I'm sitting in a room full of 250 new ideas. And each one's about to get a fair hearing. You don't see much of that nowadays.
It's the I Can Pitch event, held November 17 and 18 at the Pantages Hotel - a chance for fledgling writers and directors to pitch their ideas for television shows and movies directly to top Canadian producers.
The brainchild of film biz networker Marie De Luca, it's an attempt to seed the flailing Canadian film and television industries whose once thriving infrastructures have been all but eviscerated by four years of mismanagement, poor programming decisions and the rise of the Canadian dollar.
Offering your latest inspiration to folks in the biz isn't usually cheap. "If you don't have money, you can't go to Banff [World Television Festival]," De Luca explains. "It's very expensive to pitch there. You can't pitch at the Toronto Film Festival unless you're invited."
That's why this freebie pitch, courtesy of a $350,000 federal grant, is so spectacular. O, socialism!
On Friday night, delegates are given a workshop on how to promote their brainwaves. By Saturday they're primed, pumped, fed, watered and finally turned loose, face-to-face with the "catchers" - their choice of up to three industry professionals from places like the CBC, Astral, Capri Films and the Stonehenge Media Group. Each of these has had to sign an agreement stating that they have the funds and wherewithal to produce a new project this year.
For some reason there's a buzz around two guys with a show about a faux superhero whose special power is his ability to keep a low centre of gravity. I guess on tippy surfaces or at times when great leaning is needed he comes to the rescue? I sit in on their presentation and don't quite get it, but Andrew Lane, brand development manager at marblemedia, is impressed.
Running on favour power, the two have written, shot, starred in and are already editing the first few episodes of their show. "What they've been able to build as production entrepreneurs is a really impressive thing - better than someone who comes to you with one sheet of paper," Lane tells me.
Who knows what else is being pumped across the many desks assembled in the huge convention room? Along the hallway, 250 pitchers are lined up to get in. Each of the media companies is fielding up to 43 of them in one day. The atmosphere is friendly and supportive, but most people, wary of theft, aren't exactly going public with the their ideas.
And even those who encounter less enthusiasm than Low Centre Of Gravity Man aren't left to whimper, discouraged and traumatized. There's a workshop on handling rejection. (I tried to get in but they turned me down.)
Or, in between pitches, participants can listen in on panel discussions by newly hopeful media professionals or get inspired and "connected" by motivational speakers like Donna Messer.
In an industry where the writer is traditionally at the bottom of the food chain, it's somewhat rewarding to see all this effort and money going into getting some of them working. Will that actually happen?
Brad Luft, a 25-year veteran of the industry and one of the catchers, is enthusiastic.
"I really think in the next five or 10 years there are going to be some amazing Canadian films, and that'll open up our market," he tells me. "Hopefully they'll catch a break in the U.S. and make some money, but I think the talent's here and always has been. It just hasn't had anywhere to go."
Wow. Everyone's so inspired, I'm getting inspired, too.
Maybe I'll come back next year not as a journalist but as a pitcher. See, I've got this idea for a reality show.
It's called The Great Canadian Pitch-off. Amateur pitchers will present their ideas for TV shows directly to a voting television audience. The prize is a real budget and prime-time slot. Let's see what the people really want.