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The Pitching Class

One of the mega-important classes I’m required to take as a screenwriting concentration deals specifically with the ins and outs of pitching. It doesn’t seem like it’ll be the most challenging class I’ve ever taken, except for one horrible catch: there’s only one teacher, and she was my horrible monster of a Screenwriting I professor.

One of the things I’ve rambled about before on this blog but am currently too lazy to look up was the fact that I had to repeat Screenwriting I. You need to get a B or higher to move on in the curriculum, and I got a C. This was before I knew anybody in the department, and long before I knew I could just go and talk to one of three people and get the requirement waived. Instead, I formally petitioned the grade to a dean who couldn’t care less, and I ended up repeating the course.

I consider this a good thing, since I learned absolutely nothing the first time around, and the second, I had a really wonderful professor who was really on top of his shit. Honestly, I could go on and on comparing the differences between this professor and my first one, but I figure I’m being boring enough just going into this back-story again, so I’ll move on.

I will say, to her credit, that the only day of Screenwriting I that I felt I learned something was the day we learned about pitching. She really seems to know a lot about that, which makes sense since she’s run two management companies (and still runs one based out of Chicago), but she also reads screenplays for a living but can’t for the life of her advise people on writing them. Still, if pitching is her forte, I’m willing to let bygones be bygones and ignore the miserable experience I had in Screenwriting I. And hopefully she won’t remember the three occasions I shouted at her.

The other thing is that she seemed to get really annoyed by the “beginner” students, especially those who didn’t give a shit about writing. Screenwriting I is required for the film major core, so everybody has to take it, and very few people are actually interested in writing (at least when they start Screenwriting I). We did have big problems with people not taking the class seriously, and she was new and inexperienced. She created a room full of people who thought she was cool but had absolutely no respect for her, and once she realized that, she got frustrated and started to lash out, which sort of led to the aforementioned miserable experience.

The difference this time is that the pitching class is pretty much limited to advanced students, most (if not all) of whom have screenwriting concentrations and really want to learn whatever she has to offer. I also know a few people who had her for this class last semester, and they really found it useful. So, again, I’m going into this with as open a mind as I can.

The class itself is pretty small, though that may change. We only had about half the class show up today, which is odd since it’s the first day. I wonder if they’re going to drop. One of the people who did show up, though, was Fellow, who was in Production II with me over the summer. He’s such a funny guy for a number of reasons, the first of which was that he entered class about 10 minutes late, sat next to me, and whispered, “I am so hung over.” Something about his delivery made me laugh out loud, which was probably a bad thing.

A little while later, our professor (who, just for the sake of an appropriate Buffy reference, I think I’ll call the Hideous Bitch-Monster of Death) asked us if we had any general questions about the course expectations, Fellow raised his hand and said, “I have to say that I think Columbia is generally an overrated school, and I’ve had a hard time reconciling the fact that I’m paying so much money to take classes that are taught by people who are clueless and are only interested in manufacturing narrative, studio writers. That’s only been my experience, of course, but I want you to know that I’ll be really upset if you’re just like they are.”

For one thing, I think he has some balls to say that to a professor on the first day of class. It’s one of those things that I think, but I keep it to myself. Then, I go crazy. Maybe he’s healthier than I am, but I was incredibly impressed and the Hideous Bitch-Monster of Death was sort of flabbergasted. All she said was, “If you think this class starts to be like that, you come and see me, because I really don’t want an atmosphere like that.” I actually thought that was sort of classy of her.

Still, I have the same problems with her I had the last time around. For one thing, she never writes anything on the board, and then she gives us really long passages she insists that we write down. The problem is, she talks way too fast. Everybody kept getting her to slow down, but she still wanted to go through it all much faster than we could write it. She was affable enough today, but when I had her last time, she was fine with slowing down a few weeks, but then she started to get really cranky about it.

The other problem: she does a really poor job of explaining basic things, which leaves the entire class sort of scratching their heads. It’s like, we all sort of get it, but we have to ask a bunch of follow-up questions that would be unnecessary if she just but an teensy bit more effort into constructing her explanations. And I know this isn’t just a personal problem, because I wasn’t the one asking any of the follow-up questions—everybody else did that for me. I thought that was nice, since I was barely awake.

At any rate, I think the class will at least be sort of amusing. There’s this lunatic who looks like a non-dwarf version of Peter Dinklage, but he speaks with this hilarious high-pitched voice and is extraordinarily opinionated, except he’s retarded. He really gets Fellow’s goat, and they argued for about 45 minutes during class. It cracked my shit up. I hope they keep that up.

I have no other class on Monday, and I’m trying to avoid work at all costs during U-Pass week. Even though I know they think I’m too stupid to handle U-Pass, I don’t even want to sit around stuffing bags for the next week. I’ll just avoid it altogether.

Tomorrow, I have experimental screenwriting with the Super-Hot Pot-Head, and a topics in literature class with no one I know. Yippie!

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