Trisha Mead

The Engine 28 Press Jury Prize winner (despite only four votes from readers): “Will Rebirthing a Classic Be Bloody (Good) Business?”

THE PRIZE: Short critiques of the winning pitch. We tell you what worked, and how to improve the pitch. We also provide insights into how journalists assess the pitches.

– What’s great: The pitch grabs me, like good theater, with really high stakes.
What’s missing: I hear very little about the art itself and why/how this piece is going to come together.

– Too much about how the company was nearly doomed, and how “playing it safe” could be a viable option. Should lead with how daring the show is, then go to the administrative stuff. Also, the more images from something like this, which words don’t seem to do justice to, the better.

– Professional! Grammatical! Winning!

– It’s got a grabber lede, I was sucked in pretty quickly. Watch those typos! Attractive photo composite, I liked the cliffhanger in the type before scrolling down to continue reading. Does “world renowned” choreographer Nicolo Fonte have instant name recognition? Plant a contextual clue so we remember where we’ve seen his work. Evidently this company, despite budgetary woes, still has a sense of humor and hope.

– There was no other choice for me. Written like a feature story, the pitch’s lead was full of contradiction and had me at the words: “razor’s edge of closing its doors forever … ” The great picture sealed the deal.

– Bloodbath. Emergency. Razor’s edge. These 3 phrases are powerful, clear, intense. Placed near the top of this pitch I was drawn in to read more about Oregon. Ballet Theater’s risk taking techniques in wake of its financial crisis. Who doesn’t want to know how this game will end?

– Do a copy edit. The lead is missing a word: It would be understandable if [?????] decided to play it safe for a while. Send the message of professionalism.

– I love the bravery of taking risks in the face of–or even as an answer to–financial adversity in the arts. This pitch goes beyond the immediate show, asking some interesting questions and luring journalists to discover the answers.

– As a news story, this would interest me, but I’d need a bit more information about the ways that this performance could create a “new model” before I’d proceed to write about this. Also, use boldface sparingly, please!

– It’s a good pitch because it’s a good topic. But I would like to see more information. Are you saying the company IS playing it safe? Back that up — tell me what it is programming, compared with what it used to program.

– It’s a great hook – gives the context and background, sets the stakes and offers a window on an evolving solution. Like it a lot. BUT hate the headline. Doesn’t give an idea of what this is about. Language is overdramatic and reads like PR hype. And it’s not entirely grammatical. Can “rebirthing” be a business? And a bloody one at that? It would be much better if it were more specific. I would have skipped over this one because the headline was so bad.

– My main thought: the story idea is a good one, but the execution in the pitch does not match the quality of the idea. It needs to sound/look more professional: that means copy-editing it before sending it out; not bolding certain phrases, which has the effect of infantilizing the journalist reading it (Don’t worry—we’ll know what the important elements are); and not using slang like “helluva” (perhaps it’s just my personal preference, but feeling like a publicist is One of the Guys (or Girls) is not going to make me more likely to write a story—plus, this is a professional interaction). Choose your descriptors more wisely. I agree with Linda–if you need to call Nicolo Fonte “world-renowned,” he’s probably not world-renowned enough to have instant name recognition, so tell us more about what he’s done that’s great (I’m a dance writer and have not heard of him, so that says something). Is “bloody” the best way to describe Carmen and Petrouchka? I don’t think so–and I don’t think you need to resort to cheap thrills to attract a journalist to writing about this story.

– The content piques my curiosity but I want to know what about these classic remixes will be new and compelling. What is Fonte’s angle and concept? Also the description of the project is vague-who are these 10 dancers, why them? Just a few more facts, please.

– Drama personified. Bravery brandished. Teetering on the edge of triumph or tragedy. Had I read this particular entry, it would have my vote, too. It deserved its landslide win and the company appears to deserve an audience, just based on its sheer nerve. But the play’s the thing, and how it plays, and how it connects and is received, will decide the company’s fate. I lived in Oregon for 7 years and never came close to going to see the ballet. And I’m on the periphery of ballet and open to it. If they didn’t reach me, who will they reach?

– A compelling headline, a hook, some tension: It’s a “helluva” pitch. One suggestion: a quick copy edit would polish it up (i.e. company, rather than companys).

– 1) something at stake, 2) someone to root for, 3) an outcome I (and readers) want to find out.

– The headline piques curiosity but I originally passed this over because of the first two lines. If you are on the brink of turnaround, is there really tension when there are still plenty of companies that teeter on bankruptcy? And I think the connection between mounting a specific production and the health of a company to be tenuous in terms of the interest to the typical reader. Reading it over now, I like the questions that finish up the pitch but, first time through, it lost me before I got to that point.

– Trisha’s pitch has three major things going for it: it gives the impression of transparency; it contains conflict; and it leaves the story unfinished. Pitches that don’t contain conflict are boring, and I delete them. Pitches that seem like they’re hiding something are deleted even faster. And pitches that contain a complete story leave me no work to do.