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Pitching: Selling your idea

Pitching is the art of persuasion. According to Wikipedia, A pitch is a concise verbal (and sometimes visual) presentation of an idea for a film or TV series generally made by a screenwriter or film director to a film producer or studio executive in the hope of attracting development finance to pay for the writing of a screenplay.

Victory loves preparation

Preparation is key. Like everything, the more you do it, the better you get. The essence of your idea/script should be in a pitch. Mention the title, have a clear genre, a maximum of 2. Know your audience, know the successful films with similar genres and budget. Support your presentation with box office figures and have a marketing plan.

Presentation Tips

  1. Tell them what you are going to tell them

  2. Tell them

  3. Tell them what you just told them with a call to action

Documents to take

  1. Script/ Idea

  2. Brief overview which includes title, genre and etc

  3. Logline and Synopsis

  4. Copyright

  5. Props such as character drawings

  6. Look book to establish the tone of the film

  7. Cut together a trailer (clipomatic)

  8. Showreel

Some things to do at a Pitch meeting

  1. Smile.

  2. Arrive early.

  3. Project a professional image.

  4. Write main points on paper to avoid blackouts.

  5. Don’t lie about things like having the book option or securing cast or crew etc

  6. Be confident not arrogant, enthusiastic, charming not sleazy, polite and give a firm handshake.

  7. Keep  your pitch economical, don’t ramble on.

I have a very low tolerance threshold personally when I’m listening to a pitch, and most execs I know are overwhelmed with material, so concise, smart and intriguing are my watchwords.
  1. Colin Vaines, EVP, European Production and Development, Miramax/The Weinstein Company

Apply AIDA, one of the founding principles for modern market and advertising to your film.

A: Attract the buyer’s attention

I: Generate interest

D: Create desire

A: Tell them the action you want them to take

When being pitched, I have an implicit underlying question that I would like to see (or hear) answered: ‘Why is this script different from all the other scripts? Why, among the dozens of scripts I could read, should I read this one? – Tony Safford, Senior Vice President, Twentieth Century Fox

Decisions the financier tries to make as you pitch your idea;

  1. Whether it ignites his interest (emotional connection).

  2. Whether it suits his business needs at present (practical connection).

  3. How much time/money he therefore wishes to invest.

The single most important attribute for pitching a project is passion. If you don’t believe in your film one hundred percent, and convey that total belief to me, then I am not even going to read it, let alone invest millions of pounds in it. -Eric Fellner, Co-Chairman, Working Title Films

The authors of The Pitch propose a kind of checklist before deciding what and when to pitch called the PACT test.

The PACT Test

P is for Passion. No doubt about it, top of the agenda – do you love your project (enough to spend two, three, maybe twenty years with it?) and think it demands to be done? If you are the writer, is this ‘the one’ that you are burning to write now?

A is for Audience. Ask yourself: who is your audience? Also what do you know about your immediate ‘pitchee’ – about who he’s got to pick on to, and who is his ideal audience (market)?

C is for Clarity. Can you play your story’s melody? Not all the detail,not the harmony, but the bare bones of it, enough to get across its value without boring or confusing your listener?

T is for Tenacity. My personal favourite: are you tough enough to take all the rejection , are you prepared to fight and fight for your film to get made, pitch after depressing pitch meeting? Do you also know when to quit?

Answer the hard questions. Identify what the financiers will be worried about. Tell a friend to sit opposite you and ask you the following simple questions.

  1. What’s in it for me?

  2. Who’s in charge?

  3. What’s so special about it?

  4. What’s it worth?

  5. Is this a once in a lifetime chance?

The buyers are vulnerable, their money is on the line. Can convince them that they have nothing to be worried about?

Questioning is the heart and soul of any sales meeting. Most questions will come from the buyers but be ready to ask yours when the opportunity comes.

Anticipate these questions and answer them ahead of time

  1. What other films is it like?

  2. Why should we identify with the hero?

  3. Why now?

  4. Why is it a feature film and not TV?

  5. Why do you want to do this?

  6. What’s the budget?

  7. What happens at the end?

Also be ready to;

  1. Explain which type of revenue model you are adopting. Investors invest because they want to make a return on that investment.

Explain exactly who your target audience is. Use demographic and psychographic features to pinpoint your customers. Show investors a picture of a customer along with relevant data points.

Listening to answers from financiers is vital to your future success. You get feedback about how to improve your pitch or what the financiers are prepared to fund.


Best Practices

  1. Be the expert of your story. Knowing its ins and outs gives you confidence to enthral others with it.

  2. Sell yourself, not just your project. Let them know why you are the only person in the world who can make this film.

  3. Go as a team, everyone should talk about a particular aspect. Work to your strengths. Your team is equally as important as your pitch.

  4. Have a character that the audience can connect with. Without this, the audience won’t be interested in the conflict that will drive your story.

  5. Know the market and the tropes of your genre, and what executives and the audience need from that genre so you know what to highlight in your pitch. However, don’t let genre tropes to inhibit your story.

  6. While comparing your script to similar films, highlight the uniqueness of your project.

  7. Make it urgent.When pitching your project, underline the reasons your film needs to be told now.

  8. Any visual cues of what you are talking about would be really helpful.

  9. Read your audience and assess the response in the room and be ready to make adjustments to your pitch.

  10. Pique their interest. End with a question, so they want to know more.

  11. After pitching, send a follow up email and make a human connection. Avoid monday mornings and friday evenings.

  12. Go to premieres, film festivals and award ceremonies and network, you never know who will be willing to finance your project.

  13. Follow popular websites to know what is happening like Screen Daily, Screen Africa, Variety, Deadline, Hollywood Reporter etc.

Watch Dragons Den  for pitching inspiration.

Have hope but not expectation


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