Susan Kouguell

Go Big or Go Bust: How This Pitch Wrote Itself (With Help From The Runes)

Oh so many lessons. It's clear that I’m not nearly as evolved as I like to think I am.

But at least things seem to be working out, regardless of the amount of << suffering through >> my karmic path requires. THANK GOD FOR FRIENDS.

Lisa Levart tweeted the link to this very interesting piece on creative minds which is making me feel more accepting of the fact of ‘the way I work’. (Will not use the hated “P” word.) "Creative people have messy processes, and often messy minds, full of contradictions."

And good old Mudd Lavoie turned me on to the Runes which, no, does not mean you have to go out into the woods and try and read broken sticks and stones. More about that in a minute.

As you may know, I’ve been trying to get it together to pitch a half hour comedy series to cable since last August. At this point, it feels like it’s been years. Everywhere I turn, I get help and advice from people who've been there, done this and know what the heck they’re talking about. My reaction has been growing confusion to, frankly, the verge of hysteria.

Last Friday night, desk stacked high with piles of papers, each one with suggestions on how to boil everything down into a 1 - 20 minute pitch (whaa?)  It felt like I was going to be facing another Slaughter on Tenth Avenue weekend with the possibility of That Moment when you seriously want to rip your hair out. And so, before coming to that point, I decided to ask The Runes (Ralph H. Blum’s book and set of Runes) for guidance.     

What a surprise.  A three rune spread turned up this advice:

- counsel against overreach and striving (I am (what I suspect is) a classic case of someone trying to ‘overachieve’ which would explain why this very term annoys me so much.)
- don’t try to exceed your own strength (ditto)
- go within (Ew.)

- the battle is with the self. (no comment)
- observe pain. don’t try to deny it.
- timely right action and correct conduct are your only true protection (Now this one put the fear of GOD in me as all the astrologer/psychic types told me that delay could sour everything, that the time is at hand.)

- disperse resistance, then accomplish the work.
- the will must be clear and controlled (NOOOOOO.)
- may need expert help.
- modesty and patience

It was all so clear. Forget the desire to be brilliant or to even have a 'great' pitch. Just do what you can do. Keep it SIMPLE. Keep it short. (Susan Kouguell had locked eyes and said: “One minute.”) I was going to have to do the hardest thing:

stop trying
let go
simply do what I can do

AND BOOM. The pitch was written and memorized by Sunday night. HOW WAS THAT SO EASY??  (immediate and gorgeous early Valentine's gift if you click the 'Like' button below)

Go Big or Go Bust: On How The Crazy and Mysterious Hand of Fate Intervened and Hijacked My Plan

Even though it never feels like I have the time to meet a friend for lunch, I decided that I was going to do it anyway. I hadn’t seen Susan Kouguell in decades and we’d been talking about getting together since last summer. I really needed a break from the alternating frenzy and paralysis of my pre-pitching state. We set a date.

In the early 1980’s, Susan and I had both won top prizes at the Black Maria Film Festival with our first short films. As I remember, we met at the awards ceremony. Susan wore stiletto heels as if she’d been born in them.

Over the next years, we’d run into each other at various film-related events but we never hung out. Life for an indie filmmaker, especially in the pre-digital days of 16mm, was busy and expensive. Between a job to pay the bills, a second job to pay for film stock, lab fees and equipment rentals and then the third job of making the darn films, who had time to hang out?

That was part of the reason. Another part was that I felt both competitive and timid around Susan who seemed so much more accomplished and confident. And then Susan moved out of the city, we both got married and had kids and decades flew by.

Thanks to the miracle of Facebook, we talked on the phone last summer, a long, no holds barred catch-up which lead to this lunch.

No sooner had we sat down in the booth (Susan had had a word with the maitre d’) than she fixed me with her laughing twinkling eyes and asked about all these references on Facebook to me and ’pitching’. It turns out that Susan has had more experience pitching than almost anyone I know, and from both sides of the table. She’s even been drafted to teach seminars on how to pitch!

“How can I help you, Anne?”

I had to forcibly close my mouth which was hanging open in astonishment. Apparently, when the student is ready, the teacher really does appear.

Our lunch lasted three hours. Luckily I’d only ordered soup cause I have a hard time eating and talking and this was going to be so much more than ‘talking’ having suddenly morphed from gabfest into pitching tutorial.

Susan can be very focused as she lounges in a booth, laughing, and tossing out suggestions on how to structure and write a pitch. I sat across from her, bolt upright/hunched forward, scribbling on the single (mercifully over-large) receipt in my pocketbook and trying to keep up with her fountain of ideas. It was a very stimulating three hours, but it wasn’t till we parted that the full effect hit me. I was ready to collapse.

Two subways and a dazed walk later, I was still in such an altered state that work was out of the question. It seemed like a good idea to watch a sixteen minute interview with Mick Jagger (1985) and then compulsively read a novel until bed.

Tomorrow is another day.  

But in case you want to get a dose of Susan for your own work, take a look at how she might help you.