First Pitch is set up like speed dating, as the students rotate rapidly through 10 to 20 five-minute meetings with reps from creatively simpatico agencies, management firms and production companies. Often these brief tete-a-tetes lead to representation or at least a lasting contact, and former attendees have gone on to write on "Lost," "Smallville," "The OC" and "Grey's Anatomy."
Dressed mostly casually -- including one nervous-looking guy in black except for a Chicago Cubs tie -- students floated in and out in waves from the small pasta bar to the ornate gold ballroom, all clutching their manila folders, notebooks and binders.
They determinedly roamed the aisles -- five rows of nine tables each -- and scanned each tabletop's tented white placard to locate his or her next appointment with Shady Acres, MTV Films, 3 Arts, Focus, WMA (film or TV), UTA, Village Roadshow, Paradigm and CAA, among many others.
Each session unfolded with more gesticulating than a room full of orchestra conductors, the ballroom quickly filling with the cocktail-chatter rumble of students pitching their scripts, their pilots, themselves, their talents, their goals, their comedy troupe, their unique voices.
Snippets of enthusiastic monologues crisscrossed in the charged air:
" ... not so much the family you're born into, but the family you make for yourself ... "
" ... this guy is so outlandish ... "
" ... that's the hook ..."
" ... it has elements of espionage ... "
" ... keep trying to feed them taquitos!"
The reps sometimes leaned in, engaged and curious, or uninterested, folded their arms or took sips of water from the brushed silver pitchers on each table (and, of course, checked BlackBerries during every transition.)
Instead of a goody bag, all the participating reps walk out with a glossy catalog called the "Script List 2007," a handy compendium that lists each attending student's best feature and TV scripts (including the students' thesis screenplays), plus short synopses and any noteworthy scholarships or awards.
Oh, and contact information.
Destroyed by the powerful 'CAAA'
Two weeks ago a viral video called "The Wrath of CAAA" turned up that does a funny, if fairly obvious, riff on CAA's perceived monolithic control over the talent in Hollywood (perhaps the Borg is a better "Trek" reference).
David Bitterman's 3 1/2 -minute short follows the tragic trajectory of a struggling screenwriter whose in-the-room triumph of nailing a pitch for a studio assignment spirals into a nightmare within the hour as a sinister, omnipresent agency named CAAA poaches his project, his fiancee, his apartment, his mother, his dog, and, most poignantly, his dreams.
(You can give it a viewing at www.ifilm.com/video/2848272.)
What's great about Bitterman's mini-opus is that it equally lampoons the writer, a scooter-riding naif named Ted whose breathlessly delivered winning pitch to two executives ends with: "He holsters his Glock. He picks up the duck. He kisses the girl. And he gets the [bleep] out of Dodge! The End."
But this exchange, after Ted discovers that his mom has taken on a new CAAA-supplied son, had me cracking up the most:
"Who the hell is that?" Ted asks about the stranger.
"They can guarantee us grandchildren, Ted," Mom says bitterly. "There, I said it."
"Wait," Ted spinelessly backpedals. "So I have a brother. That's great news, Mom. That's dynamite -- "
"It's a package deal, Ted."
Scriptland is a weekly feature on the work and professional lives of screenwriters. Please e-mail any tips or comments to fernandez_jay@hotmail .com.\o7