How Pitchfests Can Benefit Your Screenwriting Career

If you’re looking to sell your story, script or sign with a major agency at any pitchfest, click away now.

Pitchfests are educational and networking tools designed to help screenwriters improve their craft through workshops and seminars. You can learn about the machinations and vagaries of the entertainment industry by networking with other writers and industry professionals to get on the pulse of what’s hot and what’s not.

In terms of expectation management at pitchfests, the best you can hope for is a script read request. Getting read is the writer’s equivalent of winning a bit part in a movie; another step closer to your final destination.

Used wisely, pitchfests can be highly beneficial to your career. When your pitching time comes, may I recommend practicing as much as you can to hone your pitch. Practice either in a pitching bootcamp or to other writers in line.

Choose your pitchees wisely. Many writers target the big agencies and production companies in the misguided belief that they have a greater chance of selling their projects. However, big companies often team up with smaller companies when looking for newer, edgier, cheaper writers.

Be aware that the larger companies often send their interns and lower end creative executives to pitchfests scouring for quality material. Sadly, Ari Gold won’t be there.

Research all the companies attending well in advance and target those producing material potentially resembling yours.

Grade your target companies in preference. Start pitching to your tier 2 companies first thing in the morning. Pitch to your preferred tier 1 companies during mid morning when both you and pitchees are most alert and you’ve gotten over your anxiety.

Save the pitches to managers and agents until the afternoon. This is a wise strategy since you can relay any interest from production companies to them.

Always ask to leave a one sheet with pitchees. Ensure it contains the event name so they remember where they met you, title, genre and synopsis (1-2 paragraphs). Don’t forgot your name, address, telephone  and email address.

If someone is genuinely interested in your script, they’ll give you their business card and ask you to call them (or their assistant) on Monday morning. Follow these instructions and ask for an appropriate follow up time frame; a week? a month?

Be affable, but not overly familiar with them. I find it creepy when people invade my personal space and interrogate me about my weekend. Or worse, when they seem to know everything about my life.

I’ve been offered spritzes, water, gum, back rubs and hand sanitizer in pitchfests. Sometimes I accept, mostly I don’t, but I always appreciate the gesture. Share a deep inhale/ exhale or stretch with them before launching into your pitch. Their minds are buzzing and they can’t tune in nor remember every pitch.

Compare your pitches to critically and/or commercially successful films. Be focused, be confident and graciously accept feedback. “Not for us” means exactly that.

Silence is not always a bad sign. They’re processing. Let them do as much talking as possible.

Avoid costumes, props or other gimmicks. Artwork is appropriate for comic book/ graphic novel style films where it really is a visual aid.

Overall, pitchfests should be added to your cache of networking tools. It’s another chance for you to make an impression on the industry. Make it count.

Chat to as many participants as possible in the post-pitching network events. Buy them a drink. Offer them gum. I remember my first pitchfest and I was patiently waiting to speaking to agent from CAA as a desperate writer wasn’t going to let him leave until his pitch was finished.  When it was my turn, I said “hearing another pitch is probably the last thing you need, so let’s talk about the industry”. He smiled in appreciation and we got chatting. The said desperate writer was jealously hovering around to determine how I was able to keep his attention longer than him. I graciously thanked the agent and worked the room to allow others to speak to him.

Be cool. Be yourself.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Dear Sir my name is Farzin Youabian and at this time I do have a screenplay is romantic comedy looking for an agent to sell my script . Please let me know if you can help me. I thank you for your hard work Farzin Youabian a writer and Director.

    1. May I suggest directly contacting smaller agents, managers and producers dealing with similar work to yours. You should also enter contest and meet as many people as possible in the industry.

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