By David Chikwe Script Editor Leopardrama
Pitching is a particularly weird experience. Most of my work is about pitching. Whether it’s a writer pitching me ideas, or me having to pitch a book to my execs, or being pitched material by agents or sitting opposite a commissioner pitching an idea… Either way, I end up on one side of the table most days of the working week.
Over the years I realised that the art of pitching requires a certain alchemy between (a) the idea (b) the person pitching and (c) the pitchee. People and pitches need to be carefully wedded. “Does the face fit?” is the simplest way of putting it.
The London Screenwriters Festival Pitchfest 2012 presents the opportunity for eager new writers to pitch their ideas. This is a rare chance for unsigned talent to get one-on-one with some key players in film and TV. Running for the last three years and with the demise of the Cheltenham Screenwriters Festival, this is now the leading event of its kind in the UK.
It’s pretty intense. The closest comparison that comes to mind is Kill It. Cook It. Eat It. If you ever saw that brilliant BBC3 show, think of the writers as the unwitting farm animals herded into a small room for some metaphorical slaughter. But that makes it sound like the writers are hapless victims. What differs here is that the writers have volunteered for this process and for the “pitching executives” it’s an equally intense and messy experience…
In the aftermath of being pitched to by seventy-two writers in six hours I’d give the following advice:
- Brush your teeth. Nothing worse than a case of bad morning breath to distract you from whatever someone is pitching you. (FYI: chewing gum while you’re talking is equally unattractive.)
- Be Passionate. Jaded? Tired? Cynical? Go home. But being passionate doesn’t mean aggressive, it’s a fine line.
- Conversation. Don’t be too rehearsed. Nothing worse than those pre-recorded pitches that get phoned in. It may be called pitching, but really it’s a conversation.
- Make It Personal. Not in a Robert De Niro way. But you need to tell a personal story about what connects you to the material you’re selling.
- Be prepared. It’s very, very, very rarely just a “Yes please!” or “No thanks.” scenario. There will be questions. Have intelligent answers.
- Plot. Pitching a story is not the same as telling someone the plot. Hearing a “…and then this happened…” is excruciating and kills the energy of the idea.
- Research. Know who you’re pitching to, not just the company, but also the individual. It also helps to have some sense of the marketplace and what broadcasters and buyers are looking for.
- Taste is personal. And just because you do get a pass it’s often down to one individual’s taste, so you do have to believe in yourself and your idea.
- Follow-up. Its funny how many people don’t bother to follow-up. If you sense an interest, follow-up afterwards (email) and build a relationship – finding someone who believes in you is gold-dust – these are the people that’ll carry you forward.