Go Big or Go Bust: Down To The Wire with Thanks to Sam Smith and Razia Iqbal of the BBC

I frequently listen to the BBC World News on the local NPR station which broadcasts for an hour starting at 9 AM on weekdays. But when I flicked on the radio the other day, expecting to hear the reassuringly authoritative and professional voice of Razia Iqbal reading the news, I was surprised to hear music. And it wasn’t just a sting of music at the end of a story, the music went on and on. Double-checking that the radio was set to WNYC, I figured the BBC must be doing an interview with a musician and went about cleaning up the kitchen.

But when Razia Iqbal finally did come on, her voice was hardly recognizable. She was irritated to the point of petulant: “Well I have no idea why we had to listen to such a long piece of music there!” and then went back to reading the news.

I was dumbstruck. Listening to this woman for years, I have never heard anything even approaching personal emotion, much less unprofessionalism. But before I could dry off my hands to Google Image her, she was back, a dark and almost nasty tone in her voice: “And now we’re going to listen to even MORE of that song!”

The song, The Writing’s On The Wall by Sam Smith, continued. And as I listened to the passionate (soaring and cringing) finale, the lyrics ripped my heart right out of its safe little cavity behind the ribs:

(selected lyrics)

How do I live?
How do I breathe?

Tell me is this where I give it all up?
I have to risk it ALL!

It occurred to me that higher forces had interfered with poor old Razia’s broadcast and I considered shouting at the radio: THAT WAS FOR ME, RAZIA!!  I NEEDED THAT!  Because in fact, I’m so scared about this imminent pitching thing that I’ve been bloodying my fingertips ripping off anything that resembles a hangnail.

I know I’ve got to give it all up, whatever IT is. The control I guess. THE FEAR. I’m trying to psyche myself out asking: “What’s the worst that can happen?”  I’m not actually ‘risking it all’ … cause even though it FEELS like I might die of fear or humiliation, I’m not going to die.

Leave it to another filmmaker to stun me with his crazy logic, my old/new pal Joe who knows first-hand about the path that lies ahead of me: “If fear of pitching holds you back, then it's your life purpose to go and do it anyway no matter what. No matter what the result or fear in doing it.”   

My first serious practice pitch is on Friday.  I’ll let you know how it goes. Check back Friday night. (Early Valentine's appreciation to all who click the 'Like' button below ... RIGHT NOW.)

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Go Big or Go Bust: On Pitching and the Burning Question: Do You Have to be Cool to Pitch Successfully?

As I see it, there are three types of people: people who are cool, people who are not cool andpeople who, through an alchemy of body type, style and self-restraint (silence is a great tool), manage to give the impression that they're cool.

I fall into the third category. Or I did. And let me tell you, it’s a sad life. And it’s exhausting. With all that energy going into creating an impression, into pretending excitement, empathy, interest and everything else. I always felt like the inside of a pumpkin, hollow and a little slimy.

To get somewhere as a filmmaker, you pretty much have to pitch. And the essence of pitching plays into all of the darkest fears of someone who doesn’t feel cool, who has a fear of rejection,  of being publicly humiliated, who has, let’s just call it what it is, a fear of *annihilation*. And so, up until now, with one miserable exception in front of a Brooklyn arts organization and one horrifying weekend at IFFCON (a pitch festival by invitation only, GOD HELP ME) I have avoided pitching. That is about to change because I want to make this fake reality show for television and am going to have to pitch the idea. I feel compelled to explain the depth of my anxiety.  

In middle school, new to the area, I asked the girl who sat next to me in study hall if we could be friends. I agree it seems more like a question from a pre-schooler than from a seventh grader. Hey, I was young for the grade. Anyway, she had an interesting long nose and was serious and thoughtful. She answered me the next day: her mother wanted her to be friends with girls who lived in town. Dagger to my heart. We lived way out in the country, far from school and she lived in town. Obviously, the cool people lived in town.

I spent the rest of the next six years trying to become the most popular girl in the school.

I’m not sure if my classmates would agree that I succeeded but I did get elected to a lot of positions. And I felt popular. Hey so what if I barely graduated? I felt cool.

(To be continued)