Perfecting Your Pitch
Your script is complete. You’ve done rewrite after rewrite and you’ve finally gotten it to where you feel comfortable with shopping it around. Now you need to work on your pitch. You should have a couple different variations of your pitch ready to fire off at any given moment. You should have an “elevator pitch” and your standard pitch.
What’s an elevator pitch? It’s a quick synopsis of your script that you can rattle off to an executive in about 1.5 to 3 minutes. Example: while riding in the elevator. Executives and producers are busy. They don’t have time for your 10 minute break down. Hell, they eat their lunch in less time. Now I want you to keep in mind… I’m not telling you to jump in an elevator with Spielberg or Bruckheimer and vomit your pitch all over them. I’m saying if the opportunity arises where you’ve started a conversation with someone and you happen to mention that you’ve written a script and they ask, “What’s it about?”, you’d better have a short pitch ready to spit.
If you’ve gotten lucky enough to actually be invited to pitch your story in someone’s office, this is where the standard pitch comes in. Typically you’ll be scheduled 10 minutes. Some may schedule longer, but always be prepared for a 10-minute pitch. Very important: Do NOT have 10 minutes worth of pitch. Keep it to five minutes and give yourself time for them to ask you questions. “What kind of questions are they gonna ask, Tony?” Questions you will not be prepared to answer! In all seriousness they will ask you questions about your main character such as, “Why do we care about him/her?” They may ask you about your setting and why does it need to take place there. But they will always, without fail, ask you a question you will not be prepared to answer. Take it in stride, don’t take too much time to think about it, and let it fly. You will most definitely think of a better answer after you leave the office, but the important thing is not to let it rattle you.
Practice pitching your script in front of a camera. Watch the playback. Listen objectively. Rehearse it, but please try your best not to sound rehearsed. I’m an actor with a background in door-to-door sales (keep that under your hat) so I’ve got a bit of an edge with it comes to making my pitch not sound rehearsed. The trick is to make it sound as though you are describing it to your best friend. That’s where the camera comes it. If you play it back and you don’t believe the words falling out of your face, neither will the producer. Practice on your friends. Hell, practice on strangers. If you can get a perfect stranger interested while waiting in line at Starbucks, then you’re off to a great start.
Key points to have in your pitch, make sure you cover the character and story arc. Just touch on the highlights, you don’t need to cover every scene. Remember you’ve only got 10 minutes and in most cases less than 3. Don’t forget the hook. There’s gotta be a hook. Don’t give them the ending right from the start. Let them ask you. You want them to ask questions. It shows they’re interested. Try to be prepared. Inevitably you won’t be, but don’t let that deter you from making the effort. Flying by the seat of your pants won’t help you in this moment. Until next week, keep writing!