Quite a few of you recently mentioned that you are struggling with pitching. My first recommendation would be to watch Pitch-Catch on my YouTube channel. There are some excellent examples of pitches that work and others that require a little adjustment. It should help clarify for you what you need in a solid logline and even in a good query letter.
Guide to Pitching is a 47-page e-book ready for easy downloading in pdf format. It contains my top pitching articles from Write for Hollywood that will get you started on the various aspects of pitching including query letters, loglines, pitching, and more.
I recently learned the most important requirement for being successful at pitching.
In a six-month period, I wrote and pitched two television series, both of which gained serious interest from a Toronto production company and I gained representation from a top literary agent. I was so good at pitching that I pitched ten executives and nine of them requested between one and three scripts each!
Four integral elements you must have before you pitch the pros:
Polish Your product
Know Your product
Know Your audience
Believe in Your product
1. Polish Your Product
Is it possible to pitch a product to an executive without it being finished? Yes. It happens all the time, but it mostly works for people already established in the industry. That’s not to say you can’t do it, you just have to be honest about what stage it’s at and risk losing an opportunity or rush to finish the work. The best thing to do is finish your work first.
If you haven’t written anything and you just have an idea, get writing. Learn the craft. Write many, many scripts until you are certain you have a winner. Do not pitch anything to the pros until you do.
In fact, when you think you’re ready to pitch, wait. Then wait some more. Honestly, every writer thinks he has the next great idea and tries to pitch it before it’s ready. Do yourself a favor and test it out on your friends or a writers’ group first.
2. Know Your Product
When I first pitched my two television series I practiced my pitches every day for a month and tweaked it on the fly.
You must know your script inside out. When I pitched production companies in L.A., they asked me ridiculous questions like “What happens on page 12?” and “What’s the climax of the story?” “How does the story end?” You need to know this and be able to answer without hesitation.
Producers will also make suggestions like, “What if this was a kids’ show?” and you need to be able to know your story well enough to be able to decide in the moment whether or not that would be feasible and how it would work.
Do not memorize your pitch. This freezes you up and it comes across as boring and uptight. Producers need to know that you’re easy to work with. They need to know your communication style and that you’re confident enough in your skills as a writer to be able to make any necessary changes. It is possible that they might like your idea so much they will offer to buy it outright, but that’s rare.
You also need to know your objective. What do you want out of this meeting? Obviously you want to sell your project, but you need to stay aligned with your integrity without shooting yourself in the foot. One writer refused to change the title of his script and lost out on a sale!
What matters to you most? Stallone refused to be bought off with a $100k offer to walk away from Rocky as an actor, but he stuck to his guns. He knew what he wanted and refused to settle for less. For him, it worked out really well. What is your bottom line?
3. Know Your Audience
Who are you pitching? What have they produced before? Are they open to receiving new pitches from new writers? How do they like to receive pitches? Do you need an agent to contact them? Does your project align with what they’re looking for? Do they produce the same quality of product you want to produce?
These are just some of the questions you should be asking while doing your research. Make sure you are sending your pitch to the right people. Do not spam a long list of producers with your generic pitch. Worst thing you could ever do.
Tailor your query letter or pitch to that specific person. Learn something personal about them if you can. Relate to them as people. Do not just send your logline with no introduction or greeting.
Ask them if they would like to read your script. Without asking them, they have no idea what you want them to do. There needs to be a call-to-action at the end of your query.
4. Believe in Your Product
The most important thing you have to do out of all of these is believe in what you’re pitching. Do not send anything out until you believe in it.
I once received a pitch from a writer who told me that his project was “Not bad”. Would you want to read a script with that marketing tag? No. You need to be proud of your work and that comes partly from polishing your work, honing your craft, and knowing your project. The main thing you need to believe in is you.
You are not just selling your product, you are selling yourself as a screenwriter. If you do not believe in your ability to pitch, write or create a compelling project, nobody else will either. You could be the most talented and prolific screenwriter in the world and still ever get a script made simply because you do not believe it will happen.
It is your belief in the project that sells it because your passion and certainty in the script will shine through and it will help you persevere in the face of rejection. I have seen writers option seriously flawed projects based on belief alone.
Screenwriters are often one of two kinds: incredibly modest and riddled with self-doubt or unbelievably arrogant and lacking in talent. You want to get to the sweet spot: humble enough to take direction and certain of your skill and ability to create compelling entertainment.
What to do next:
Take a look at my YouTube channel, search for “Pitching” in the search bar for articles or buy my book Guide to Pitching to get all of them in an easy format, and to understand more how to believe in your project and skills.
Happy pitching and let me know how you do!