Brevity is beauty
DO Try and find ways to keep your pitch as brief as possible without eliminating pertinent information that will capture your audience. Think of it like telling your friend about an awesome movie you just saw.
DON’T worry about being overly thorough. Your only objective is to captivate your audience with your story and character(s). Once you have done that, your audience will ask you questions and it is at that point where you can divulge into other details of your idea.
Unless it is absolutely imperative to convey a certain visual image, you shouldn’t need to bring any props. What happens is that your prop becomes your crutch. You shouldn’t need diagrams, objects, pictures, or power point presentations to pitch a good story. If you require these things, your idea is probably not very good. You should be able to pitch your project to anyone at any given time, at any given place.
Adapt – Have other ideas prepared.
One of the important skills with pitching is being able to adapt in the room. A lot of times, through unforeseen circumstances, an executive may tell you that your idea has been pitched already, or is not something they are looking for. Your job as a pitcher is to be able to adapt and find a way to give the person at the other end of the table what he or she wants. If the rest of your ideas are half decent, and pitched briefly (and you’re not a complete arrogant jerk) chance are, the executives will want to hear more. That’s their job; to find new ideas and new material. You won’t have very many opportunities, so you might as well make the best of it. The hit TV show Rugrats was the 8th idea pitched during a pitch meeting. The executives passed on the previous seven.
Leave the business to the professionals
DO have an idea of what your budget may be, or what marketing strategies you might use. It’s never a bad idea to conjure up a budget for your own personal knowledge…but
DON’T bring marketing materials or budgets to the meeting. These sorts of things will not help you sell your project and this will all be re-worked by the studio should your project get picked up. Neither budgets nor marketing materials will help you in closing a development deal with a studio or production company.
If you have the means and ability, DO attach a well-known, accomplished talent to your project (ie. Lead actor, Director)
DON’T make a cast or director lists. Chances are, your list will be similar to their list, and it will not help you sell your project. It will not impress the studios if you start naming A-list actors or directors that you “wish” will be attached to your project.
Enthusiasm & Passion
DO show enthusiasm and passion for your project. This may seem like common sense, however, people do not realize how far passion travels across to your audience. Most of the time, your audience is not only interested in the project, but they are more interested in the person behind the project. You could have the next Oscar winning project, but if you don’t show your passion it will not sell. Feel free to stand and use the room when delivering your pitch. Look happy and thrilled to be delivering you pitch (even if it’s a horror project).
DON’T put on a show, or a sales presentation. Over-enthusiasm can be a bad thing. Remember, in their minds, if they want to buy your project, they’ll have to work with you on a regular basis, and being an over-the-top showboater might sway them not to. When you give your pitch you want to feel like you’re telling your friends about a movie you saw on the weekend.
Leave-behinds are 8-10 page documents outlining your project. They usually including a synopsis of your story, target audience, summary of characters. Whatever you do, DO NOT give them the leave behind before you start pitching. It’s called a leave behind for a reason, not a “give first”. After you finish your pitch, you may learn that what the buyers want is not outlined in your leave behind. Or you may learn that the weakest part of your pitch is the one thing you emphasize in your leave behind.
TIP: Leave behind for TV shows should show two key things: Character breakdown (detailed and interesting), and “where is this story going”. Show a season arc, or a series arc. They like to think about longevity and they want to know that you have thought about it too.
DON’T read from a piece of paper or cue cards. Executives hate this. If you know your project well enough, you shouldn’t need to read. This disconnects you from the buyer. Remember, the executives are not just buying the project, they are buying YOU. Therefore, you need to connect with them, and moving your eyes/head back and forth between a piece of paper does not accomplish this.
DO engage in a conversation. Pitches should not be presentations. Every pitch is a job interview. The need to be assured that they can work with you no matter how great the project is. The best pitches are the ones that transform into conversations. This is the best way for executives to get to know you, and to get excited about your project.
Know your project but be open minded and flexible
DO show your audience that you are creatively flexible and easy to work with. Nine times out of ten, when a studio or network buys your project, they are going to tear it a part. Part of the pitching process involves selling yourself to your audience and showing them that you will be a good partner, despite whether or not your project will sell. At the same time, convey that you know your project in detail and that you have your own personal vision.
DON’T refute suggestions given by your audience. You need to show that you are not only open to creative suggestions, but that you appreciate them. BUT, whatever you do, DON’T use the phrase “whatever you want it to be”. If an executive asks you a creative question, you tell them what you feel is the best answer, because that is what they are looking for.