When it comes to writing, oftentimes the hardest part of the process comes AFTER you’ve typed “The End”. For many of us, the idea of pitching your script can be even more daunting than the blank page, but it’s often a necessary step for getting your story out there.
So what makes a good pitch? And what skills can you bring to the table to get the studios and executives excited about you and your story? We’re looking back on our conversations with past AFF panelists who have mastered the art of the pitch for some advice on selling yourself and your script.
Here are five tips for taking your story from page to pitch to production from successful writers and industry executives:
1. BRUSH UP ON YOUR PERFORMING SKILLS
The pitch is a whole other animal…I am much more comfortable writing. That’s what I do. I’m not a talker, I’m not a performer, I’m not an extrovert, but you’ve got to go in there. Even if you have the greatest story ever…it’s a whole other effort to get it into a place where you can communicate it in a short period of time with clarity to a bunch of people who have no attention span.
-Amanda Silver (writer/producer Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes; producer War for the Planet of the Apes; writer Jurassic World, Mulan 2020) at AFF 2011
2. GIVE THEM THE TOOLS TO SELL YOUR STORY
Keep it short and sell it. And by sell it, I mean give them how they sell it, because if you’re pitching to an exec, they have to go to somebody and tell them about your show, so you kind of have to give them all the buzz words to be able to be like, “Okay, I can easily remember that thing they said, and now I can tell my boss and get my boss excited about it.” Because that’s the person who buys it, not the person you’re pitching to right now…I’m actually just giving them the tools to sell to their boss.
-Misha Green (writer/producer Underground, Lovecraft Country, The Mother) at AFF 2017
3. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
That really helps if you’re tenacious and if you can get in there and have conversations with people. Pitch something they maybe want to talk about…know your audience and know your genre, because some things just don’t fit into a neat little package.
-Kate Petrosky (former Creative Executive, Focus Features) at AFF 2004
4. STICK TO THE KEY ELEMENTS OF YOUR STORY
There’s a way in which the world-building can overwhelm the story… a thing I’ve heard from execs is a story where someone comes in with a pitch on something, and they spent 45 minutes trying to explain the sci-fi, and they never got to the characters or what the story’s about. You have to be careful that the world doesn’t overwhelm the other important aspects of the story.
-Angela Kang (writer/co-executive producer The Walking Dead; writer Terriers) at AFF 2015
5. FIND WHAT THEY’RE LOOKING FOR—AND USE IT
It’s knowing how to deal with people, knowing how to be in meetings all day…and really understanding the business objectives of the networks and studios that you work for. I know what works for them, and I keep that in mind. It doesn’t stifle my creativity. It actually inspires it sometimes. It gives me a hint as to what I should write, or the way that I should write it.
-Jacque Edmonds Cofer (writer/producer Martin, Living Single, Moesha; creator/showrunner Let’s Stay Together, Reed Between the Lines) at AFF 2016
Have a story you’d like to pitch? Sign up for our annual Pitch Competition Presented by Roadmap Writers for 90 seconds to pitch your best idea to a panel of judges at AFF’s 2019 Writers Conference. Top finalists in the competition will compete in the Pitch Finale Party on Saturday October 26 for the chance to win a 2020 Producers Badge.
Pitch Tickets are available for purchase here with a Producers, Conference, or Weekend Badge.
Want to practice your pitch before the Conference? We’re holding a Pitch Day event on Sunday July 28 at ColdTowne Theatre. The day will kick off with an intimate Pitch Workshop to help you iron out your best elevator pitch and practice your public speaking skills. Following the workshop will be our pitch party, where participants will get 90 seconds to pitch their best ideas for the chance to win a Weekend Badge and Pitch Ticket for the 2019 Festival & Conference!
Tickets for Pitch Day are available for purchase here.