The Dos and Don'ts of Pitching
As writers, pitching our stories can be an intimidating experience. After all, we are writers, not actors. Right? Not quite.
This very notion is a common misunderstanding about pitching. We don't want you to be an actor. We just want you to be yourself. The goal is to learn why YOU are the one to tell this story and the ONLY ONE to do it. We want you to hook us and then leave us wanting more.
Recently, we hosted a Virtual Pitch Challenge, which was an overwhelming success. We asked participants to pitch us their TV show or Feature in just 90 seconds. Generally, writers will have closer to thirty minutes to an hour to pitch to executives, but for purposes of learning, we truncated the time. What this challenge really reiterated for us is just how many amazing stories are out there waiting to be told. It was a huge learning experience and helped further highlight the "Dos and Don'ts of Pitching".
We wanted to share our finalists, as well as go over some tips and tricks that may help really dial in your pitches. These tips represent a general tool box; not all the tips or tools will pertain to you, but we hope you can pull the necessary tools to hone your pitch and really show off your story.
To learn what makes a winning pitch, check out this video.
Virtual Pitch Challenge Winning Pitches:
Jake Noll - "Just Call Me Ripley"
Rachel Leyco - "Violet, Violet"
Chris Sumlin - "Fallen"
Wendy Jean Wilkins - "Cooze"
Qaseem Fazal - "What's Normal Anyway?"
Shannon Morrall & Chandler Lovelle - "Home. Free."
Katie Cronin - "The Au Pair Dare"
Kamala Lane - "Battle Buddies"
Christine Freschi - "Shazam Air"
Travis Gregory - "Little Fame Monsters"
Michael Long - "Henry Wallace"
Daniel Shar - "Kinkpin"
Varta Torossian - "Zora"
Shane Walsh-Smith- "Surface Tension"
Megan Woodward & Robyn Paris - "Dude From Scratch"
Connie Weidel - "A Little Bit Crazy"
Christopher Cramer - "Three Weeks Gone"
Zayda Santizo - "The Legends Within"
- Focus on one or two ideas: Many writers had multiple pitches for multiple projects. It’s great to have that many ideas, but most of the actual pitches and concepts were a bit diluted and weren’t fully developed. We’d suggest you pick just a few of these ideas and really develop the pitches. For something like this, quality over quantity matters. Many of these pitches had the seed of something interesting, but needed to be fleshed out and more fully-formed to have the intended impact.
- Try to stay away from just reading the plot: Multiple pitches started with good ideas, but the bulk of the pitch turned into a reading of every plot beat. If you want to read your pitch, we’d suggest having bullet points or a cheat-sheet of major beats to hit but being loose and off-the-cuff when describing the connective tissue. Describing your story from memory will really help you connect with the material in a new and meaningful way.
- Character, character, character: The way into the story should always be via your characters. No matter how good the hook or story is, what an audience will always remember about a movie is the characters. So hook us with your characters. The story will flow out naturally and organically as you are describing what your characters need to overcome and how they will overcome it.
- Sub-note to do with character and plot: Think about the ways you can organically marry your characters to your plot. This will not only make your pitch better, but it will make your writing better too. Ideally, you have a character whose need is compelling. That’s how you hook us, that’s how you get us invested, is in the characters. “I have this character and their goal is XXXX.” Then, once we’re invested in the character and their goal, you hit us with the plot, which should be a direct impediment to that character and their goals. Using this basic framework will make your writing and your pitches come to life.
- Find your voice/strengthen your connection to the material: When listening to a pitch, we are always wanting an answer to the question, why you? Why does this story specifically need your voice? Use that! We are *wanting* to find new voices, we are *wanting* to hear your unique take on the material. In a general sense, every story has already been told, so it’s all about the unique way into the material. That will be your major asset during a pitch. Just like with the writing itself, what we always look for is voice – that thing that makes the project so quintessentially *you*.
We encourage you to study the above video and pitching tips to get ready for the next Virtual Pitch Challenge. Remember, at the end of the day, we want to know why YOU, and you alone, are the right person to tell this story.