A retired veteran, holder of three advanced degrees, a published novelist and an out and about gay man, Seattle based Richard Compson Sater’s personal history lends itself to incredible storytelling. We connected with Richard recently to learn more about how he uses his lived experiences to inspire not only his award winning screenplays but also his pitch!
I pitched to the lineup of panelists which included actor Tom Skerritt and filmmakers Stewart Lyons, Brian Dobbins, and Stacey Adams. I was elated and a little shell-shocked to find I’d won the competition, given that I was bowled over by the other five pitches! I can’t specifically say that I walked away with any specific advice afterward, though. I gave a business card to each of the judges and chatted with them one-on-one, but no one followed through or asked to take a look at my screenplay. But it was nonetheless an invigorating and exhilarating experience, and I left feeling ten feet tall and bulletproof. (And $200 richer, my first actual income in the screenplay trade!)
All of my screenplays have some personal connection for me. They’re based on people I’ve known or my own experiences in the military or out – and colored by my perspective as a “senior” gay man. First, I write down what I want to say in my pitch – what prompted me to want to share this particular story? What resonates about it that others might find worthwhile? My pitch generally leads with that. Then I transition into the story itself, offering an overview of the narrative, identifying the protagonist (a gay man, generally) and his conflict and journey, identifying a few key plot points. I wrap up the pitch with a reminder of why I’m the best one to tell the story.
After writing out what I want to say, I commit it to memory as best I can, reducing the written text to an outline of sorts. I rehearse and rehearse and rehearse. Go over it again and again until I feel fluent. As if it’s second nature. The outline helps keep me on track if I get lost, but the fact that it isn’t a full text allows me to keep the pitch conversational.
Hah. I wish I had a good answer! I’m a retired US Air Force public relations officer, and I’m fully at my ease addressing international media about the military mission, fielding questions and keeping my cool. No problem! But ask me to pitch my OWN stuff? Yikes. I perspire as if I’m being interrogated ... so I wear a sport coat to hide the fact that I’m perspiring profusely inside it. I’ve found that practice helps more than anything. I’m confident about my story and never tongue-tied once I start telling people about it. Passionate, even. So, I guess, once I push out of the gate, just try to stop me. I won’t let my own nervousness spoil an opportunity I’ve been given to pitch. And – as an old gay guy – I’m not above shrugging, apologizing, and soldiering on!
I’ve never had a pitch go full south. However, the pitch I’d given at the Film Summit in 2018 was so soundly dismissed by one critical panelist (which promptly shut down the others, to the point that they offered no feedback whatsoever) that I was shocked. I wasn’t given a chance to rebut, so I returned to my seat, embarrassed, feeling very like a puppy that had been caught soiling the new carpet. The crowd too was a little startled at that particular critic’s vehemence in his attack. I can’t say there was any way I could have recovered from that experience or turned it around to my favor. The judge’s swift condemnation of my story remains vivid in my mind. It was very definitely a learning experience for me, however humiliating. And I vowed it would not happen again. So winning in 2021, my first return to the Summit since my debacle in 2018 – gave me a feeling of immense satisfaction and pride!