The problem is, lots of these pitches that I sift through, for lack of a better word - suck.
A FEW DO’s
1. DO: Know Your Audience
Would you go to a job interview without researching the company you’re interviewing for? I hope you answered no, because a pitch is basically the beginning of a job interview, and if you don’t know who the heck you’re “interviewing” with, you’re going in with a deficit. Especially in this day and age, there’s no excuse for not knowing your audience, at least to some degree.
I always know when a writer hasn’t checked out my production company via a simple Google search, because they pitch me a feature set in Medieval times with a cast of elves and warlords, dragons and battle scenes, Lord of the Rings meets Star Wars. For the love of all that is holy! Google search us! We (Whitewater Films) are known for truly independent features, usually distributed through arthouse theatres; character-driven and relatively compact in nature, and with budgets well under the 93 million dollar Lord of the Rings. Don’t waste our time, and just as importantly, don’t waste yours!
If you’re pitching to someone who is simply the wrong audience for your kind of content, it doesn’t matter how dazzling the pitch itself is, because it just won’t be a fit. And then you could wind up feeling rejected, when in reality it has nothing to do with your pitch! It’s just that, you’re pitching “tall, dark, and handsome” to a person who’s more into the “short, light, and ugly” type. You get the gist. Give yourself the best chance for success by identifying the type of content this particular person or company is known for, and presenting the material you have that’s in their creative world.
2. DO: Tell the Story
“Duh” you say. Not duh. I see a surprising number of pitches that tell a small piece of a story, or tell the setup to a story, or describe the characters and the themes of a story, but they don’t...quite...get...totheactualSTORY!!! (Sorry...got a little out of hand there.) But seriously- what a tease! It’s like you’ve handed me the buttered popcorn and sat me down in the theatre and what plays? Half of a trailer. I sit there thinking what an interesting protagonist, or how autobiographical and brave, but then just as I’m thinking wait for it...“it” never quite appears.
I’m left there, in the dark, overly air conditioned theatre(it’s so cold), having watched half a trailer and holding my batch of buttery popcorn thinking what just happened. I know your story is complex and layered and it may seem impossible to do what I’m suggesting here, especially in only 8 minutes!
Step away from the complexity and approach it in the least complicated way possible. Start by getting really, really simple; childlike, really, in your preparation of the pitch. What was always at the beginning and end of stories as a child? “Once upon a time” and, “The End”. Give us your version of “Once upon a time…then STORY STORY STORY...The End.” If you’re having a hard time diluting the “story” part into something that fits within an 8 minute pitch, step back from it. Get your aerial drone out, and fly high enough so that all those complexities look like tiny ants crawling along the Venice Boardwalk, but the major 6-12 events, the major plot points, those are clear! They’re bold! They’re vivid! They’re that guy that walks the Boardwalk with the boa constrictor around his neck! They’re the troupe of acrobats with the guy who jumps over his six friends...You can’t miss these plot points! They’re integral to the Boardwalk experience!
By the time you’ve landed your drone safely, you’ll see that the framework for your pitch has revealed itself. When you string these plot points together, they really do make that beautiful arc that we call a movie(or a tv show). In rare cases, you may want to leave out the very ending, or the big reveal. That’s fine, I trust your judgement on that. But you’ve got the essentials of any great story: a beginning, middle, and end; and I’m leaving the theatre with a belly full of popcorn and enough clarity to tell all my friends what just happened.
3. DO: Use Image-Rich Language
Cinema and Television are visual mediums. Say it with me! “VISUAL MEDIUMS.” Yes! EVEN in a psychological thriller. EVEN in a single-location concept. EVEN in an adaptation of a play. ESPECIALLY in the adaptation of your novel. If you spend even 50% of your pitch telling me about yourself or about the inspiration behind your project, you’re not speaking in images. If you spend even 50% of your pitch telling me about the protagonist’s backstory, you’re not speaking in images. If you spend even 50% of your pitch telling me about your characters’ thought processes, inner emotional life, and motivations, you are NOT speaking in images.