ScriptFest & The Great American PitchFest return to the Marriott Burbank Hotel & Convention Center for their 14th year on June 23-25. If you are a returning writer, you are already preparing for a weekend of classes, networking, panels & pitching.
But if it’s your first rodeo, the time to start preparing is now. Here is a schedule to help you make the most of your PitchFest.
WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW
- Finish your script. If you get a script request, you’re going to want to be able to send it right away. Plus, a tight, effective script makes it easier to…
- Develop a logline. Title, genre, protagonist, goal, obstacles, ending. Tight and engaging, and reflective of your script: If the script is funny, make the logline funny. If your script is a thriller, make the logline thrilling.
- Follow our blog. In the months leading up to the Great American PitchFest, we will continue to run blogs and articles from pitching experts, interviews with working writers, and links to other valuable resources to develop your screenwriting career.
- Check out the execs. Executives are already committing to the event, and have begun submitting their profiles. As executives join us, we will continue to update the Great American PitchFest page. Visit often to develop your list of target companies.
Go The Extra Mile! Design a one-sheet. It should look as professional as possible – spend money on a professional graphic designer. You can find some good deals on sites like www.peopleperhour.com. If you can’t afford one, do the best you can. Include an eye-catching image (like you might find on a movie poster), a logline, and your contact info.
WHAT YOU CAN DO IN THE WEEKS BEFORE THE EVENT
- Print business cards. These will be valuable throughout ScriptFest and your whole trip to LA. Remember, networking must happen all the time, not just at structured events like the Great American PitchFest. Always have cards on you.
- Research all of the companies who will be attending. Even the ones you think you might not be interested in. Know what they’ve done before, what they have in the pipeline, and what they are seeking at the PitchFest. Google is your friend. So is IMDb Pro and Deadline.com. Pitching isn’t a performance, it’s a business meeting. Sometimes it’s a spontaneous meeting in an elevator, at the hotel bar, or in the hall. Be prepared. Do your homework. You never know what contacts will advance your career.
- Practice, practice, practice. Note that practicing is different from rehearsing. Don’t recite your pitch. Instead, develop pitching SKILLS. Convince your friends to see movies and shows you’ve already seen. Try to convince the barista to draw a dinosaur on your cup instead of writing your name. Engage with cahiers at the supermarket. Get accustomed to listening closely and engaging strangers on their terms.
Go The Extra Mile! Print your one-sheets on nice glossy paper. Make them look as professional as possible. If execs are unsure about the script, they will check out the one-sheet the next day. Wow them.
- Re-read your script. Proofread, yes, but familiarize yourself with your character and story arcs, act breaks, A and B stories, themes, story beats, structure, and every other aspect of the craft. Have an idea of other projects it is similar to (financially successful ones), who would be good to star in it, and any elements outside of the script you have access to (locations, cars, money, etc.) You never know what questions the executive might have.
- Upload your script and one-sheet onto your phone. Nobody accepts hard copies anymore, and even memory sticks are passé. Be ready to email your script at a moment’s notice. It’s the 21st century, act like it.
- Choose your outfit. Professional and comfortable. If you have a costume you’d like to wear, now is a great time to put it in the closet and never, ever take it out again.
Go The Extra Mile! Meet with other ScriptFest attendees and work on your pitches together. Don’t wait for opportunities to arise. Create them yourself. You are the master of your destiny. Screenwriting success comes to those who take the initiative.
You’ve been let into the Waiting Area, and the bell is about to ring to launch your pitch. Here’s what you can do:
- Relax. This pitch isn’t the whole world. The worst that can happen is the executive says no. You have no deal now, so you have nothing to lose.
- Pop a mint in your mouth. Obvious reasons.
- Body language. Does the exec look bored? Anxious? Tired? When it’s your turn to pitch, adjust your energy level to engage with her.
Go The Extra Mile! Don’t fixate on your pitch. The goal of your five-minute meeting is to build a relationship with the executive. The road to a script sale is a marathon, not a sprint. Whether your script is a good match for the executive or not, your personality, professionalism, demeanor, and confidence will impact your ability to build a professional relationship as much as your talent.
- Don’t overestimate the exec. Remember, that exec across from you is just a person who has made a career telling stories. You have a story. Tell it.
- Be concise. You have five minutes for your meeting, but there needs to be room for questions and small talk. If you can start your conversation with a 1-minute pitch, that’s good. With a 30-second pitch, even better. Try to get it down to 10 words. If those ten words result in the exec saying, “Tell me more,” they’ve done their job.
- Once she says yes, all she can do is say no. Thank her, shake her hand, remember to get contact info, and head to your next queue. If it’s a long one, take the time to email your script right then and there.
Go The Extra Mile! Ask the executive about herself. What does she want to produce? Why did she get into the business in the first place? Favorite movies/TV shows? Taking interest in the executive is a much more effective way to build a relationship than a wall-to-wall hard sell on your script.
WHAT YOU CAN DO AFTER YOUR PITCH
- Send the script to everyone who requested it. You would be surprised how many writers chicken out, plagued by self-doubt. If you pitched a script that’s ready to go, then let it go. If not, then get it ready and send it when it is. But don’t let a script request evaporate.
- Follow up six weeks later. If you haven’t heard back, a polite follow-up is appropriate, but don’t act entitled or angry.
- Be open to notes. Writing is solitary, but filmmaking is collaborative. A producer must juggle a long list of conflicting priorities. If she makes a suggestion you disagree with, politely ask the motivation for the change and suggest an alternate solution to achieve the same goal.
- Keep on writing. You don’t want to be a one-and-done writer. Agents will want to represent a writer who can earn them more than just the one commission. Producers, if they like your material, will want more as you become less of a risk. A writer writes. Don’t just sit around waiting for your ship to come in. You go get some lumber and build your own ship.
Go The Extra Mile! Stay in contact. For everyone you met, every business card you collected, create a Google Alert. Google will send you updates on each of your contacts: When they have sold a script, appeared at a charity function, gotten an agent, changed jobs… the list goes on. Every update gives you an opportunity to strengthen the relationship. Congratulate them on their marriage. Cheer along with them when their favorite team wins a championship. Chat about the latest Star Wars movie, whether the exec is involved with the project or not.
Above all, be professional and courteous, always. A producer isn’t just looking for quality writing, she will be looking for a quality person who writes. Becoming a professional screenwriter is akin to entering a culture you may not be familiar with. The best way to be welcomed is to be welcoming, and the best way to receive favors is to do them. Good luck, and we’ll see you at the ScriptFest!