I was at a festival last year and we stopped for a lunch break. Lunch was provided so we all went to the lunchroom, helped ourselves to a decent meal, and everyone (I hope it wasn’t just me) tried to find seats with people who looked normal.
It was during one of these lunch breaks that I learned a valuable lesson while listening to a fellow attendee.
We were all talking about our show ideas and he told us about his. It was quite in depth and the subject matter was somewhat uncomfortable (think things that happen in a commune out in the country). I remember thinking it was well researched, thought out, and even though it was disturbing content the humanity of the story was quite compelling.
So what did he do to change my opinion? He followed it up by saying, “And it’s all true. It happened to me.”
Whoa whoa whoa.
Although we had all listened as he talked about things that would best be discussed among therapists, or really close friends, it changed everything when we learned he was telling us his traumatic life story.
Now I’m not trying to be rude or unsympathetic, but it simply was not the place to tell one’s life story.
I am not saying there isn’t room for shows that look at serious matters. And I’m not saying there isn’t room for shows that look at things that need to be exposed.
What I am saying is, it is not fair to the person being pitched (in this case that was me and the rest of the people trapped at a lunch table) to take us down this emotional road and then hit us with the “it happened to me” hammer. It felt like an emotional ambush.
Folks I do believe that there is room for shows that touch on difficult subjects, but you absolutely must deal with your pitch in a sensitive manner. It is not fair to the person being pitched to, to put them in a situation where they are sitting wondering if they are supposed to let you cry on their shoulder.
This is a difficult subject and a tough blog to write as I don’t want to hurt or offend people who have been through really hard times (and for those of you who know me I’m usually not too worried about people who get offended, but this is different).
If you are pitching a show that involves tough subject matter (and you all know who you are) you need to ensure that your pitch does not make the person you are pitching to feel uncomfortable discussing this with you.
If it is a good show, let it stand on it’s own, at least for the first few meetings before you declare “it happened to me”. You need to establish a relationship before you drop that bomb.
If this is some sort of cathartic process for you it is not fair to the person you are pitching. They are not your therapist, and if you are truly pitching this as a show, you do not need to say “it happened to me”.
I know this is a sensitive subject and I have tried hard not to offend anyone, but if you are creating a show around tough subjects, make sure you are pitching your show, and not your life story.