THE PITCH Life’s a pitch (all profits to bushfire relief)

Unemployed darlings of Aussie TV & film, Travis Jeffery and James Sweeny, come to FRINGE WORLD in 2020 with a one-hour comedy about two no hopers pitching a film to some big-time movie execs, showing on the rooftop at Alex Hotel from Wednesday, January 22 until Sunday, January 25. Clearly making up for their lack of experience with excessive confidence, everything starts to unravel in the waiting room as the pair begin to notice issues with their script, causing unsettled grudges to emerge at the worst possible time. James Sweeny spoke to BRAYDEN EDWARDS about seeing the funny side of some very real challenges for writers in the entertainment industry, the pair’s roots in WA, and their commendable gesture in donating all the profits from the show to the bushfire relief fund. 

Congrats on making your first appearance at Fringe! What are you looking forward to most about coming over to WA?

I grew up in Perth and most of my family are still here so spending time with them will have to be what I look forward to the most. But a close second is FRINGE WORLD itself. The vibe and buzz in the city while the festival is on is fantastic. Compared to other festivals I’ve participated in, it’s my favourite. It’s really building itself into something special on a global scale and gets better every year. My co-star Travis Jeffrey also studied at WAAPA and shot the first season of ABC show The Heights here so it’s always great to come back to Perth.

This play takes a humorous look at what goes on behind the scenes in the writing process, were some of the dramas and conflicts in The Pitch inspired by real life experiences?

Not specifically. The two characters are get-rich-quick-schemers, and I definitely have a few friendships out there based purely on making a lot of money really quickly with the least amount of effort. Travis and I have been in the acting industry for a while now and have been well accustomed to the frustrations and absurdities of getting a film or TV series made.

And how is the play different from works you have performed before? Were there any new themes or ideas you wanted to explore with the concept of this show?

The Pitch has been performed twice before, at the Melbourne Comedy Festival in 2015 and the Sydney Comedy Festival in 2016. Knowing we were bringing it to Perth for 2020 – I really wanted to go through the script and update any jokes and make them more relevant for this time and place. I’ve always had it in my head that comedy can go out of date really quickly – and in doing so, Travis and I read through the revisions and realised that I had completely ruined the pace and rhythm of the original script which was always so good! So we ditched all the new lines and reverted back to the original – which just works so much better. Sometimes you just have to trust yourself and not let your ego get in the way!

The Pitch is said teach us all to follow our dreams, no matter how unqualified we are. Is that something you relate to in your career as well?

Absolutely. Trying to make it in the entertainment industry is tough going! You’re constantly putting yourself out there and dealing with rejection after rejection. That’s why Travis and I think it’s so important to create your own work and perform whenever you can. It’s not so much the lack of money that’s a struggle (yet it is) but it’s mostly people not giving you the chance to do what you love to do – perform. So that’s why you’ve got to grit your teeth, get writing and make your own content. The more you do it, the more you learn, the better you get. It may start off as a Fringe show but it could lead to something a lot bigger…

There seems to be scarce detail about what the actual movie is that the characters are pitching. Without giving too much away can you tease a couple of details on that or will we have to come down to find out?

As you’ll see in the show the story is not important. It’s just whether they can sell it, because that’s business…

You’re also donating all the profits from this show to the bushfire relief, so people who catch the show can feel like they’re really contributing to a good cause as well?

Travis and I both live in Sydney and have been in contact with a lot of people who have been deeply affected by these fires that have been raging on since November. We wanted to do whatever we could to help, and donating our shows’ profits to bushfire relief is the least we could do. Travis grew up in a place called Healesville, which was right in the middle of the Black Saturday (bushfires), so he’s seen first hand how devastating it can be and how hard it can be for people to get back on their feet.

And what other projects have you got coming up for the rest of 2020? Can we expect to see something new from you and the team, perhaps at Fringe next year?

Travis is back shooting a film in June while I’m looking forward to working with the ABC for Season 2 of Total Control later in the year. Who knows what may happen between now and then? We both hope to be busy with auditions! I’ve already got a few ideas for my next theatre show and would love to debut it in Perth at Fringe 2021!


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