Marginalia, Graduate Blog

Life’s a Pitch.

Conor O'Farrell

TOM HANKS IN 'APOLLO 13', COURTESY UNIVERSAL PICTURES

Pitching is a prominent feature in the life of a producer. Whether hiring crew or persuading investors to hand over some cash money, you’re selling not only the project, but also yourself. Last week largely revolved around pitching. For our Acquisition, Development & Presentation class, we also had to pitch one of our five projects that we have simmering:

1. The scenes we are shooting with the FILM & VIDEO – CINEMA DIRECTING MFA students next month.

2. The adaptation projects, for which we’ve had to source material externally and secure the rights. I’m developing a web series based on a blog. Ultimately, I hope it might become a television sitcom.

3. Our original feature film projects. I have a short I wrote last year that I’m working on, trying to figure out if it’s feature worthy.

4. An original short, which may be a contender for our thesis films.

5. Finally, this week we begin development on our end-of-first-year short films, which we’ll shoot in the spring.

These projects are class requirements, but faculty constantly remind us that we should have at least ten projects on the go at any one time. I pitched my feature idea. Then, for our Business & Legal class, we had to pitch ourselves. I chose to talk about space, because from a young age it has fascinated me. When we were younger, my mother would take my older brother and I to Astronomy Ireland gatherings. We would camp out under the stars to witness meteor showers and passing satellites. To this day, I like Star Trek, and the Aliens franchise remains among my favorite movies. The most recognized quotes of manned space are ‘That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind’, ‘Houston, we’ve got a problem’, and from Apollo 13, ‘Failure is not an option’, but that’s where I disagree.

'ALIENS' STORYBOARDS, COURTESY TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX

Many skills like creative writing or relationship management are associated with the role of producer, but there are many relevant life skills I have learned that have been seeded in failure. In 2005 I left Ireland for travel, because in Dublin I had become accustomed to the fast paced city life and many of the small town values I was raised with faded. I returned a year later with a heightened sense of balance. In 2010, I lived in the slums of Mombasa, Kenya. I worked in a school with sick and hungry children who had been failed by society but were also the happiest and most keen to learn of children I’d ever met. I learned a great deal about selflessness. Because I recently arrived in the states, I couldn’t credit check for an apartment I wanted. It was a bit of an uphill battle, but in the end I got the place. It was a small victory, but it was also a timely reminder about the powers of persistence. We learn from our mistakes, and if not, then we will live to repeat them. That is why I disagree with Apollo 13 Flight Dynamics Officer Jerry C. Bostick and say that failure is not only an option, but also, in terms of personal development, a necessity.

It was an interesting week of pitches, and on that, I will leave you with this pitch from filmmaker Kevin Tancharoen. He was one of many directors who wanted to helm The Hunger Games. It’s interesting to see not only what a different director’s take might have been, but also how this form of pitching is becoming increasingly prevalent nowadays.

Life’s a Pitch.

Pitching is a prominent feature in the life of a producer. Whether hiring crew or persuading investors to hand over some cash money, you’re selling not only the project, but …

Cinema Art + Science - Creative Producing Conor O'Farrell, conor.ofarrell@loop.colum.edu
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605

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