I had an opportunity to successfully pitch a story concept to a producer a couple weeks ago. He was excited about the project based on how I shared the story and told me to contact my attorney to close our deal.
A few days later, I had a writer pitch me a story concept in hopes of getting me to collaborate on her screenplay, but her pitch left me without any desire to read her script. The project died before it could be launched, all because she didn’t understand the key elements in a pitch.
Pitching a story requires three key elements:
1. A unique idea or concept.
2. A marketable story.
3. Great story telling.
The unique idea is very difficult to accomplish in this day and age when studio marketers want something familiar, but different. They immediately reject the same ole thing and the totally new thing. They are looking for something familiar so they know how to market it, with enough of a twist to spur on interest from the potential audience.
The marketable story must be relevant and cutting edge. It needs to be something visual, yet touching. It must satisfy the niche markets, while being universal enough to reach the masses. In other words, it has to hit what the market manager might be thinking at the time, or you have to convince him that your story will set a new trend in motion.
If by some chance you master the first two abilities, the story is the last thing that will make or break your pitch. The great pitches always include the following:
Create a Connection
People want to work with great relationships that are built by people persons. The energy that comes from a positive collaborator is essential to your story’s success. The pitch session is the time and place to be the person that your friends like, not the cold businessperson you may need to be during negotiations.
Showing a sincere interest in the person you’re meeting with will go a long way, especially if you take the time to listen to what he has to say about your story. All too often the person is so much into telling their story that they don’t notice that making a simple tweak would land them a deal. In other words, get them to want to do business with you, but be real in the process. Phonies are easily spotted in Hollywood.
Share your story as if you’re really into it. Help him to visualize the scenes as you express them. Tell the story dramatically when you’re at a dramatic point in your story, and make it humorous when you share the comedic bits. Be an entertainer and see if you don’t get applause and a contract.
Set-Up the Story
Tell the producer what makes your story great. Explain when and how you came up with the story, as the heart behind the story will add to its value. In fact, if you can share the genesis of your story, while showing how it’s grounded in reality, you will surely grab his attention. And, no matter what, make sure he understands why its relevant.
Introduce Your Characters
Share enough about your characters so the producer gets a feel for who they are. Let him become their buddies and learn how to care about them. Then, turn up the story with plenty of jeopardy so he needs to hear every bit of your story to be satisfied.
These key elements will make your pitch session a success. However, one simple caution always applies: Don’t get nervous. Now, of course you’ll get nervous, so make sure you take enough time to get to know everyone in the room and help them to get to know you before you dive into your story.
Being real and relaxed are still the two greatest tools you have on your side. Producers and studio executives deal with fake all day and long for those real down to earth conversations and stories. So, just be yourself and have fun telling the story you know all too well.