Phrases To Kill A Pitch Meeting


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.

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5 Comments Add yours

  1. aalif says:

    Haha… lovely post! Was squirming a bit through it though – I think I’ve heard most of these in pitches. As head of devp & prod for TCF in India, I used to also get turned off by anyone saying: “this can be made in any budget” No, it can’t!

  2. m@yahoo.copm says:

    I had to laugh at some of the pointers because it seems so common sensible yet it does happen.

  3. Took a class from Ken Rotcop years ago. He is a big proponent of the “YOU’LL HAVE TO READ THE SCRIPT TO FIND OUT HOW IT ENDS ” school of thought. Not so sure he is correct in that regard. I have been pitched at and done the pitching. I have heard the “I’M NOT VERY GOOD AT PITCHING” said many times. This sort of self-effacing remark really comes across as the pitcher trying to garner some sort of non-authentic sympathy. Good pointers.

    1. It’s often a case of one technique working on one person but not another. These are trends I’ve consistently heard. I’ve had people insisting that I need to read the script to see how it ended despite my requests for them to tell me. I found it annoying and ended the meeting. Imagine working with people who add so much clutter rather than value to your life?

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