Stephanie Palmer, author of “Good In A Room” gives some pointers on separating the professionals from the amateurs in a pitching environment.
1) HIGH CONCEPT
If your idea is high concept, it’s obvious. If it’s not, saying it it won’t help.
2) WE’VE HAD A LOT OF INTEREST
To a decision-maker, this is code for, “Lots of people have read this but none of them have liked it enough to get involved.” This is counter productive..
3) WITH THE RIGHT CAST THIS COULD BE A HIT
Yes, of course. Thanks for stating the obvious. Every project needs the right cast. If you need stars to make your script work, the decision-maker will guess the story isn’t that good or that it’s too niche and can only work with a limited range of actors.
4) THIS IS A VERY UNIQUE PROJECT
This sentence sends up a red flag. If it’s “unique” it usually means that you haven’t done enough research to understand the genre, or that your project is so particular that it could be impossible to sell. Neither is good. One of the first questions producers ask is where can I set this project up. Limiting the number of buyers diminishes your chances of a sale.
5) TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS. THRILL A MINUTE
If you speak in clichés in the meeting, the decision-maker will assume that your writing is full of clichés. Your passion should convey these concepts.
6) IT’S FUNTASTIC
Avoid puns. They rarely produced the desired effect. Save them for the TV commercials.
7) A PSEUDO/ QUASI/ SUPER SECRET SOCIETY
Strong ideas don’t need qualifiers. Or at least not that many.
8) A STORY WITH A MESSAGE
When you highlight the message, this means that you’re focused primarily on teaching the audience a lesson instead of telling a great story. Audiences like to feel they work out the message for themselves rather than they’re in school.
9) A STORY WITH HEART
I’d smack someone for this. Every story should have heart, feeling, emotion behind it. That’s what audiences respond to. Some heart is sappier than others.
10) DESTINED TO BE A HIT
I’ve cancelled meetings because of this one. It shows a pomposity and arrogance of the writer. Every producer wants the next hit. You don’t need to tell them. Given the vagaries of the industry how can you be so confident about making such a sweeping statement. Take a class in expectation management.
11) I’VE BEEN WORKING ON THIS SCRIPT FOR A DECADE
You’re committed, okay, but possibly inept, unfocussed, not serious enough. No-one will give you a decade for a rewrite.
12) WE HAD A STAR/ NAME DIRECTOR ATTACHED
This is the equivalent of saying, “Here is a list of the people who have already passed on this project.” Don’t talk about who has read, or been interested, or previously was interested. Unless, of course there was an exceptional reason for their withdrawal such as gaining traction on a more prestigious job.
13) I’M NOT VERY GOOD AT PITCHING
Oh yes you are. If you apologize for yourself before pitching, you’re not making a good first impression. Buyers want to work with professionals.
14) AND YOU CAN FILL IN THE BLANK
Pitching to a decision-maker isn’t a game of Mad Libs. They don’t appreciate gimmicks to try and “intrigue” them. Filling in the blank is your job.
15) YOU’LL HAVE TO READ THE SCRIPT TO FIND OUT HOW IT ENDS
Oh really? I‘ve never heard of a script being purchased when this line has been uttered in the room. It’s your job to create a great ending to your story and be able to pitch it effectively. This is on par with “destined to be a hit” possibly worse because I’ve heard it more often.
16) THIS COULD BE MADE FOR A PRICE
This is industry speak for produced for under $10 million. Your gargantuan image of your opus might be an ultra-budget festival movie to the decision maker, or vice versa. Stay away from money questions unless they bring it up. Also don’t ask how much will I be paid in the first meeting. Poor form since many producers are working for free initially just to set up a project.