Monday Prescriptions – Pitch Perfect Part 2

Hi Film Folk

Here’s Monday and The Film Doctor Team continues the pitching techniques discussion from last week’s Monday Prescription.  A successful pitch is paramount  when releasing anything but self-funded projects – so, understandably, Film Doctor couldn’t do justice to the topic with only one post and decided to the ‘fill in the gaps’ in this week’s Monday Prescription.

  • I can see it! – Since, in its essence, pitching is really telling engaging stories, these stories need to ‘come alive’ in front of their audience, i.e. you need to find a way to help the people you’re pitching to visualise what you’re talking about.  Moreover, they should be able to see the completed film as you carry on with your pitch. Because the execs are less concerned with how good your idea is on paper, but whether they can picture a good end product. How can you help your pitch audience’s imagination? By arming your pitch with as many visual references as possible – bring prospective artwork for the film, e.g. sample storyboards, ‘mock-up’ posters, sketches, etc.; head-shots of the cast (if you already have cast attached), location photos or ‘possible locations’ photos, or just scenery for reference, etc. Another way of creating an idea of the prospective complete film is “actor anchors” – referring to a particular actor when describing your project’s characters. By association with the actor’s other roles/films, your pitch audience will find it easier to imagine the person you’re trying to create in front of them. One big DON’T: Actor references are fine, but don’t present your film itself in comparison with something else.  A sentence like “It’s Blade Runner meets Goodfellas” is going to do more disservice to your project than you’d think: a).  it’s unclear / confusing for the genre, style and theme of your film; b). it sounds like a hodgepodge of something that already exists and not something unique; c). it says you’re not creative/inventive/resourceful enough, as you couldn’t even find a few right words to describe your own project. 

  • Main Course or A Buffet? – You’d usually pitch in a pre-arranged meeting, which means the people listening have already decided what kind of projects they’d like to scout around for. They chose to meet with you,  because they liked the sound of your idea and now would like to know more.  So you devote all your time and preparation for that one particular project, honing the best pitch possible. But what if at the end of that meeting the people turn around and say they were hoping for something more “X, Y, Z”…and ask if you happened to have a project like that in the pipeline? Or they just suddenly decide that this year they want to get some comedies (while you’re pitching a thriller or vice versa).  You were told the people you’re meeting with like one particular ‘dish’ and interested only and only in versions of that ‘dish’, so you were ‘serving’ one ‘main dish’ and now it turns out that there’s interest in a ‘buffet’ option. What to do? Simply never put all your eggs in one basket – although you might’ve spent 90% of your time and preparation to one particular project, do devote other 10% to creating at least a few loglines for your other ideas.  So that when an exec goes “Oh,  I’m looking for x,y,z right now”, you can just confidently fire out “Oh what a coincidence, I just happen to have this idea…” and give a very shapely outline of what’s it about. You do have other ideas right?
  • Don’t Panic! – Pitching can be equally exciting and nerve-wrecking, and for a lot of us it’s more of the latter, but you can’t let the panic take over.  Never start your pitch without being fully calm and composed yourself – if you rush into it and just fire out sentence after sentence, you’re bound to lose your train of thought, then start panicking about it and then completely mess up the whole presentation. Find a calming technique that works best for you – whether it’s some breathing exercises, tunes to listen to on the way to the meeting, or picturing your ‘audience’ in their underwear, what matters is that it keeps the nerves at bay.  If you’re pitching to a group of people, you can either choose “the friendliest face” and maintain eye contact just with them or don’t look directly at anyone in particular, just scanning the room and the faces in one.  In a one-on-one meeting just relax and see it simply as a conversation between two people (which is what it should be anyway).  And, lastly, if you’re really not sure about your presentation skills, work in pairs – partner up with your co-writer/producer/director/a sympathetic friend and pitch the project together.

‘Monday Prescription’ No.36 – Arm your pitch with strong supporting material and practice until you find a technique that’s right for you. The best pitches are just stories told really well – present something that people would rush to see in the cinemas.

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Any questions/thoughts/experiences of your own??? Leave a comment below!
Have a great week!
The Film Doctor Team
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