So, you’ve finished writing your baby. The long sleepless days of writing and re-writing are now over. You have had the right people read your script (Friends, Family, Enemies?). You have received all the feedback for the time being and made appropriate changes. Now what? Now what do you do with this hundred plus bound pages collecting dust on your desk?
It’s easy to convince friends and family to read your script, but often hard to convince the Hollywood elite to read your script. These days, it’s even impossible to just get a potential Hollywood or Literary Agent to read your untried material.
The truth is, Hollywood is a very small insular community. Once you’re in, there is no guarantee you’ll get to stay. First impressions are everything. Most of the time getting started has to do with luck or whom you know. Do you know any big shots willing to take the time to read your hundred plus pages of original material? If you do I would recommend going to them immediately. These potential mentors are your best chance to getting your foot in the door.
However, the majority of us are not so lucky. Most of us are damned to be social outsiders for the majority of our lives. Wishing hoping and dreaming to get the big break.
Luckily, there are numerous resources now available that give unsolicited writers the chance they have been craving for so long. A chance to get your story out there and maybe … just maybe, get someone important to read your script. A script so good that they will be knocking down doors to get you in a meeting. A meeting that will hopefully lead to a sale.
Pitch It, Baby!
Pitch it! You need to talk up your screenplay. You need to get the right people not only interested in reading your story, but you need to get them to read your script! If you are the lucky few who have representation (and I mean representation that believes in you), then you just need he or she to organize a meeting with the right people so you can pitch them your idea.
However, I suspect that the majority of you don’t have representation. So how does one get to that level? Blood, sweat and tears. Or, you could attend the numerous pitch-fests held in Los Angeles throughout the year. Right now, for most of us, this might be your best option. At least until you get a Hollywood Agent who wants to dedicate his or her life to making you Hollywood’s new golden boy or girl.
What is a pitch-fest? A pitch-fest is an organized conference where productions companies are paid by the organizers to send representatives to hear pitches from un-represented screenwriters. The screenwriter, in turns, pays a fee to the pitch-fest so they can have a chance to sit down with one or many of the designated Hollywood producers.
Usually at a pitch-fest one is given as little as five to ten minutes to introduce yourself, establish rapport, and pitch your idea. It is a unique opportunity to make a lasting impression and possibly even get your foot in the door.
It is hard for most writers who are introvert people to go out and try to sell themselves. In fact, screenwriting is the only form of writing where a writer has to be as aggressive about gaining attention as a slick young exec working on Wallstreet. Paging Gordon Gecko…
You must not look at pitching as some horrible social experiment where you are place like a piece of meat to be ridiculed by strangers sitting across the table from you. The key is to look at a pitch-fest meeting as an actor might. You don’t have to be the life of the party to be an actor and neither does a writer. You just have to pretend you are. You have to show your passion for you script as you would try to reveal progressive action in a script.
The advice I am going to give will not guarantee you will sell your screenplay. I myself have yet to have reached that life changing moment. However, from someone who has already engaged in two dozen pitch-fest meetings, I can tell you what I’ve learned from experience. I can tell you how to get them curious enough to want to know more.
Once you have gain their interest you have planted a seed that must be nurtured and cared for otherwise it may never grow.
The first step is to prepare your pitch like an actor prepares for a role. You’re a writer already, so you first need to write a rough draft of your pitch. After you’ve written a draft you feel is adequate try it out on your friends and colleagues. Their feedback can be vital in getting you past a certain point in pitching.
Like an actor prepares for a role, you must practice. Practice! Practice! Practice! It is vital that you know your pitch backward and forward. You’ll find that better you know your pitch monologue the easier it will be for you to improvise. When you’re at a point with your pitch where you can improvise then you are ready.
Prepare for the questions. Try to think of all the questions an Exec would ask. An exec is paid to find a story that will make their bosses think they can make some money with it. What kind of market does your script cater to? Is this a popular genre? What is your dream cast? Who would you love to see play your characters? Visual aids? Have any?
As they saying goes, “Know your enemy better than you know yourself.” Before you sit down for a meeting with anyone do some research. Find out all you can about the people you are pitching to. Research the company you are pitching to. What kind of movies have they produced thus far? What kind of films are they looking for now?
If you’re pitching to a small company, chances are they won’t be interested in producing a huge action flick or science fiction film full of fancy special effects. If you’re pitching to a smaller company, they might be more interested in pictures that only require a small budget.
One of the first mistakes I made when I first started pitching. I forgot to write down the names of the people who I was pitching to. Which made it nearly impossible for me to call back or send back an email. In a pitch-fest, an executive can see hundreds of people over a weekend. If you can’t remember they’re name, then who are you going to stand out? How can you make an impression? So, write down their names! See if you can get their contact information so you can contact them directly.
However, most of the time you’ll find that this isn’t a good idea. There are way too many crazy people out there. And Hollywood has had its fill of crazy people. If you are lucky enough to get their information do not become a stalker. Contact maybe one or two times and if you don’t hear back consider it a polite rejection.
People in Hollywood try to avoid conflict at all costs. If they are not interested in your material, chances are you’ll never hear from them again. I know it sucks, but sometimes that exec who was wildly interested in your script the day you pitched it may change their mind the next day. Or, were told by their bosses to ditch your story. ’Tis the nature of the beast. The better you understand this, the easier it will be for you to get through the hard times. Remember, this sort of thing isn’t for everybody. A reason why most usually give up after a while. It can be very frustrating sometimes.
You must be organized. The more organized you present yourself and your material the more respect you will gain. I am naturally a very neat person. I served time in the military where they ingrained in me the importance of a neat and orderly atmosphere.
One trick I did the really seemed to impress the execs was having my material already organized. In an enveloped I marked with the title of my script, I put in a Cover Sheet which had my contact information, my synopsis and logline. Also, I included an optional first ten pages of the script if the Execs allowed me (Some won’t and are afraid to accept any page of a script before you sign a Standard Release Form). And finally my business card. All of these items were paperclip together inside the 9×12 envelope. It doesn’t hurt to be professional in your appearance and material. As I said before, first impressions are everything!
Well, the advice I have given will prove to be helpful for some of you out there. Not everything I said will necessarily work for everyone. I am speaking from experience and through my own research. Good luck and I hope someone out there makes a deal or two because of me.
Originally published at www.jordanaubryrobison.com on April 28, 2014.