The ability to pitch well is important for everyone who works in film or TV
Don’t be too put off by all the mythology, though. Pitching is a skill that can be learned and practised like any other. And there are some basics that you need to know first.
1. Pitching is like talking
The word “pitch” gets people anxious. Think of it like having a conversation. You tell someone you meet about a film or TV programme you like. In the same way, you tell a producer, actor, director, colleague, about the film/programme you want to make. Rule one: make your pitch natural, informal and conversational.
2. Keep it short
Just like a conversation, you wouldn’t talk for ten minutes without pausing for breath or checking the other person is still alive. So don’t with a pitch. Start with no more than two to three sentences at most. Yes, you read that right. Two to three sentences will seem long when you come to practise properly.
The most famous pitch in the industry – the pitch for Alien – was just three words: “Jaws in Space.”
Nobody ever complained because a pitch was too short. Your second best outcome of all is if they say, “Tell me more.” (See here for more discussion of short pitches).
3. Know what you want
If you’re a writer then your best outcome would be for them to ask to read the script. (The truth is, unless you have a track record, you have almost no chance of getting a commission from a pitch). If a director or producer, then you’ll probably either be pitching for finance or because you want someone (star, distributor, director of photography) to commit to the project – most often, though, they too will first want to read the script.
4. Know what they want
Research the person you’re pitching to, if you possibly can. The Internet is invaluable here. And spend time in the meeting itself to ask questions about their needs.
TV series pitches bring up a particular issue here because you have to satisfy their needs on an extra level. They want to know the over-arching series idea and also how each story will work in practice. Personally, I pitch the overall series first and have a pitch for a sample episode ready for when they ask to know more.
When I run my Pitching Masterclasses for Euroscript, I focus significant time on exploring what industry professionals are looking for when you pitch to them.
5. Get in the mood
Not just the mood for pitching, but also get in the mood of your story. If you know your genre (or genres) – and you absolutely must know that – then you know that each genre has an emotional effect on the audience. Comedy is supposed to make people laugh – though some scripts I see make me doubt that… Horror horrifies. Thrillers thrill, etc. Your pitch should convey some of that mood through the way you say it.
I’m not saying that to pitch a comedy you need to be do a stand-up routine, but if your pitch for a screwball comedy doesn’t have a hint of humour to it, then how’s the pitchee going to react? Put humour into your comedy pitch. Ensure your thriller pitch reflects some of the tension and fear.
6. Be clear
State what needs to be said up-front. Be clear about the genre – say what it is. Be clear who the protagonist is and what the main issue is that they face. Be clear what the point of the whole story is. I spend a good deal of my Pitching Masterclass in helping you learn what needs to be said, and how to say it clearly, succinctly and elegantly.
7. Put in the work
If you want to get powerful at pitching, you need to put in the work. Analyse as many pitches as you can. Short written pitches are everywhere, in adverts, in Radio Times blurbs, even in the body of film and TV reviews.
Also listen to people pitching – at network events or pitching workshops and Masterclasses or just friends talking about what they just saw.
8. Practice Makes Permanent
Pitching is essentially simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Not at first. Practise, practise, practise. Pitch to everyone you meet. Pitch to a tape recorder. Pitch to others in the industry and get them to pitch back to you.
Also you’ll find as you work on your pitch you’ll also gain a much deeper understanding of your own project – you’ll spot things that need improving – and will improve the project in the process.
However, practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes permanent. Perfect practice makes perfect! The better the advice you get, the faster you’ll improve. I do advise you to get the best help you can find.
You can book a personal session with a script consultant, and work on your pitch in person, on-line or on the phone. I do consultancy when I have time and I also recommend my colleagues at Euroscript
You can work in a group – for example at one of our Monday evening development workshops.
And if you want to learn more, you can find pitching trainings at festivals and other organisations. I’ve run trainings around the world – as well as in London for Euroscript at Selling Your First Script and Pitching Masterclass workshops.
Here you learn the techniques you need for developing a top-class pitch, as well as work on your presentation skills. You’ll also learn to develop the calm and confident mindset you need for taking meetings with producers so you can pitch with self- assurance – and power.
Check the Euroscript calendar for the next opportunity.
Please note, places are strictly limited to ensure personal feedback.