The pitchfests I have been to were a cross between pitching and speed dating.
You line up for the company you want to pitch to and when you get into the room, a bell goes off, giving you 5 minutes to find your table and make your pitch. When the five minute bell goes off, you leave so the next person can sit down.
Some of the newbies at The G.A. PitchFest were concerned about those five minutes. The thing is, if you have your pitch down tight, it shouldn’t take you more than a minute or two (genres are usually faster/easier to pitch, drama takes a bit more time). That means you can take 30 seconds to introduce yourself at the beginning and get comfortable, and take some questions at the end.
Tell what your story is about… not everything that happens in it (that takes too long). You can’t tell the story as well as your script can. The key is to get them intrigued enough to read it and find out for themselves.
When you’re done they’ll either want to see it or they won’t. If they don’t, let it go and move on. So what if you thought your story was perfect for them, they didn’t.
If they do want to see it you generally leave a one sheet, not the actual script, and contact them later. If you think about it, it makes sense. If they take 60 pitches that day and want 10-15 scripts, well, that’s a lot of scripts to be lugging around. I never print off scripts for pitchfests, only one-sheets.
There are some pitchfests where you pay PER appointment/pitch. I don’t recommend these. For instance, I paid $250 for G.A. and got to pitch to 12 companies, my friend pitched to 14. So let’s say $250 / 13 pitches = less than $20 per pitch. You’d pay more than twice that amount if you paid per individual pitch.
CONCERNS GOING INTO A PITCHFEST:
Make sure the people taking the pitches are actual DECISION MAKERS, not assistants of decisions makers, but people who are actually a step along the way to getting the film made. One of my complaints about G.A. was that I pitched to two assistants. One looked so uncomfortable I felt sorry for him. It seemed like he’d been in the industry for 2 weeks. I had absolutely no confidence in his ability to pitch my story to his higher ups.
This doesn’t mean that assistants aren’t valuable or able to suss out good stories. It really depends upon the assistant. If an executive has had an assistant working with her for 5 years and this person has been involved in development, that’s great. But it’s really hard to tell that from a profile. So just be aware.
If you read the profiles, it SHOULD tell you what the person’s position is. Look for terms like President, Director of Development, Development Executive.
Make sure the festival will give you a PRINTED BOOK of all the company/DM profiles. This year at G.A. they decided to cut corners and give out CD’s with the information and you could pay for a book if you wanted them. I’m sure they meant well, but it was not a good move. Having a printed book with you is VITAL because you can make notes in the margins and can do some quick changing if a line is too long or a company doesn’t show.
The Great American Pitchfest in Los Angeles last month had about 115 companies available to take pitches for one day. Supposedly the Hollywood Pitchfest has 200 over 2 days. The Hollywood Pitchfest is more expensive and they claim to ONLY have DM’s, no assistants. Perhaps next year I’ll try them.
The thing is, you can only pitch so many times whether there are 50, 100, or 200 DM’s. I pitched 12 times in 6.5 hours and there were usually 3 or 4 people ahead of me in line. That means the there was a good ratio or participants to DM’s.
PitchMarket West (happening this November in Vancouver, BC) will have far fewer DM’s, but the same ratio, meaning you’ll never have to stand in line for more than 15-20 mins (unless it’s a HUGELY popular company like Dimension or Miramax Films, which happens). I decided not to stand in long lines, but go for the numbers.
BTW – I am co-producing PitchMarket West, so if you have any questions, let me know.
More pitching DO’s:
RESEARCH the company you are pitching. Sometimes at pitchfests you don’t get all the information regarding a company until the last minute. Even so, do the best you can to look up the company on-line so you can learn something about them (i.e. tone, audience, budget). Then make sure you READ the profile they turned in for the pitchfest. They may have just completed 5 action films but are now looking for comedy.You’ll look pretty dumb if you don’t know this and it’s right there in their profile.
PRACTICE your pitch. I hate doing this. Most writers do. But it helps, it really does. Over the days before we pitched, my friend and I would take turns pitching to each other and asking helpful questions.
The most difficult question I got at G.A. was “So how is this story different than all the others?” (I was pitching a fantasy adventure). It sounds like an easy question to answer, but it’s not. Practice.
And have fun.