Pitching a movie or TV show is one of the most anxiety-provoking experiences a writer will go through. The people you pitch to are from a different planet. They are either studio, network or production company executives. They wear suits. They’re more formal and more formidable than most affable writers and creative type people.
However, the fact that you’re in their office means they like your writing and would love to hear a fresh, exciting, original idea from you.
So that’s good. Keep that in mind.
Other things to keep in mind:
Know your material. You should definitely practice pitching your idea before you go in. Feel extremely comfortable with all the details:
You should have a brief catchy “logline” for your project. “A seemingly normal stranger helps a girl get out of a sex trafficking syndicate. This stranger turns out to be an ex-CIA operative who has decided to use his powers to exact vengeance on the traffickers. As he gets deeper into trouble he is able to take out the most ruthless and most powerful of the traffickers.”
That is a brief pitch for The Equalizer, starring Denzel Washington. It’s also the premise for the 80’s TV show The Equalizer, the TV show Burn Notice, and pretty much Person of Interest.
Beyond that, for movies you want to be able to pitch how the character grows through conflict, pitch the three acts of the film, and pitch the major characters. Know their attitudes, their personalities and how they inter-relate with one another.
You want to be friendly with everyone in the room. Make eye contact with everybody. They all discuss your project when you leave, so you want to win them all over.
Dress less casually than you would when you’re writing. You don’t need a suit. But a jeans and a Polo shirt would be good.
If you’re pitching a comedy, have funny material. That means, show how the characters, the story, and some scenes will be funny. Don’t get spooked if execs don’t laugh at everything, they hear eight pitches a day in development.
If you’re pitching a TV series, talk about the pilot episode, and have about six other episode ideas handy.
If it’s a drama, explain how the stories will be exciting in their original way. If it’s a comedy its good if the concept itself sounds funny, and the story ideas seem inherently funny.
Presentation is another factor. Some writers actually have acting experience and can memorize most of the pitch, and present it confidently in from of a room of six to ten execs.
Some of us are most definitely not that confident. Some people can bring in a written pitch and make it come alive word-for-word like a politician giving a speech.
Most people can’t do that. Don’t sit there and read your pitch. I’ve found the best way to pitch is to know the material forward and backward, then explain it, like you’d explain it to a friend.
It should only take about twenty minutes to pitch a movie or a TV series.
Practice the pitch until you can explain it to anyone. Get plenty of sleep the night before the pitch. Pitching earlier is probably better, everyone’s fresher.
- Some people do mindfulness meditation to relax. They sit quietly and try to clear their mind of all thought. This is impossible, of course, but when a thought comes into awareness, let it pass, don’t engage it.
- Some people do yoga or yoga-breathing to relax.
- Some people use hypnosis or self-hypnosis.
- Some people do certain exercises to relax.
- Some people do visualizations to relax or even to run through the meeting in advance in a relaxed state.
- Some people take Beta-Blockers to reduce anxiety. Propranol and Atenolol are commonly prescribed for this purpose.
- Some people talk to their therapist or practice with them to relax.
On a TV staff, you also have to pitch story ideas for that show to the showrunners or sometimes to the entire writing staff.
This can be imposing for a freelance writer. Just follow the steps I’ve laid out and it should at least help. You can dress more casually when pitching to TV writers.
Then, once you’re on staff, you’ll have to keep pitching every time you’re turn comes up to write a script for the show. At that point, you’ll be friends with your fellow staffers and the pressure will come down a lot.