Got an Itch to Pitch?


Here is another exceptional article from Laurie Hutzler. You’ve been lucky enough to be dragged into a meeting kicking and screaming. You know what to wear from previous posts. But do you know what to say? You’ve written something that piques a producer’s interest. Now they want to meet you. That’s the key word. As an emerging writer they like your style and view of the world. It is more likely that they want you to write or rewrite and assignment for them rather than producing yours. Hey, baby steps become giant bounds.

Be Authentic

Don’t try to second-guess what the producer wants.  You can’t read minds and they can’t read yours. A puzzled look could mean they’re bored, interested, hungry or anything else in between.

Don’t make stereotypical assumptions based on their look, age, gender or production history, although it’s a great starting point. Instead, offer a fresh take on the core idea that reflects who YOU are. When you pitch be true to the sensibility of the project, but bring something unique and original to the table.

I remember pitching a serial killer romantic comedy called “Confetti Dreams” years ago. I opened with “Do You Believe In Love?” I engaged the exec immediately because they had to respond “yes”. Then I launched into my pitch about my characters launching into final killing spree before settling down. The exec asked if it was a comedy? Of course it is, I bellowed. Homicidal maniacs need love too. It generated lots of heat, but the project was too weird to package sensibly.

The lesson here is be yourself and speak with an authentic voice that ADDS something to the project.  Demonstrate that you have a clear point of view and can make a real contribution.

Get to the Point

It’s always great to do your homework and research whatever element you are pitching.  But avoid the temptation to over-explain or simply show off your background knowledge.  Don’t get into research unless it has a clear correlation to something specific in your pitch.  You run the risk of telling the producers what they already know when you include too much extra information.  Instead, get right to the heart of what it is you are pitching.  Show don’t tell applies here.  Show you’ve done the research by the quality and specificity of what you pitch.

Stay on Target

Make sure everything in your pitch reflects the core idea of the project.  Know your central premise. I pitched a family/sci film called “Caroline Springs”. I pitched it as an alien film about discrimination. Note, the term “family” to tell producers what demographic I’m pitching to. “Confetti Dreams” was an “R” rated comedy.

Be meticulous in each and every element of your pitch.  Make absolutely sure that everything in your presentation reflects the core idea at the heart of the project.

Ask Questions

Be certain you have all the information you need to pitch. If you don’t understand something, ask. Intelligent questions convey interest and enthusiasm.   A few pointed questions can also help you tailor your pitch to the unique circumstances surrounding the project.  Be judicious and stay on point.  Don’t waste  time with irrelevant questions. Questions engage your pitchee. I’ve recently started closing pitches with “What’s the best way of getting a script to you?” or “What time frame are you looking at?” The answer is a indicator of how the pitch went.

Be Enthusiastic

Only pitch those projects that really excite you.  If you don’t caer, why should they? If the project is not for you then pass and concentrate on something else that is more your style.  If the project is your “dream job” then let it show.  Communicate why the project is in tune with your unique sensibilities or interests.  Enthusiasm is infectious and really can’t be faked.  Show up in person.  No one can sell your pitch better than you can.  Don’t “phone it in” on any level.

Take Direction

When a producer asks for an adjustment, get to the bottom of what is missing (or wrong).  Ask, “What would adding (or subtracting) this address for you?”   Don’t fixate on the literal detail the producers are questioning.  A literal fix often doesn’t really address the underlying problem.  Often times a comment might mean that a plot point doesn’t work. This could mean  the character motivation is unclear, the conflict is weak, or emotionally unengaging.

It’s your job to discover what is actually at issue and fix that. Be creative. You are being hired to be a problem-solver.  Solve the problem in a way that expresses the talent and insight you bring to the table.

If the producer is yawning, know how to salvage the meeting by being proactive. If they ask “what else have you got?” don’t say nothing.

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