So you want to write for Hollywood? It's time to toughen up your act

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For one night only, for London's struggling screenwriters, Hollywood has come to them. As part of the Raindance Film Festival, low-budget kings Lloyd Kaufman and Roger Corman, Interview with the Vampire producer Stephen Woolley and A Prayer for the Dying producer Lora Fox, among others, are in Soho to judge the pitching technique of the capital's hopefuls. Each pitch can only last two minutes, and the panel can cut it off at any point. It's the film industry as Gong Show, the prize being the distant hope that one idea of the dozens presented tonight will be bought. The crowd aren't all the Soho media wannabes one might expect. They are a mix of men and women, mostly under 30, many from outside the film industry. What does unite them is that, with very few exceptions, they can't pitch for toffee.

The evening starts promisingly enough with each contestant cheered to the pitchers' podium by a bubbly crowd, and the panel looking enthusiastic. But as one pitcher after another stumbles through their notes, Lora Fox, especially, loses patience. When one young man, his pitch in tatters after an interruption, tries to argue his case, Fox says, "I think you just need to stop." A nervous Indian woman with an idea about mixed-race pottery is shown even less mercy. "Indian movies," Fox sniffs. "Real art-house".

The one pitcher who looks like he belongs in Hollywood is a velvet-dressed loon who throws his notes away and almost breaks the speakers with his pitch for a movie about the Satanist Aleister Crowley. "The other Crowley scripts weren't made because the writers didn't want their work butchered," he bellows. "Me, I don't give a fuck." Woolley shows suspicious interest.

As time runs out and pitches are reduced to a minute, then 45 seconds as the organisers try to wrap things up, the amateurishness of almost everyone present becomes obvious. Without anyone in Britain to pitch to for so long, it seems that, presented with genuine Hollywood movers and shakers, no one has the first idea what to say. By the end of the evening, even the permanently smiling Corman looks like he'd rather be back in LA. The only light relief comes when someone leaps on stage and offers an idea called The Pitch, about a screenwriter who murders a series of producers in revenge for their indifference. Finally, Stephen Woolley is asked to show how a pitch is done. To the delight of every humble talent in the room, he's crap.

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