‘Queen’ lords it over exex at Pitch Me sesh

'Clear and focused' Robinson takes competish

Measured by the amount of applause, the audience award at Variety’s Pitch Me!! Session Saturday went to “Homecoming Queen,” Lawrence Robinson’s comedic tale of a re-run beauty contest 30 years after the rigged original.

Using maybe a minute of his allotted five, Robinson gained kudos for being “very clear and focused” in his pitch, according to USA Films senior veep Steven Raphael and for his “comfortable presentation” from Guy Stodel, senior veepee at Fine Line Features/New Line Cinema.

The quality of pitches and projects varied, but not by too much, with the panelists evaluating not only the material, but the effectiveness of the presentation.

Advice to wanna-be pitchers included Stodel’s “rehearse, practice, do it over and over again,” to Lions Gate acquisitions VP Jason Constantine’s “grab them instantly with the concept.” But, as Raphael said, “the quality of the script is what counts. It has to stand on its own.”

That’s assuming you can get it into the right hands. “Have it done by an attorney or agent,” said Raphael; “try to get the best literary agent you can.”

“Referral power helps,” volunteered Constantine. But beware of hitting on people at parties, said Raphael: “We’re all schmoozed out!”

“Twelve Hungry Men,” the tale of jurors on a bank heist trial who use the evidence to pull the robbery themselves, from Germany’s Julius Grutzke, drew praise for his English. Constantine felt Grutzke got hung up in the characters, but had a “very, very funny concept. This could work as a big- or small-budget film. The presentation makes me want to read it.”

“Last of the True Believers,” Bill Breedlove’s boogeyman horror story, fell victim to the writer’s attack of nerves. Drawing sympathy –“Lots of A-list directors suck at pitching,” said Raphael; “Pitching is really, really hard,” added Constantine — Breedlove gave it another shot and scored a home run.

IFC Entertainment veep Caroline Kaplan called it “interesting, and I’m not personally a fan of horror.”

“Enter the B-Boy,” Eric Blyler’s martial arts-breakdancing-Bollywood-crossover, left everyone none the wiser, from Kaplan’s “I have no understanding of this” to Constantine’s “It’s not a clear concept.” But Blyler did draw praise for the quality of his presentation and supplying the panel with a DVD and printed material.

Joshua Gats’ and Paul Gutrecht’s 1930s subterranean L.A. action-adventure, “Schufelt” also failed to move, Stodel lauding the “nice setup but then you slowly lost me.” The rest of the panel agreed the pitch was the problem, not the idea.

Michelle Byrd, exec director of IFP/New York, moderated.