Friday, December 12, 2014

TWENTY years ago? A pitch you can't 'Prophecy'

Well, THIS is a moment locked in time for me...and it was exactly 20 years ago today that we rehearsed for it:

This sale memo, from Voyager's Jeri Taylor and signed under fellow exec producer Michael PIller's
reply, was about our pitch called "Reflections," or "Descendants," or "Alliances Undone," or "Birds of a Feather"... whatever... that SOLD... then got bumped for 4 years, sank into the unused "sold" pile, but then finally got plucked out to produce (with update) seven years later as "Prophecy."

It's been an anniversary memory for me all week, exactly (gulkp) two decades ago: The TNG Companion was two years old, our new home home in L.A./Burbank was into its fifth month, Janet's six-week Voyager temp job had just been made permanent, and the extended contact from all our new opportunities had won us an invitation to pitch stories.

Yes, Dec. 12  was the night we rehearsed our 3 or 4 pitches with script coordinator and buddy/boss Lolita Fatjo at Micelli's in Hollywood, and got her notes; the very next day, we met with Jeri in her Hart Building office to try them all for real. And it was all, of course, still six weeks or so until the world at large would even see Voyager and meet its denizens on TV.

I had heard all the TNG writers tell of their own pitch experiences—of the nerves and mistakes in both their own as writers, and of the hopefuls they heard ideas from—and thus Lolita's gentle reminder that "no one sells on their first pitch" had been well taken.

Which, of course, was all the more weird when we DID do just that—and with the one idea, of course, we thought the least of: our "token 'Klingon in the Delta Quadrant' story, to mess with B'Elanna's Klingon half" idea. Thank you, Jeri—and thank you for being gentle with the rookies. And you too, Michael, wherever you are—bedecked in Dodger blue, I'm sure).

It was hardly the last time we pitched to either show—back in the day of Michael's revolutionary but time-consuming open-door policy for non-agented writers and spec scripts—but it was the only time we ever sold. Of course. (The old maxim about "you never get to do the teleplay for your first story sale," however, came perfectly true.) I even found out later we weren't even the first ones to pitch a "Klingon generational ship" story for Voyager.

March 1995: A "bottle show" no longer...
We used to tell the full story at convention talks—the prep and pitch, the writer meetings, the directed enlarging and then shrinking of the bottle story scope as the show and staff evolved, its disappearance and then final-season resurrection—as a snapshot of the outside-writer process, and how wacky a "textbook case" of off-staff TV selling and writing can actually be, and over several years. I've told parts of the saga on a couple of podcast interviews, but any of you new fans want us to pipe up about it for a current con, just let me know. (For the right rum mixture, I'll even share all the better concepts we pitched on either "middle show" that didn't sell.)

But for young Okie kids getting a tad later start in the biz than usual, it was three fast days in a week I'll always remember.

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