Category Archives: tv biz

G.A. Pitchfest Pt. 3 – So What Happens at a PitchFest?

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.

cartoon director

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.

clapper

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.

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Joss Whedon’s Equality Now Speech

Introduction by Meryl Streep. Whedon’s speech begins at two-minutes. Very cool.

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Gone Pitchin’

So much for updates… guess I’m not going to be hired as a live blogger any time soon!  I got so distracted in Banff I never posted anything and now I’m already in L.A. for the Great American Pitchfest. More on that later…

The Banff World Television Festival.

Folks in the industry just say “I’m going to Banff” and colleages know they mean the festival, even though visiting Banff any time of year is a treat.

Banff is a town located in a national park on the southwest border of Alberta, Canada.  It’s so stunning that photos don’t do it justice and it’s impossible to get used to the views.

(bit of trivia: Because the town rests inside the national park, there is no freehold land available. The town pays $550,000 annually to the Government of Canada to lease the land within its municipal boundaries.)

Fairmont_Banff_1rundle-range

The top photo is the Fairmont Hotel where conference attendees schmooze. The bottom is the Rundel Range, just one of the stunning mountain views. (photos from the Banff National Park website)

This year was the 30th anniversary for the Television Festival. It is known as THE place to be if you want to know what’s happening in the industry and/or you want to meet with decision makers to pitch a show. The hotel was crawling with attendees and pitch meetings were taking place everywhere from the lobby to the bars to the cafe.

Banff is not cheap. The “rookie rate” (for newbies) for the festival is $1,000. More if you’re a seasoned pro. Add transportation, accommodation, and food and you’re easily looking at $2,500 – $3,000. Everyone swears it is worth it and it is indeed a good time. I think industry folks love it because it’s such a beautiful spot. The mountain air loosens everyone up.

If you are an attendee you can schedule face-to-face meetings with agents, take creative interactive workshops, learn about the biz via panels and speakers, take master classes, network at parties, lunch (and bowl) with decision makers, etc. Major players in the industry attend Banff each year.

If you don’t have the money for a delegate pass or don’t have a show to pitch, you can do what I did and just go to hang out. I went to support a friend who was piching a TV show. I attended all the parties. Sat in on a pitch session. I was even kidnapped by a Russion TV producer and taken to a private party. I made new friends and connections, some I know will last for years to come.

There’s plenty to do even if you’re not a delegate. Everyone ends up in a local bar at the end of the evening. Women in Film and Television Alberta puts on a party for a $5 donation the first night of the festival. And if you get tired of industry talk you can wander the town or go for a hike.

I highly recommend attending if you’re interested in Television (or Digital Media, because there’s a 3 day component before the TV fest begins). You won’t learn as much in such a short amount of time than at Banff. But if you’re tentative, try what I did and go with a friend who is a delegate so you can suss out the situation and return the next year knowing how the festival works.

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