TOP 10 PITCHING TIPS FROM SCRIPT TO SCREEN
Following on from the Top 10 Screenwriting Tips from Script to Screen post, I thought I’d write a companion piece on pitching, as Saturday’s Script to Screen conference also featured “Pitch Intermission” sessions in which a panel of experts fielded pitches and then offered advice on how the screenwriters could hone their spiel. The industry figures giving their insider expertise were: Ron Simons, the producer of Gun Hill Road and Night Catches Us; Dana O’Keefe, a sales agent at Cinetic; Dia Sokol, a producer of both MTV reality shows and Mumblecore movies; and David Young, head writer at CollegeHumor.com. Below are the best 10 bits of advice that were handed out.
1. Wear your heart on your sleeve. “Put across why you’re passionate about in your project,” said Ron Simons, “because that will help us be passionate about it too.”
2. Keep it loose. “Try and be personal and conversational,” suggested Sokol Savage. “Allow yourself to be off the cuff.” David Young agreed, adding, “Don’t be too rigidly scripted, because if an exec interrupts you, you’ll struggle to get back into your flow.”
3. Sell yourself, not just your project. “I need to believe the person in front of me is the only person in the world who can make that film,” said Dana O’Keefe. “You need to make us think you’re the one.”
4. Connect with your pitch. “Make us know about your protagonist, to make the story relatable to us,” said Simons. “Find the universal themes that people can connect to.”
5. Stand out. While selling the strengths of your script, don’t overlook the things that set it apart from other films. “Accentuate the uniqueness of your project,” stressed Sokol Savage.
6. Make it urgent. When pitching your project, underline the reasons your film is timely. “Let us know why the film is relevant and why it needs to be told now,” said Simons.
7. Paint a picture. Don’t lose sight of the fact that you’re pitching a movie, not a novel. “Anything that can give us a visual of what we’re talking about is really helpful,” said Simons, “because we’re dealing with a visual medium.”
8. Whet people’s appetite. The most successful pitches are often the ones that pique our interest. Says Sokol Savage, “End with a question, so they want to know more.”
9. Be memorable. Sure it’s cheesy, but sometimes it can be very effective to sum things up with a five-word pitch. “Ending with a snappy encapsulation of your film – e.g. ‘It’s Little Miss Sunshine with Mexicans’ – is really good,” said Simons.
10. Read your audience. Sometimes you get so lost in your pitch that you’re unaware of how people are responding to it. “Gauge the response in the room,” said Sokol Savage, “and be willing to make adjustments to your pitch, or even move on to another pitch.”