Script Coverage Chronicles – April 2019: Learn From My Pitch Meeting Mistakes

We all learn from our missteps.  These are the lessons we never forget.  But to save you the trouble of making all your own mistakes, here are three of my own fumbles made during meetings with producers and studio execs. 

One – Don’t Forget To Read Your Audience

I remember pitching to two young producers at Red Wagon.  The two producers were very “mainstream” corporate types – nothing artsy about them.  But I decided to pitch an oddball indie project I wanted to do.  Neither of the two was taken with the idea, and one of them thought it was “gross”. 

The lesson here: Know your audience.  Take a few minutes to get to know the producers you’re meeting before launching into a pitch.  A lot of producers/execs like to share their favorite movies with writers.  That’s an easy way to learn their preferences. Have pitches in multiple genres ready to go, and then take the time to listen and choose the pitch best suited to hit home in the room.

Two – Don’t Forget To Support Your Argument

I was pitching an idea called Alien Baby.  The idea of the project was that an Earth couple adopts a baby from outer space. In my pitch, I told a producer that all the things that are hard about raising children were a thousand times harder with an alien baby.  And then I said something like: All the things that are great about raising kids, it’s even bigger and more emotional in the movie.  The producer’s reaction was flat.  He said, “I guess I’ll have to take your word for it,” and then he asked to hear about something else.

The lesson here: Don’t pitch in vague terms about how great or funny or emotional your screenplay is.  Unless you’ve already written a bona fide Hollywood hit, you need to provide specific details.  You need to prove your script is what you say it is.  You need to support your argument.  And do it from the get go, before the person you’re pitching asks to hear about “something else.”

Three – Don’t Be Anywhere Near Late

This one hurts to recall.

I had my one and only meeting at Disney.  Disney has an in-house writing program, and my agents were able to convince them to give me a shot at it.  

I wasn’t actually late, but I got lost on the way, and I cut it too close.  I was really frazzled by the time I got through the doors.  I probably looked a mess.  I felt like a mess.  And the meeting just didn’t go as well as it could have.  

I pitched an idea about snowmen having to cross the equator, and the exec brushed it off quickly, saying they already had a “snowman” story in development.  I don’t know for sure, but this might be the project that turned into Frozen.  Or maybe the exec just wanted a polite excuse to blow me off.  It may not have mattered at all, but I’ll never know if it could have gone better if I’d had the time to get myself together.

The lesson here: Give yourself as much extra travel time as necessary to make sure you’re never ever even close to late.