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Sunday, August 3, 2008

@ Home Pitch Fest

So the Wave-inatrix is at the Fade In Pitch Fest all this weekend and getting to know some wonderful, motivated and interesting writers. Hundreds are there, pitching their scripts to some pretty big companies. I have been offering pitch practice sessions and I am surprised at the number of writers who really have trouble encapsulating their script within a five minute time limit. So as an exercise, I think it would be wonderful if any motivated Wavers reading this today - regardless of where you are in your script - would politely but firmly corral a friend or significant other and pitch that script.

Practice, in other words. Not the part where you feel nervous and you're tired and you've stood in line forever, but the part where you tell the story of your script in a pithy, articulate, exciting way. A pitch is not a monologue where you simply read from a cue card or take a deep breath, look into the middle distance and drone on like a kid who memorized the Gettysburg Address. Your pitch should be alive, it should be like a conversation with the person listening. It is organic and it is entertaining. If your story is scary, make your pitch scary. If it's funny, be funny. Start by introducing yourself and naming the genre and title of your script. Then go straight to the one or two sentence logline. Then go into a little bit more detail but always leave room for the pitchee to ask questions or make comments so they don't get overwhelmed or lost.

Here's the thing, if you can't articulate the main thrust of your script in five minutes, Houston, you have a problem. So many writers at the Fade In event have said to me - but I can't do that! There's SO MUCH more going on in the story! Yes, you can do it. Those details do not belong in the pitch. The pitch should encapsulate the genre, the tone, the hook and the main PLOT of your script. Look, if you're inexperienced, it isn't easy. Even experienced types get nervous in the moment and can stumble all over the place. But practice makes perfect, no?

So today take a few minutes, stare at your script and write down a logline. Then lure someone in your family to the dining table, prime them with a beer or some Ritz crackers, look at the clock and BAM - go - give yourself five minutes to pitch your script. Even if your loved one is in a gravy stained tee shirt and has no pants on, even if your loved one is your cat, just GO. Do this thing. Pitch your script in five minutes. Then do it again. Start over. Do it again. Switch family members. Lure a friend over with the promise of chicken kabobs. Try it, Wavers.

Can you pitch your script in five minutes? Practice until you can. Then watch your pages respond to this newfound sureness about what your script is about. Check page 13 against your pitch. Does page 13 carry the DNA of the pitch? How about page 27? Still there? Page 48. Is the tone, the genre, the meaning of the title and the logline in some way evident on every page?

Pitch fests are opportunities to get your script read. But pitch practice is an opportunity to compress and condense the main idea of your script in a way that is easy to grasp. That's okay if your pitch sucks right now. Practice. This exercise is very powerful and if your family thought you were weird before, this will cement that feeling forever. But pay no mind - they don't get it. But at the Rouge Wave, we do get it.

I will be booking five free phone appointments this week for any Rouge Waver living in the continental US (or where it doesn't cost me money to call you, unless you want to call me and we can work out the time zone) to hear timed five minute pitches. Email me and let's set something up. Don't expect the conversation to last much more than ten minutes. But give me a try. I'll listen.

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E.C. Henry said...

Very generous offer, Julie. Up here in the Pacific Northwest I may have a chance to pitch to a representative from the Donners company, as they visit Seattle for a Northwest Screenwriting Guild event next Friday and Saturday.

Last time I pitched to a representative from Village Roadshow I got ripped for dressing up in constume. (All I wanted to do was make an impression) That backfired on me too.

I'm not a very good pitcher. Wish I was better at it. Never got a request for a read based on a pitch I deliverd. This especially hurt serveral years back when I pitched to a representative from Lynda Obst's company.

Still, (sigh) I'm going to continue to work at my pitching prowess. It's just funny that a high social event is required of people who are TYPICALLY introspective and shy in nature. O well, gold rules. I ain't got the gold, so I'm left to function in a system of those who do.

Thanks for putting yourself out there, and being willing to help writers out. You're one of my heros Julie.

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

Kirkland said...

I am the worst pitch writer in the world, certainly in North America anyway. I absolutely suck at it--and I've had 4 movies made in the past 12 years and another 3 or 4 sales (sold one for which I've yet to get paid)...and if I have (okay, I have) a weakness, it's pitching. I'm not an orator, I'm not a talker, and I sure as hell am not a "speaker" (I failed speech class in college 4 times before the instructor took pity on me and suggested I take the class P/F and passed me just to get rid of me). I know my story inside out, upside down, backwards, forwards, sideways...but make me pitch it in five minutes, I'd rather kill myself.

Being able to pitch is the toughest five minutes of your life. It's hell. or worse.