Script Coverage Chronicles – November 2014: Three Thoughts on Pitching

One: It Matters How You Say It

I flew into Los Angeles from New York one afternoon and headed immediately to the offices of a well known production company to practice a pitch we were taking out to several studios the next day.  The President of the company, who had brought me in to do this, was too busy, so she handed me off to her Vice President.  The Vice President was also “busy” and handed me off to his assistant. 

Although a little thrown off, I went through my twenty minute pitch for this assistant.  But I was dehydrated from the flight and not as prepared as I could have been, so I recalled facts a bit too slowly and generally stumbled through the whole thing.  It was obvious the assistant hated it. 

The Vice President then felt he better listen to it, and again I floundered.  He didn’t have any ideas on how to make it better.  I don’t think he thought I was worth the effort.  He didn’t seem at all enthusiastic about our meetings the next day.

That night and the next morning, I worked really hard on being more prepared.  Our first pitch was to Fox, and this time I didn’t hesitate.  I didn’t stumble on my words.  And because I was prepared, I could focus on delivering the pitch with confidence and energy.

It went over well.  Suddenly, the production company's Vice President who had seemed completely uninterested changed his mind about the project.  Now he thought it was worth his time. 

Here’s the thing: It was the exact same pitch.  Same characters, same wording, same everything.  The only thing that was different was my delivery. 

It matters how you say it.  A lot.

Two: It’s Okay To Bomb

If there’s a theme to my screenwriting blog, it’s that I make mistakes.  Often.  I’ve definitely messed up my share of pitch meetings.
It’s actually not that big a deal.

Based on my ample experience with crashing and burning, I can tell you this:  No one will put out a press release regarding your idiocy.  No one will refuse to work with you again (at least not to your face).  No one will seek a restraining order keeping you out of Hollywood.  Well, there was this one time --

It’s kind of like being a politician.  It’s amazing how much you can screw up and still have a career.  All you need is a new script.  A new pitch.  A new idea.  And you’ll get a second chance.  And a third. 

And as many after that as you can stand.

Three: Pitching Is Awesome

Pitching scares a lot of screenwriters.  I actually love it.  It’s not that it doesn’t stress me out.  It does.  Big time.  Right before a meeting, I usually think I’m about to have a cardiac event.

What I love so much is being in the game, putting a story in front of the people who actually have the power to get it made. 

That’s worth a little bit of terror any day!