It was something of a secret mission. We had already established a code name for the project: ‘Pancake.’ Now, Curtis and I were in L.A. to do a pitch meeting on behalf of THE VOID to Ghost Corps. and more specifically to Paul Feig. Could we persuade the director of the reboot film to join us in creating “Ghostbusters” in THE VOID?
Some months before, someone from Sony Pictures had – on their own – acquired tickets to one of our beta experiences. He had flown out just to try it. I can still remember him sticking his head into our office space all excited about exploring the idea of being a ghostbuster in THE VOID.
Was this guy for real? A dream project like that just doesn’t stop by your office every day.
The next thing we knew that pipe dream was rapidly beginning to look more real. Who wouldn’t want to strap on a proton pack and become a Ghostbuster? Soon, negotiations got serious. Under unprecedented security and approvals all in place, Curtis and I found ourselves reading a self destructive, on-time access copy of script to the new film. From our script notes, we put together a story that would become the backbone of our proposed experience.
But nothing could happen before the whole concept was ‘green lit’ by the film’s producers, director and production team.
I had pitched in Hollywood before (on the paramount lot for Star Trek: Voyager on several occasions) and never with any success. It wasn’t until I had watched a reality television show by Steven Spielberg called ‘On the Lot’ that I understood my mistake: pitching is a performance art not unlike oral storytelling. I was determined to channel my friend Carmen Deedy when I gave this pitch because pitching the basic story was going to be my job in the room.
There was a bit of a mix up at the studio gate when we arrived. Somehow I found myself with a pass stuck to my chest proclaiming I was Curtis.
We quickly found our way down between the various production offices and after only a single wrong turn found the offices of Jake Zim, the man heading up the virtual reality business for the studio. His office was a toy store of Ghostbusters merchandise. We chatted there for a few minutes before he took us around the corner to the next production office building.
There was little doubt that this was the right place. The facade of the building was a model of the Ghostbuster’s firehouse. We stepped through the front doors under the sign heralding Ghost Corps and into the reception area. The Ecto-2 bike was parked near the reception desk. Behind the desk, an enormous Ghostbuster logo was displayed on a frosted glass window. We were led to an open door around the left side of that glass.
The picture in my head had been completely wrong. We weren’t going to the director’s office. This pitch wasn’t just for him alone. This was their main conference room with an enormous round table. There was a huge screen on the opposite wall. Yes, there was Paul Feig, incredibly dapper in a lavender tie and one of the most exquisitely tailored suits I’ve ever seen. And behind him the room was FILLED with production and marketing staff who had all come to hear our initial vision of what “Ghostbusters” could be like in Hyper-Reality.
Curtis, Sam and I were invited to sit at the table. Curtis sat down next to a most interesting gentleman who seemed very involved in the proceedings. I sat next to Curtis while Sam moved a bit further down the table next to Jake. Curtis smoothly wired up his laptop to their media system. Jake began the meeting, talking about THE VOID and how we had gotten to this point then turned it over to Curtis.
Curtis was magnificent. At once cool and enthusiastic, he laid out the pitch about THE VOID and our Hyper-Reality experiences. I was so very proud of him. He was setting up THE VOID for success with this incredible group. As I listened I heard in my head, “When your turn comes, make sure to stand up to pitch this. You need to stand up for this delivery.”
Then he introduced me as the Director of Story and a New York Times best-selling author.
I stood up and walked around the table to stand next to the wall-mounted HD television. I launched into the pitch, thanking them for the opportunity and saying that our objective was to do honor to their story through our experience.
And then I started weaving the tale. It was almost as though the story was pushing through me. I was energetic. My descriptions were painting pictures. I was connecting with elements in Paul Feig’s film that resonated with the room.
About 30 seconds into the pitch, the adrenaline poured into my system. My hands began to shake and I could hear the quiver creeping into my own voice. I told myself that this was NOT the time to come apart. A forced calm somehow fell over me as I told what I knew would be the most important storytelling of my life so far. There was my son, sitting on the other side of the table looking back at me. I knew I simply would not – could NOT – fail him. I thought of Sam at the table and the entire creative, marketing, construction, facilities and management team back at the company in Utah. I would not – COULD not – fail them either. This was the moment when it was all on me. I wanted to make this happen for them all. And, praise God, I was given the words and story as I stood there like I’d never been given before.
There were moments when Curtis forgot to advance the slides, he was so engrossed in what I was telling. There was laughter at all the right spots. The story concluded with a bang and I waited.
To this day, I’d swear there was applause.
It was probably just as well that I did not realize at the time that the man sitting next to Curtis was Ivan Reitman, the producer of this new film and the creator of the Ghostbusters franchise. He asked the most questions as I stood there. Soon Curtis was fielding the questions and I sat back down again next to him.
Shortly after that, Paul Feig stood up. He liked it and was excited to develop this project with us.
Then he turned to Ivan Reitman and said, ‘Good story.’
“Yes!” Ivan agreed. They shook our hands and the deal was made. Paul Feig and Ivan Reitman would be developing “Ghostbusters:Dimension” with THE VOID.
At any given moment, the fate of an endeavor can come to rest on the shoulders of any one individual regardless of their position in a company. Each part played is critical to the success of the whole. But I’ll never forget pitching that concept and being grateful that when my moment came I had played my part well.
Sony Pictures Studios, Culver City, CA, United States