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Archive for the Category "Pitching"

Don’t F@#%ing Pitch Like This! Jul 17

Photo via http://photobucket.com/images/i%20say%20fuck%20alotOn Saturday I attended a fucking great series of talks sponsored by InkTip — a terrific fucking resource for screenwriters.

Why all the profanity?

Because I got to listen to one of my favorite columnists — Manny Fonseca — who’s known for his foul-mouthed, yet brutally honest and insightful articles for The Business of Show Institute newsletter. I highly recommend subscribing to the free weekly newsletter if you haven’t already.

When not swearing up a blue streak, Manny is a development executive for Kopelson Entertainment (The Devil’s Advocate, U.S. Marshals), where he’s always on the lookout for the next big script.

A Rogues Gallery of Pitchers

His talk at the InkTip Sessions on Saturday revolved around what NOT to do when pitching your script. As a veteran of many pitch fests, Manny’s seen it all. Here are some of the “types” that he and other execs hope to never see again:

The A La Cart

This pitcher gets to the table and plops down his list of scripts, then asks Manny to pick the one he likes. If you’ve got a bunch of scripts, not all of them are going to be suitable (Hint: “No Christmas Movies!”). Just do your homework and pitch the one you think is best for his company.

The Marketeer

This is the guy who comes to the table and starts talking about how the movie should be marketed. Everything from the actors who should be cast, to the tagline on the poster. This guy’s never had a movie produced, but he’s going to tell Manny how to do his job? Really?

The Show and No Tell

At the last pitch fest I went to there was this duo at a table who had a flip-chart that seemed to show every weapon under the sun. The exec at the table didn’t know what to do with these guys. They sure knew their weapons, but their ponderous presentation distracted from the script itself. Just stick to selling your script with words. If you can’t do it at the table, how are you going to present it to a room of producers, studio execs, etc.? Same goes for homemade trailers of your script.

The Repped Writer

You have an agent or manager? What the hell are you doing at a pitch fest? Odds are if you’re at a pitch fest, then you’re not really represented. You might be “hip-pocketed” but you’re not an actual client. Hip-pocketing means that the rep will be happy to take a commission for your script if the right buyer comes along, but you’re not on their official roster of clients whose careers they’re actively working to build. Odds are, if you mention that you’re repped, you don’t know the difference. And that’s a big red flag.

The “I got Drew Barrymore”/”I got James Franco”

(He gets those two a lot.) First of all, just because you had a conversation with an actor once, and they expressed a polite interest in your idea, doesn’t mean they’re interested enough to actually star in your movie. Even worse, any mentions of actors being attached are met with high levels of skepticism. Don’t say you’ve got someone attached if you don’t. Manny will just call the actor to verify. Yeah, he can do that. And does.

The Contest Finalist

Some people spend most of their time entering contests. Every. Single. One. Think you’re more enticing to Manny just because you’ve placed in the finals of the Spuzzum Film Festival? Think again. There are only a handful of script competitions that producers, managers and agents get excited about. And unless you’ve won one of those contests, it’s not worth mentioning. In my opinion, The Nicholl Fellowship might be the only one where a semi-finalist standing carries some weight — but even then, Manny’s probably not interested.

The Too Many Scripts Guy

Writing a great script is a lot of hard work. Writing dozens of great scripts is a lifetime of hard work. If you tell Manny you’ve written 50 scripts, that doesn’t impress him. It just tells him that you don’t rewrite. Almost every great writer will tell you that writing is rewriting. If you’re simply cranking out script after script, without much thought to revision, you may lack the discipline or habits required to make it as a screenwriter. And your scripts are probably terrible.

The “Have Some Traction” Guy

This is the guy who tells you that he already has traction with Producer A or Director B. That’s great — so why aren’t you making the movie with them? If these other people are so keen, then why are you coming to Manny? Keep your tenuous connections to yourself and just pitch your movie.

The Used Car Salesman

One of the best pieces of advice when pitching your script is to “just be normal.” Easier said than done of course. But you definitely don’t want to come across as a used car salesman. You know the type. They come to a pitch fest with their snappy speech patterns and rehearsed lines. Don’t do that. Just have a normal conversation with the person you’re pitching to that showcases your passion for your script.

Other Useful Pitching Tips

Don’t be nervous

You’re probably pitching to an intern. You probably make more than they do.

Don’t tell them it’s your 8th draft

It may be the 2nd or 10th draft of your script, but the producer, director, manager, agent doesn’t need to know that. It needs to feel like it’s hot off the presses, like no one else in town has read your script. Being first to read a potentially brilliant script is cool. Trudging through a script that’s been circulating through the fringes of Hollywood for years — not so much.

Don’t follow-up about your script

If someone has asked to read your script, there’s no need to follow-up. If they like it/love it, they’ll get back in touch with you. If they haven’t had a chance to read your script yet, you may risk irritating them by getting in touch with them. You don’t know what’s been happening in their lives… whether their mother just died, or whether they’ve been on vacation for a month.

Did you fall into any of the categories above?

The Great American PitchFest 2012 Jun 06

Great American PitchFest Adventures

The Great American PitchFest 2012Thanks to Ben Cahan, and his Talentville contest, I won a free pass to this past weekend’s Great American PitchFest (GAPF)! I was thrilled because the event is always so well put together and truly one of the best ways to get face-time with people who can help you get your movie made.

If you’ve never been to GAPF before, it’s basically speed dating — but with Producers, Directors, Managers and Agents. You pay one flat fee that allows you to have 5 minute meetings with as many people as you can see during the course of the day.

Some of the bigger companies have longer lines, so you have to weigh the benefit of waiting a half an hour to see one key person, versus maximizing your time, and meeting with multiple people. So depending on your predilections you’ll end up pitching between 10 and 20 times during the day.

This year the PitchFest offered its Saturday screenwriting classes and panel discussions for free! That means, even if you didn’t buy a ticket for the PitchFest, you could still come down and learn some new things — all for no charge. If you missed it, keep that in mind for next year, if they do it again.

Miscellanea

Here are some of my random experiences from this year’s Great American PitchFest.

Bob and Signe

The Great American PitchFest is run by two special people — Signe Olynyk and Bob Schultz. During their “Making the Most of…” orientation on Saturday night, I noticed something quite interesting about them. They genuinely cared about making your experience at PitchFest the best it could be.

The Starter Screenplay

One of my writer friends introduced me to a guy named Adam Levenberg, who was selling his screenwriting book — The Starter Screenplay — at a separate kiosk. If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that I devour screenwriting books like chocolate. And not all chocolate is created equal.

After talking with Adam (a current Hollywood Executive) for a few minutes, I knew I had to buy his book. I’m only a few chapters in, but I already know it’s one of the best books out there. I’ll post some nuggets from it in the coming days.

Scene Writing Challenge

The lunch break at PitchFest is crazy long — like an hour and a half or something. So what’s a writer to do after he’s stuffed his face? Write!

The Script-A-Thon was sponsoring the PitchFest’s annual scene writing challenge. You had to hand-write a scene up to 5 pages long, while using the following line of dialogue: “If I’d known you were going to be this easy, I wouldn’t have worn these shoes.” You also had to use this object in a creative way: Pineapple.

I’m proud to say that my scene won!

The best part is that I got to learn all about the Script-A-Thon 30 day screenwriting marathon and competition. If you haven’t signed up for it yet, I highly recommend you do so. The chances of winning are much better than in many other contests, and the caliber of judges is impressive.

Some Great Free Classes

Here are the free sessions I attended. They were all excellent.

  • Let’s Sell Your Script – Panel Discussion
  • Screenplay Competitions – How to Win, Why Enter & How They Can Change Your Life
  • An Interview with Screenwriter Rhett Reese (Zombieland, Monsters Inc., GI Joe Retaliation)
  • How to Triple Your Contacts & Get Powerful People Reading Your Scripts

I’ll be posting individual write-ups on these sessions in the coming days.

Surprise Meetings

I got to meet some terrific screenwriters this year. You know who you are!

  • There’s the woman who I struck up a conversation with in line, only to hilariously find out she’s one of my clients.
  • There’s the NASA team member who’s decided to make a run at screenwriting a little later in life.
  • There’s the pitching prodigy who’s appeared on Jay Leno, and is a little nuts — but in a good way.
  • There’s the funny group of guys who were making off-the-cuff comments about the Michael Jackson impersonator who was pitching a movie — in full costume. One guy said, “Is he pitching a ghost movie?” Another guy said, “I thought he was pitching a children’s movie.”

The Pitching

My pitches went very well… for the most part. As I had different scripts to pitch — depending on the person I was pitching to — I felt a little bit schizophrenic at times. But it was a great challenge.

The one thing I learned, is that it really pays to make a connection with the person across the table from you, before launching into your pitch. Every time I sat down and forced myself to ignore the pressure of the time constraint, the pitch went extremely well. Hopefully I’ll have some good news to report on that front soon.

How was your PitchFest experience?

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

Screenwriting Expo 2011 – First Impressions Sep 19

Screenwriting Expo PassThe Screenwriting Expo 2011

This weekend I attended the Screenwriting Expo in Los Angeles and took in some terrific seminars and panel discussions. I also pitched my latest script to a number of production companies.

All this week I’ll be updating you with screenwriting tips and insights gleaned from various sources. I’ll also throw in a few stories from my experiences. So stay tuned!

But first…

What is the Screenwriting Expo?

The Screenwriting Expo is a yearly event that gives screenwriters rare access to screenwriting consultants and established industry pros (Agents, Managers, Producers, and Professional Screenwriters).

You pay something like $100 for a basic pass and then $5 or $6 per seminar (some panel discussions and keynote speaker sessions are free). There’s also a Gold Pass which I believe is $300 that gives you unlimited access to any seminar. Though unless you’re Hermione Granger and can attend multiple sessions at once, I’m not quite sure how the extra $200 dollars is justified. Perhaps you get a free monkey.

Anyway, in addition to the seminar portion of the event, there are opportunities for screenwriters to pitch their ideas, and themselves, to production companies and management companies. The pitch tickets are extra (even with the Gold Pass), and depending on how you ordered them, they cost anywhere from $15 to $25.

So keep all that in mind for next year… if you decide to go.

First Impressions

I’m not gonna lie, the Screenwriting Expo web site is about as easy to navigate as that maze in The Shining, so I didn’t have high hopes for the organization of the event.

When I arrived at the main door of the Westin Hotel, there were no signs pointing me to the Screenwriting Expo (or maybe I was just blind), so I had to ask someone where to go.

After I found the registration area and picked up my package, it was discovered that my pitch tickets were missing. I was then referred down a long hallway to the pitching area. They, in turn, referred me back to registration… who then referred me back to the pitching area. Finally one of the volunteers wrote my pitching times on a blank card with a red Sharpie.

“You sure this is going to be accepted in there?”

“Oh yeah totally.”

It seemed sketchy, but Dude was right!

However, when I went in to pitch I discovered that if you had a 10:10 a.m. pitch time like I did, that didn’t mean you were pitching at 10:10 a.m. — it meant that you were pitching at some point in the future depending on how far behind schedule the pitches were running.

Turns out I only had to wait an additional 15 minutes. But on the last day of pitching, I had to wait an additional 40 minutes and missed the keynote speech by Ben Ripley (who wrote Source Code). However there were unexpected benefits to the whole debacle. More on that story later in the week…

The Case of the Disappearing Companies

Many people were told, while waiting in line, that their scheduled production or management company had cancelled.

This happened a lot. Standing there felt a little like Russian Roulette, only in reverse. You dreaded not getting your shot.

You’d be standing there, visualizing your pitch, stressing about how things were going to go, then you’d hear a volunteer call out, “Is anyone here waiting to see [insert absent company name here]?”

Then several nervous attendees would answer, “I am.”

To which the poor Expo volunteer would have to say, “I’m sorry, they’ve cancelled.” or “I’m sorry they’re unavailable right now — they had to go to a panel discussion. Maybe you can reschedule or switch to a different company at another time. Or you can get a refund.”

So it wasn’t bad enough that you had to worry about your pitching performance, there was a tremendous amount of added stress brought on by the fact you had to worry about whether or not your company was even going to be there.

But if you actually got in to pitch to your company, and you had your stuff together, it was a golden opportunity.

And I must say the volunteers they hired for Screenwriting Expo did a FANTASTIC job. They were good at diffusing stress, encouraging and attentive to the needs of the attendees, highly adaptable to the sometimes troubling circumstances, and tireless in their efforts.

The great news is that after the initial hiccups, things went quite well and it was a very rewarding experience.

Did anyone attend the Expo on Thursday or Friday? (I only attended on Saturday and Sunday.) What were your first impressions?

Tomorrow’s Edition — Important Tips from Managers

Q & A with Michele Wallerstein Feb 12

Do you have a question that you’d like to have answered by a longtime Hollywood literary agent? Send it in!

questions@scriptwrecked.com


Question: (from Thomas Zmiarovich)

Aside from a Logline, what other points would you want to
have in a good pitch?  And in what order?

Answer: (Michele Wallerstein)

Pitching projects to strangers is a very difficult task that writers are asked to do with great regularity.  It is a learned process that requires practice and knowledge.  Pitching is actually a very simple stage in a writer’s professional life.  When you sit down to pitch your screenplay or movie idea you need to take a deep breath and jump right in.

A pitch should start with the WHO, WHAT, WHERE and WHEN of the screenplay.  By immediately putting forward this information the listener will not have to try to figure out whether this is a drama or a thriller, whether it is contemporary or period piece and if the setting is California or Timbuktu.  It will allow the listener to concentrate on what you are saying.

After that you will present the story in a brief but interesting style with enthusiasm.  Always give them the ending and a brief description of the main characters.  You might want to have a written page with you to remind yourself of any salient points.  This written page can also be used as a “leave behind” for the listener.  Don’t forget to put your name and contact number on it.

Practice your pitch at home with friends until you have it down pat.    Never apologize and always be positive in attitude about your project.


Michele Wallerstein is a Screenplay & Novel & Career Consultant and author of “MIND YOUR BUSINESS: A Hollywood Literary Agent’s Guide To Your Writing Career“.

Web site: www.novelconsultant.com

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