Pitching a script on paper in a query letter and actually getting ‘in the room’ with a producer or executive and pitching your project are two very different things.
by Jenny Frankfurt
Let’s talk about those who are lucky enough to be doing the latter. I know many people get very nervous about actually being in a room with people who might develop and buy your project and I want to provide a few pointers on how the meeting will likely go and what your part of it should look like. This segment will focus on film pitches:
Whether or not the producer (let’s just use that word for the sake of simplifying things) has read your material in script form or is meeting you to hear an idea based on what the company is looking for and the quality of your past material, you have to pitch.
Firstly, you’re there because you have an idea they have some interest in and they already like how you write. Make sure you have a few ideas prepared in case one misses the mark. That said, you have to sell them on the pitch.
You have to pitch.
If you are pitching a drama, be serious and come prepared with appropriate emotion. Think of Oscar. Help them subtly market it by showing them the path it can go. If it’s a comedy… be funny!! Show them your humor and how it gets from you to the page. Be big and laugh. You get the idea….
I have a client who is 6’5” and weighs about 280 lbs. We pitched a really scary horror film to Paramount. It was a pitch, not yet a script and he acted it out – he scared them with his size and the power of his voice – granted it was a little over the top but… they bought it. Be your movie. You are the one creating it; so show them what’s inside you that’s going to give them what they want.
If you are going in to the room off the back of a script then be open to their suggestions. Always be open at this point. Producers want to be involved. Unl3ss you are extremely well established (and even then) you have to collaborate at every step of the way.
If you’re lucky, a lengthy conversation will ensue about the script, how things might go this way or that… they might stop you and ask you while your pitching. Don’t let this rattle you. It means they are involved and interested and want to understand the story.
Show them what’s inside you that’s going to give them what they want.
I often have clients practice the pitch to me or a friend before going in the room. You don’t want to over pitch. No one has much of an attention span. As when you wrote the piece or outlined it, hit the main points, the central characters, the twists and surprises, the special moments. Don’t overload the producer so the point of the script gets lost in the telling of it.
Producers hear lots of pitches a week. You are going to be pitching something rather high-concept or you’d be asked to write it and then they’d take a look. High concept movies are the ones that are easy to understand, can make a lot of money and attract movie stars. Your small dark drama, as wonderful as it may be, is not suitable for a pitch. So, if you are in a room, it’s going to be for something on the bigger, more commercial side.
However, you are, hopefully, eclectic and have more than one project under your belt. Be prepared to pitch another if the first doesn’t go as planned. Presumably the producer already likes your writing or you wouldn’t be there – make sure they understand you are multi-faceted, you get the whole shebang when they hire you and they can keep hiring you because you have ideas galore – but just one more. These people are busy.
Don’t overload the producer so the point of the script gets lost in the telling of it.
Practice. Develop a rhythm. You are a writer, not an actor, so performing is likely not your forte, but as mentioned, get some help, a ‘scene partner’. Keep it compact and with proper emotion in regards to the genre. Know your material. Know yourself. Be confident and make them want you and your story. Keep pitching as often as possible. It is, indeed, an art.
Jenny Frankfurt has been a literary manager for the past twenty years, and runs her own company Highstreet Management, based in Los Angeles, where she represents writers and intellectual property around the world.
Prior to this she was Head of the Literary Department for Handprint Entertainment and has worked at both The William Morris Agency and ICM.
Photo credits: Graphic stock