Part of the No Borders orientation the first day is getting up in front of all the other participants in the program and pitching your project. I am very glad they made us do this–it prepared us for a week of meetings and pitching–but this was something Kat [Candler] and I were not exactly prepared for. To our credit, this fact was buried in a rather lengthy email (way to keep us on our toes, IFP). You could feel the collective nervousness from the group, but regardless, it was no big deal and it went great, no one fell off the stage or anything.
Two of my co-fellows from the Sundance Producing Labs, Jordana Mollick and Ashley Maynor, are here with their projects as well and they carry a good luck charm when they pitch – a 1980 Topps brand Rickey Henderson rookie baseball card. Neither one of them are baseball fans, but there is a story that goes with the card about how Rickey mentally prepared for a game by practicing his swing naked in front of a mirror and repeating, “Rickey’s the best” over and over again.
While I do not personally prepare for a pitch that way, I do shamelessly keep a photo of the card on my phone. I’ve posted a photo here, feel free to put it on your phone so it can bring you good luck too.
That said, pitching can be very nerve-racking and intimidating, so, here are a few tips for pitching at IFP…
1. All meetings at IFP are in a large conference room with several tables and there are various meetings going on at once, so, be sure to carry a microphone and portable PA system with you. This way not only will the person you are meeting with hear you clearly, but everyone else in the room, who you may not have a scheduled meeting with, will hear your pitch as well.
2. Bring physical props – the bigger the better. I can’t stress this enough, given that one of the lead characters in Hellion is obsessed with motocross, it was totally worth bringing an actual dirt bike all the way to New York from Austin. Sure it is cumbersome and totally in the way, but it is worth it when I can rev it up at the end of the meeting – you know, to make a point.
3. Don’t bring an elaborate lighting system for your pitch, keep it simplified with a basic laser light show.
4. Don’t bother to learn the names of the people you are meeting with.
5. If the person you are meeting with doesn’t seem interested, punch them in the face, then tell them that’s what your main character would do. Good or bad, you’ll get some kind of reaction, trust me.
6. Also, if they do not seem interested in your project, just stop mid-pitch and take out of book and start reading to yourself (or out loud) – you never want to end a meeting early and this is a good way to kill time. If you haven’t read it yet, might I recommend The Great Gatsby. You know you’ve been putting off reading that book since you didn’t read it in high school and you need to read it before the Baz Luhrmann version comes out anyways.
7. Calisthenics – be sure to stretch it out, I highly recommend introducing yourself to the person you are meeting with and then proceed to do about five minutes of calisthenics before you say another word. Sure it will be weird and awkward, but you will thank yourself for it later.
8. Finally, drink LOTS of water and do not go to the restroom before your meeting, having to “hold it” will give you a competitive edge.
But seriously folks, the best tip I’ve learned about pitching, no matter what the situation you are in, is to be CONFIDENT – confident in yourself, confident in your project, confident in your filmmaker and it will go fine. People see that and it makes it easier for them to believe in you and your film. Just remember to be more like Rickey Henderson – he had incredible talent, but his confidence was legendary.