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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; Ive always found driving to be conducive to stimulating the synapses I suspect its the feeling of physically going places that encourages the mind to do the same. Ten hours later we arrive in Banff. And were still talking.
On Sunday morning Robert and I attend The Great Canadian Pitch Fest, a precursor to the Banff Television Festival. Were participating as producers, and for the first time Im going to be on the other side of the pitch, since writers and other producers will be pitching their ideas to us . Roberts interested in meeting comedy and sci-fi writers for other projects he has on the go. Hopefully well also discover the dos and donts of pitching.
The "pitchers" are allowed five minutes. The first woman we meet is so nervous shes shaking. She rabbits on at a mile a minute. I feel like Im 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 were bombarded with hundreds of pitches. Theres no time to establish a relationship. Were 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 hes 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 were talking to someone else. "Youll love this one, its better than Star Wars!"
After five hours of five-minute speed pitches, our brains are mush. Weve collected a suitcase of material to read through; however, there are only two writers who appear to suit our needs. Clearly its very difficult to make an impression, and even tougher to make it last. Robert and I now have an inkling of what well be up against at Banff, and have developed an all-new respect for the broadcasters and producers well be pitching to over the next three days. Ive learned a few things about what not to do: insist the project is right for them after theyve told me its 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 Im going Banff Lite, I cant 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 Im 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 its because Im doing laps of the bar and keep running into the same three people.