Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Pitch

Someone asked me the other day how I go about pitching. Apparently I'm ' good in a room'.

I don't think there's any great secret to it. But here's what I do.

Firstly I make sure I know exactly what I'm pitching. Sounds ludicrous I know, but I've listened to pitches from other writers which sound more like a jumble of ideas rather than a constructed 'story'.

So for example, I'm pitching a cop show. What is it about this cop show that is different from all the other cop shows? How do I get that across in the shortest possible time but to maximum effect? The main characters? How to I get across the interactions between them and the effect on ongoing drama?

In my case the answer to both is carefully chosen sound bites. I pretty much know exactly what I'm going to say before the meeting. No waffle. No uhms and ahs.

But the MOST IMPORTANT thing I do is just before the meeting when I convince myself that this is the best goddamn idea they've heard this year. I'm wetting myself to write it and am passionate about the concept. [Note, actually wetting oneself is not a good idea]

By doing this the enthusiasm I feel can become infectious. And why should anyone else be enthusiastic about your project if it isn't shining out of you as you pitch?

There is a balance of course. Wild enthusiasm can be off putting. It's more a 'confident' enthusiasm you are aiming for. You know it's a good project. You know you can write the hell out of it and the audience are going to love it.

Maybe they will throw you an awkward curve ball or two after the pitch, something you haven't thought of like who do you see as the female lead or what demographic is the target audience but you'll find that if you have done your pitch properly then the odd uhm and ah here is easily forgiven.

So that's it in a nutshell. The English Dave pitch. Know what you are pitching. Construct your well chosen soundbites. And be enthusiastic.

A little self depricating humour doesn't go amiss either!


Danny-K said...

Just discovered your Blog Dave. Very informative AND entertaining read. Gotta finish reading all the previous blogs to get up to speed, but in the meantime a question:

What about dress code for The Pitch?

Does it matter, or are there certain expectations as there are in the business world?

English Dave said...

Welcome Danny

Nope, no dress code. Clean is good. No one wants to work with a smelly writer.

It's a jeans and T shirt kind of business. In fact if you turn up in a suit you'll give them the shock of their lives.

Danny-K said...

Still got some way to go before finishing all your blog/articles Dave. (I hate speed-reading when there's something that I particularly enjoy reading), it's like slurping on a sweet - not to be rushed.

However question #2 is already knocking, so apologies if I find it's already been asked of you:

You appear quite/very successful ie., busy. After reading about how one English office worker got herself fired by her French employer for blogging in works time, and her account of filling in boring work-hours with Internet blogging - I'm wondering: does this blog distract you from your real work?

Again, it's common amongst a lot of bloggers to skive the empty hours off their employers. If you did that, you'd be handing in blank sheets of paper, so does it impact on your work output?

Maybe, the answer is, it helps you as a diversion if caught up on a problem with a script, or simply get stuck. Or, are you what's called: possessed of a naturally, prolific output?

I've been posting on a news blogging site for some time, but have made a pact with myself to stop/cut-back as my work-rate has fallen drastically ever since. In other words, this blogging business is damned addictive! No?

English Dave said...

Glad you're enjoying it Danny.

I'm self-employed and write from my own office so I can write at 10am or 10pm depending on how the mood takes me [and how close the deadline]

I'm also a master procrastinator who can find any number of excuses not to write.
There are also days when I am waiting for notes on drafts and so have nothing to do! Yes I know, I should be sweating out new stories and ideas but I've just come back from a weeks holiday and am winding up to it.

The blog doesn't take up too much time. Most of my blogs are a stream of consciousness rather than something I sit down and think about. Maybe that is apparent! But it is good to write something other than scripts and I'm too lazy to start a novel.

Danny-K said...

P.S. Forgot to preface my second comment with a thankU for taking time to reply to my first query. Which I thought would be as you answered, but I'm of the opinion that one person's easy 'casual', is another's 'unkempt'.


- "...Yes I know, I should be sweating out new stories and ideas but..."

- No, no, no ... don't overwork Dave. You must leave time for blogging. It's not a case of do we WANT your blogs - but a case of we NEED them. There aren't that many successful English screenwriters blogging away.

Anyway, as you say, "The blog doesn't take up too much time", so all's well.

P.P.S. I'm self-employed too.
A holiday? What's one of those?

Debs said...


Thanks for this - can I ask you about one slightly different kind of meeting. I'm just starting out in the business but I've already had a couple of meetings with agents/script editors where they've asked the dreaded question 'Give us a couple of examples of programmes on tv at the moment that you'd like to write for?' I HATE this because apart from the answer 'whatever your producing at this very moment.' the truth is either, I'd like to write for any damn programmme that'd have me or, none actually, most of them are s***e. How do you answer this without sounding disingenuous, insincere or even presumptious - I can't keep a straight face and say 'Oh I'd like to write for Shameless' when I'm only equipped with 5 spec scripts and a few dreams - it makes me feel like one of those poor deluded sods standing in front of Simon Cowell.

What's a good approach for this and how old can the shows be that you rave about? Cold Feet is actually a decade ago and Rumpole of the Bailey even older - God bless Sky+


English Dave said...

Debs I feel your pain, lol!

If an agent asked me that question I'd reply in terms of genres rather than specific shows. I'd also be tempted to say [if it was the case] that there are no current shows you are desperate to write for but as you want to be a pro writer you'll do a damn good job on any show that will have you.

An agent is well aware that this is a business and that kind of attitude is impressive to them. The last thing they want to do is have to try and break in a new writer who is picky about their projects. A down and dirty bring it on is what they are looking for.

Prodco's - well that depends on the type of meeting. If it is about something you've pitched I'd mention shows in the same genre. It shows you have an affinity to that kind of writing.

If it is for a gig on one of their shows then clearly you love that show and [having done your homework] any other shows they have done or that person has worked on.

I exaggerate, but a little schmoozing goes a long way.

Don't worry about sounding presumptious. There's nothing presumtious about saying you'd like to write for Shameless. If you didn't have talent you wouldn't be having the meeting in the first place.

Remember that this industry runs on talent. It may not seem that way when the power is generally outwith the writer's hands. But if ever you feel intimadated by the guys behind the desks just remember that without people like you they'd most likely be selling Toner over the phone.

Hope that is helpful. Good luck

Chris (UK Scriptwriter) said...

Good post.

I've never really paid much attention to the art of pitching, because a) I've never done it before, and b) I have not put anything out there yet.

But what if I put something out there tomorrow and then got a call:

"Great stuff, need you to come and pitch it to X".

I wonder how far I would be up that smelly creek looking for a paddle.

English Dave said...

Hi Chris

If the meeting is in response to a fairly detailed treatment you've sent in then you will not be expected to pitch again. It will be more of a Q and A session on the material.
BUT - every meeting is a chance to pitch so if they don't ask ' What else have you got?' You make sure you tell them, so always be prepared to pitch.

There isn't really any mystique about it. Be organised, confident and enthusiastic.

Simple but not neccessarily easy, I know.