A few months ago, I talked about Contact events. Less than a week after writing that post I found out that I had been accepted to Pitch Roller Derby Saved My Soul at Contact East. Typically, when you apply to a Contact event, you are applying to Showcase. A Showcase is a 15-20 minute time slot where you can give presenters an idea of what your production might be like and its potential to tour regional theatres/roadhouses (or soft seaters as the pros call them) across the country and abroad. A Pitch is a 5 minute version of the same thing. Initially I wasn't too keen on doing a Pitch. I won't lie. My ego kind of flared up.
How dare they give me ONLY 5 minutes! Do they not know who I am?
Short answer: No. No they don't. And they don't care. Do you want the 5 minutes or not? Because someone else will take it and they won't be such a whiny baby about it.
Getting over myself, I found that the list of Pros in attending Contact East for a Pitch heavily outweighed the Cons. For one thing, I'd never been to Charlottetown and I'm always up for a new reason to travel. For another, my family lives in Moncton, which is just a short drive away, turning this working trip into a familial visit. Contact East was also much cheaper than the other Contact events I had applied for and all meals were included.
I applied for and received an Audience and Market Development Grant from the Canada Council for the Arts, which would cover my flight, so Charlottetown was a definite go.
I landed in Charlottetown at around 5 p.m. on Thursday night, taking the red eye and 3 different planes from Vancouver. I registered as a delegate, checked into my hotel, showered, ate and rushed down to the community centre where the Contact Room was located to set up my booth. I was absolutely thrilled when I found a gym floor, the most perfect of all surfaces to roller skate on. Armoured in short shorts and knee socks, you kind of have to admit that I am hard to miss. From there, we were off to the Opening Reception and Hospitality Suite. I was back in my room by midnight. You'd think I would be exhausted but a combination of adrenaline and possibly jet lag kept me awake. I worked on my pitch for an hour before finally finding some sleep.
At 6 a.m., I was awake, eating breakfast and waiting for my 7 a.m. pickup to take me to my tech rehearsal for the Pitch.
At the time, it seemed impossible to distil the essence of my show, along with touring information, into a 5 minute pitch. I settled on this approach, in costume:
- 1.5 minute bit from the show
- Introduction, touring information, possibility of a French tour, community outreach initiatives
- Heartwarming true story of what this show has meant to people
- Appeal to come see me in the Contact Room for more information
Well, I fit it all in. Thank you Fringe Festival previews for teaching me the value of being concise.
Now almost lunch time, we boarded a bus for a tour of PEI and a lobster lunch. As luck would have it, the gentleman who sat next to me was a representative for the French equivalent of Contact East in New Brunswick. It turns out there is great interest in a French version of my show, something multiple people have been telling me for years but I hadn't really listened until now.
As the adrenaline was now leaving my body. I managed to squeeze in a power nap after our dinner before heading down to my booth in the Contact Room. At this point, I was still unsure if my pitch had any impact, but I could not have been more wrong. The number of compliments I received from various presenters and delegates simply blew me away. When a variety of East Coast presenters approach you with "We want this show," you know you might just be doing something right.
Buzzing from the days events, I made it out to the Hospitality Suite where I had the pleasure of hanging out with a variety of showcasing artists. Apparently we drank them out of beer.
I had plans of waking up early-ish, but a combination of little sleep, jet lag, and just plain ole exhaustion saw to it that my eyes didn't open until 12:30 p.m. Groggy, but determined to make it out to the Confederation Centre for the Arts for their matinee production of Evangeline. It was lovely and, even though I know the story, I cried like a baby.
Quick walk along the harbour to grab a lobster roll and I was back for my last turn in the Contact Room. More positive chats, including one with a tour manager who wants to talk more. Oh and I even sold a shirt!
Throw in free oysters shucked on location at the closing night party and Contact East was a beautiful and resounding success.