Around the UK, screenwriters are practicing their pitches for this weekend’s London Screenwriters’ Festival. Speed-pitching to producers is just one of the Olympic-scale events offered by the Festival (which is the biggest, baddest film writing festival in Europe, I think you’ll find).
Pitching to producers is terrifying for anyone, but particularly terrifying if you’re a writer. We’re just not very good at it. In fact, just about anyone in the world is better at pitching to producers than writers are. Pitching requires an ability to “boil it all down” – to reduce a breathtaking vision of depth and weight to a manageable glue that money will stick to.
Problem is that writers – real writers, like us – by their nature, want to tell the whole story. Actually, no, it’s worse than that. We don’t want to tell the whole story – we want to write the whole story, then give it to you and let your inner voice tell it to you as you read it. Having to boil it down is the opposite of what we got into this ridiculous racket for in the first place and it’s especially galling because one of the real reasons your pitching is so that the pitchee will not have to actually read your script and can simply repeat the pitch to her higher-ups who will in turn pass the pitch further up the chain until finally – perhaps in some Chinese whispered iteration that bears nothing to your original idea – it is jumped on as a Vehicle for someone else.
I hate pitching. Have I made this clear? And it’s not just because I have given some of the Worst Pitches In Christendom – well, maybe that’s part of it.
But however uncomfortable we are with it, pitching is in the natural order of things. Creatives have had to pitch to money men since before Michelangelo went before Pope Julius with nothing more than a set of storyboards and an option on a popular book. I always liken screenwriting to architecture more than any other creative endeavour. We’re in the blueprint-making business really. And blueprints have little meaning to non-architects. They have to be translated, truncated, spiced up – they have to be pitched – if they’re going to be realized as living projects that are going to employ hundreds of people.
So if you are pitching at the LondonSWF don’t be terrified. Or at least be comforted by the fact that, if you are terrified, it’s probably because you’re a real writer and not just some salesmen who thought he’d get into the movie business. Not that real writers can’t be good at pitching too, but it’s a separate skill, one that, in my case, has required a lot of practice. I’m pretty good at it now, but there were many embarrassing moments – incoherent rambling, forty minute beat-by-beat-by-beat exercises in tedium, hysterical enthusiasm in search of a logline. I have given some lousy pitches. But doing a lousy job is the only way you get good. So don’t worry about the quality of the pitches this weekend, but get in as many as you can. I’ll be there beside you, sweating from my upper lip, clearing my throat convulsively, stammering “Did I – Did I say that already?”. I hate pitching.
MORE ON PITCHES
5 Pitching Tips (includes a model pitch if you’re worried/stuck)
REMEMBER – A Logline Is Not A Tagline! Make sure you know the difference for your pitch.
More in The Required Reading List under “Pitches & Prep”, an e-library of resources
Neal Romanek will be live blogging from the festival, so make sure you check back here from Friday onwards – and follow him on Twitter HERE. You will also be able to see live tweets from delegates, speakers, volunteers and other participants by using the #LondonSWF hashtag on Twitter, so DON’T MISS OUT!