The Joy of the Pitch
You've gotten a meeting, or maybe it's just a phone call,
and in the next few moments there will be a decision whether
there's any interest in your project. Whether that's terrifying
or exhilarating is a choice you hopefully made before this point.
Every pitch is different because it should be tailored to
the person listening. Below is a formula as a starting point.
Ideally, you'll cover your pitch points in this order, but be
flexible. Present the most interesting points first. Be brief.
Elicit interest and questions. Be charming and funny.
- Pitch yourself. What success have you had as a writer
and as a person? Who do you thank for helping you?
- Pitch your material. What's the title and genre? What
success has this material had already (e.g., as a novel). What's
the status of the rights to the material? Do you have attachments
(director, actor, producer)? Finance? Distribution? Who recommends
this material? What attracted you to this material?
- Pitch your logline. This is one sentence that describes
the story and theme of your story (e.g., this is a comedy where
a woman living the perfect family life realizes she will be single
again in a month).
- Pitch your tagline (optional). This is a phrase that
sums up the spirit of your project (e.g., "Hide all the
bridesmaids" for WEDDING CRASHERS).
- Pitch the funniest scene from your show. A lot of
people try to pitch the entire story or character bible. That's
as boring as a book report. Give a performance that conveys what
your show will be like. Take your best shot. Don't try to fire
all your guns at once.
- Pause to answer questions. Avoid monologuing. If
they're not engaged and asking questions you're sinking. Hopefully,
there will be the magic moment when they offer a suggestion or
leading question. Your answer needs to be, "Yes, good idea",
not, "No, that wouldn't work". The latter will kill
the energy in the room. The former is the way forward to great
ideas and a fun collaboration. It doesn't really matter what
you think of that first suggestion. It's generous that the person
is trying to help you. Be appreciative of any gift.
- Offer a leave-behind. Usually the script or a treatment.
Wait! Unless your leave-behind is a conversation piece (e.g.,
a copy of the novel, a toy that's a character in the story),
offer to have your agent send over your leave-behind the next
day. Keep your agent in the loop. Besides, by the next day you
can revise the treatment or script to incorporate ideas explored
in the pitch.
Important Things to Keep in Mind
- Yes! Always answer "yes", because an answer
of no probably means the meeting is over. That doesn't mean lie.
If you do that you deserve to be thrown out. Here's how to always
answer yes: "Yes, that's a good question." There are
infinite varieties of yes. Practice in everyday life catching
yourself saying the word "no". Remove it from your
vocabulary. It's better to say f#*k than to say no. To give yourself
time to think, repeat the question before answering it.
- Be thankful. People like people who appreciate others.
Don't fawn over the people in the room. Thank the people who
got you there.
- Be confident. A great deal of money is at stake when
making a movie. Inspire confidence. Don't complain. Don't apologize.
Don't explain yourself. Above all, don't "bristle"
in reaction to what anyone says. If you feel insecure or at a
loss for words, lead with "yes" or "thank you".
Before entering the room say to yourself, "I'm totally self-confident
and at ease."
- Be enthusiastic and passionate. You are thrilled to
share this great project.
- Be ten minutes early. Inspire confidence that you
can handle business on time and on budget. But, don't be too
early or people may wonder if you have a life.