over the next five hours we’re bombarded with hundreds of pitches. There’s no time to establish a relationship. We’re forced to make decisions on sketch outlines. We witness the gamut of pitchers, from complete newbies to established professionals. One overly bright-eyed fellow smells as though he’s imbibed in a liberal dose of liquid courage. Later in the afternoon, he changes tactics to a drive-by method – shouting his logline as he strolls past while we’re talking to someone else. "You’ll love this one, it’s better than Star Wars!"

After five hours of five-minute speed pitches, our brains are mush. We’ve collected a suitcase of material to read through; however, there are only two writers who appear to suit our needs. Clearly it’s very difficult to make an impression, and even tougher to make it last. Robert and I now have an inkling of what we’ll be up against at Banff, and have developed an all-new respect for the broadcasters and producers we’ll be pitching to over the next three days. I’ve learned a few things about what not to do: insist the project is right for them after they’ve told me it’s not; wear a panicked grimace on my face; and smell like the inside of a beer can after two days in the sun.

In the evening, Robert heads off to the Banff opening ceremonies. Since I’m going Banff Lite, I can’t afford to attend the "official parties". The previous year I attended my first Banff on a CTV Fellowship (all expenses paid) and sadly, I know all too well the frivolity I’m missing. Feeling like the princess banned from the ball, I drag my sorry butt over to "The Irish Pub" – the unofficial Banff party destination. Last year I knew three people. This year I recognize half the pub. Perhaps it’s because I’m doing laps of the bar and keep running into the same three people.

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