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Archive for September 23rd, 2011

Screenwriting Expo 2011 – Pitching Tips Pt. 1 Sep 23

Pitching TipsPitching Tips

The Golden Pitch Festival

The Screenwriting Expo hosts something called the Golden Pitch Festival. You have to pay extra for it, even if you have an Expo Gold Pass, but being able to pitch is worth its weight in… well you know.

If you’re an unrepresented writer, it’s the easiest way to get face-time with the people who can actually help you get your movie made, give you representation, or hire you for a writing job.

The following pitching tips come from my own experiences (both pitching and public speaking), and from the training seminars I’ve taken.

I’ve decided to split this article into 3 parts, starting with:

Before you get to the Pitch Festival…

Pitching Tip #1: Make sure you have a logline

A logline consists of one or two sentences (one is better) that captures the premise of your script in the most compelling way.

If you don’t have a logline for your script, it probably means either A) your script is unfocused, or B) you haven’t been writing long enough to understand its importance.

Both are red flags to producers and managers.

Pitching Tip #2: Make sure you have a one-sheet

A one-sheet is something that you can leave behind when your pitch is complete. At minimum, it should have the title, genre, logline, a brief synopsis, and your contact information on it.

Optional items:

  • A catchy tagline for your movie
  • Loglines from other scripts you have completed (I don’t personally put these on there as I feel they dilute the focus of the current script I’m trying to sell)
  • A very brief bio (if you have experience relevant to your script, or have won some awards, or have a Master’s Degree in Screenwriting from USC, etc.)
  • A terrific quote from a respected industry reader or someone recognizable in the industry about your script
  • Hire a graphic designer to create a professional and memorable one-sheet for you on nice paper/cardstock

And remember, make sure you spell everything correctly! I met a woman at the Expo who had been handing out one-sheets with a misspelling in her title for several days.

Pitching Tip #3: Figure out the structure of your pitch

Yes, your pitch should have a rough structure. It should be something like this:

  • Genre your script falls into (e.g. Action, Comedy, Action-Comedy, Thriller, Pscyhological Thriller, etc.)
  • Time period of your story (only necessary if it doesn’t take place in the present or if the title begs the question)
  • Primary location(s) of your story
  • Title, then Logline; OR Logline, then Title (often times the Title can serve as the “punchline” to the logline, so make sure you have a good one)
  • Additional info to drive home the concept. For example: “It’s a modern day take on The Legend of Zelda.” Or “It’s Taken but with a brother and sister, instead of a father and daughter.” (That actually sounds pretty good)
  • High level story beats (notice I didn’t say “plot”). This will be the “meat” of your pitch.

The reason you don’t just launch into the story beats is because you want to orient the producer/manager as quickly as possible, and provide a context, to the world of your story.

Pitching Tip #4: Make sure you practice your pitch

We all have varying speaking abilities. Some people seem to have been born with the gift of gab (Quentin Tarantino), the rest of us have to work at it. Regardless of where you fall on the scale, you need to spend some time practicing your pitch.

Some of the best practice can come from just chatting up your friends about your script. Don’t tell them you’re pitching it to them, because it immediately sets up a weird dynamic. Just say, “Hey, have I told you about my latest script?”

Then try to sell them on it. Pay attention to what they respond to, and what they don’t, then incorporate the good stuff into your final pitch.

Pitching Tip #5: Make sure you time your pitch

Whether you practice your final pitch in front of other people, or just rehearse it quietly to yourself, you absolutely need to time it with a stopwatch. Yes, a STOPWATCH! If you don’t time your pitch out in advance, you WILL run out of time (5 minutes).

I wouldn’t recommend filling up the entire 5 minutes either. Remember, pitching is interactive and “in the wild.” Crazy stuff will happen that will chew up your time unexpectedly. And you will almost certainly be interrupted by the producer or manager with questions or comments.

It’s best to plan for a pitch that’s around 3 minutes. 4 minutes  tops! That way you can go into your pitch relaxed and not worry about the seconds ticking away.

Pitching Tip #6: Study up!

Pilar Alessandra has a great interview with the pundit of pitch-prep, Danny Manus. You can check out that podcast here.

If you have several months before your next opportunity to pitch, why not join a Toastmasters International club in your area? I’ve seen it work wonders for people who were previously crippled by the idea of pitching or public speaking.

Any other pre-arrival pitching tips you’d add?

Next Edition: Pitching Tips Part 2 — When you get to the Pitch Festival…


Previous Screenwriting Expo 2011 Posts:

First Impressions
How do you get a Manager?
Top 20 Agent Tips

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