Screenwriters know how the movie industry works. It’s 50% screenwriting and 50% hustle. In that order. Whether a film producer wants to meet you for a general meeting or you’re pitching a particular screenplay, you need to have your pitching game on.
1) Fact: All scriptwriters are wordsmiths. Chose them wisely. The first 6-10 words that come out of your mouth are by far the most important. A film producer will often make a decision based on those. Silence also counts.
2) If your screenplay is based on a published book (preferably not self-published) and you own the rights, mention this immediately. Producers don’t like vanity projects unless they have a substantial followers. Many producers will demand unencumbered rights to a project. That said, if your novel is on the New York Best Seller list and you want to adapt it to a screenplay, their check books may be more versatile.
3) If you won or placed high in a top screenwriting contest or writers fellowship such as Nichols, Sundance, Screencraft or a highly competitive film studio fellowship, mention this immediately. It means your idea has a built in audience which can be leveraged to box office.
4) If your project is an animation, state it. Be aware of what type of animation you envisage your project to be; Is it a 3D, 2D, comic cartoon, claymation or CGI? These factors will help the producer determine a potential film budget. If your film is a live action with CGI overlays, state this too. But don’t get too caught up in the technical details just yet.
5) Avoid asking rhetorical questions such as “It’s so hard to get a movie made, isn’t it?” Well, duh. It’s always been hard. It’s just that the landscape is changing so rapidly too. Also steer clear of silly questions such as “Do You Want To Produce It?” If they want to pursue your project, they’ll let you know without you having to ask. You can ask if you can pitch subsequent projects to them or if you can keep in touch.
At any rate, send them a brief thank you letter after your meeting as a courtesy. Just not a creepy, stalking, obsequious one. The film industry is smaller than you think. And people talk.
6) Many experts preach the 70:30 rule in pitch meetings. You listen 70% of the time and speak 30% of the time. Often you will open the conversation after they say tell me about yourself, your background, how your project came to be etc. This could last anywhere from 6 to 60 seconds. Then let them do the talking.
Unless of course, you are so captivating that they beg you to keep talking. In that case, the ratios can be adjusted.
7) Know your film genre and pitch to it. If your screenplay is a comedy, your pitch should be funny. If it’s a thriller, be thrilling. It it’s an erotic thriller be…. you get it!
8) Pitch the key plot points of your story and the emotional beats. The theme will also help producers visualize your movie. Don’t try and stuff the entire plot into your meeting. Unless they ask for it.
9) Don’t pitch your film as a blockbuster, or a franchise. Although the nature of your project will probably allude to one. The opening weekend box office will dictate whether a sequel is made, not how many sequels you have planned.
10) If they like it, stop talking and listen! Don’t give movie producers a chance to change their minds. Seriously.
11) Do your research about who you will be speaking to. There will probably be the obligatory chit chat about the industry in general, so get to know their backgrounds and industry experience. Otherwise, you may inadvertently bring up the project they were unceremoniously fired from.
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