From the Gospel of Marvin Acuna.
1) THOU SHALT SMILE AND BE PASSIONATE
Sales is a transference of energy. So if you are passionate and believe in your material, then your passion will be contagious. But if your pitch is a snoozer, then don’t expect Hollywood Professionals to embrace your material. And remember to smile.
2) THOU SHALT DO THY RESEARCH
If you’re not finding out as much information as you can about the Hollywood Professionals that you will be speaking with, then you’re making a big mistake. Discover their likes and dislikes, then connect on the likes and avoid the dislikes. Think from their perspective.
3) THOU SHALL TELL STORIES
As the saying goes, “facts tell, but stories sell.” Sure, you’re there to pitch your material, but telling them the story of how you discovered your big idea is far more effective than reciting mundane facts about page 57 of your script.
4) THOU SHALT SELL BOTH THY SCREENPLAY AND THYSELF
This point is really important and often overlooked. Despite what you may think, you’re never just selling your screenplay. Even if Hollywood Professionals pass on that particular script, if they like you and your writing, then they’ll want to work with you in the future. Which is why…
5) THOU SHALT FOCUS ON BUILDING A RELATIONSHIP AS WELL AS CLOSING.
With the research that you’ve already done from Commandment #2, another one of your objectives should be to build trust, rapport, and a connection. Hollywood’s not a big town. If you make a positive impression with your material and personality, then you’re hopefully setting up your next opportunity.
6) THOU SHALT LISTEN AS MUCH AS THOU SPEAKETH
No one likes a blabbermouth. And a screenwriter who talks too much shows a lack of social intelligence. Sales is a give and take interaction, so talking too much violates that social contract. Make your points, but shut up and listen too. This is a controversial commandment. Some fundamentalists believe it should read “thou shalt listen twice as much as thou speaketh”.
7) THOU SHALT PRACTICE AND THEN PRACTICE SOME MORE
If you don’t have your pitch NAILED, then you’re just wasting everyone’s time. Plus, it’s a big indication that you don’t take your screenwriting career seriously. Professionals prepare, wannabes “wing it.”
8) THOU SHALT POSITION THYSELF AS A TRAIN ALREDY IN MOTION
Subtly let the Hollywood Professional(s) know that there is interest from their competitors (if there really is). Don’t be afraid to share that there is already momentum behind your project. And they can either be the fortunate ones to jump on it, or they’re going to miss out on a huge opportunity. The key word is “subtly.”
9) THOU SHALT FOLLOW A BASIC SALES FORMULA
A movie pitch is simply a sales pitch. So it would help to understand what the classic sales formulas are. PAS: Problem, Agitate, Solution is one. AIDA: Attention, Interest, Desire, Action is another. But when in doubt remember the KISS principle: Keep It Simple, Screenwriter!
10) THOU SHALT NOT TAKE THINGS PERSONALLY
As you’re following Commandment #6 by listening to feedback, remember not to get defensive! Hollywood Professionals need to know that they can put you in a room with their bosses, other Hollywood Professionals, financiers, etc… and not have you get upset about potentially re-working your script. Be cool, slick.