Script Coverage Chronicles – August 2014: Three Lessons From My Disastrous Pitch To Wilmer Valderrama

Wilmer Valderrama is best known for his work as Fez on That 70s Show, but he’s also had considerable success in animation.

A few years ago, my agent called with an intriguing opportunity. 

In light of Wilmer’s hit animated series Handy Manny, Disney wanted to develop another show with Valderrama, and he was looking for family writers to come up with ideas.  My agent suggested I get on the phone with Wilmer and his producer and pitch a few concepts.

I was pretty nervous.  I’d never pitched to anyone famous before.  And this guy was a veteran of one of Fox’s longest running sitcoms.

I figured I’d have to be hilarious to get his attention.

I planned several “can’t-miss” jokes for early in the pitch, and soon after the phone call began, I hit the punch lines hard. 

Bad choice.

The response to my hilarious gags was cricket-esque.  After the second zinger clunked to pure silence, I actually asked: Can you guys hear me?  I was the desperate comedian tapping his mike and asking, is this thing on?

It turns out Wilmer is a pretty serious business-focused guy; at least that’s how he was on the phone with me.  He seemed less interested in my supposed hilarity and more interested in the big picture.

So I moved on from my ill-fated laugh-fest and pitched two ideas I had prepared in depth and was pretty damn proud of. 

Wilmer said little about either idea and then asked if I had any others, preferably something with a Latin-American element.  Neither my agent nor my manager had prepped me for this request, and I hadn’t foreseen it myself.

More than a bit thrown, I pitched a third idea – a makeshift concept I hadn’t really prepared for – but I didn’t want to give up. 

Well, actually, based on how this was going, I did want to give up.  But hey, if we writers want to be treated like pros, we have to act like pros.  And professionals do their best job, even on a bad day, right?

So I did what I could.  And that was it.  Unceremoniously, the pitch was over.  Here are three lessons I learned from the experience:


You can’t plan for everything that will happen.  Do your homework, yes.  Know who you’re talking to, yes.  But also be ready to switch gears mid-pitch.


It’s best not to “sell” a joke.  Don’t raise your voice or your tone to emphasize the sidesplitting thing you think you’re about to say. I’ve gotten the most laughs from producers by simply describing a situation that suggests funny things will happen.  If you’re a born stand-up comedian, then do what works for you.  But if you’re like most writers (funniest on the page), then this advice should help you.  Play the pitch straight.  If the material has potential for humor, it’ll come across.

And Three

Never give up on a pitch.  I was surprised to hear from my agent that Wilmer did take one of my ideas to Disney – that third idea I threw in to keep the conversation going. 

Disney ultimately passed on the concept, but I gave myself a chance by not folding when my jokes bombed and my meeting-prep faltered.

It can be nerve-racking as hell, but don’t let your energy level fall.  Keep talking, even when you’re crashing and burning, because the next idea might be a winner.