Pitching Your Script: Sell the Sizzle not the Steak
By Elliot Grove
Tips For Pitching
1. Reading notes: The sure-fire way to bomb in a pitch meeting. Don’t read, ever. You cannot look passionate if you are reading from notes. Refer to a few notes made on an index card if you are worried about freezing in your pitch. But I know you won’t freeze, because you know your story inside out, backwards and forwards and are passionate about your story.
2. Be brief: Time is money. And you won’t have much time if you ramble on and on. Get straight to the point. Don’t waste time. Remember that lengthy introductions are either sophisticated excuses or the sign of a frustrated amateur lacking confidence.
3. Be entertaining : Nik Powell is one of the world’s most successful practitioners of the art of the pitch. Having produced the Monty Python films, Mona Lisa and The Crying Game, Nik has had a hand in the launch of many new writers and directors in the British film scene. I asked him how many times he had pitched Back Beat – the story of the fifth Beatle – before he got the money. He said about four thousand times. I asked him if he could give me a sample pitch. He said he couldn’t because it was different every time. He tailored each pitch in order to entertain the person he was pitching to. Like being the best joke at the pub.
4. Sell the sizzle not the steak: Your pitch should describe the elements of the story with salesmanship in mind. When you call up a travel agent for details of a tropical holiday – what do they send you? The plumbing, wiring and electrical diagrams of the hotel they want you to stay in (the steak) – or the glossy photo of the hotel with the artist’s impression of the pool – yet to be built (the sizzle)? The common error many writers make is that they pitch their story as ‘this happens, then this happens, and then that happens’ – a guaranteed snore.
So what does pitching all drill down to?
- Passion is everything when you are pitching
- Be persuasive
- Be clear and concise
Excerpted from Raindance Writers’ Lab: Write + Sell the Hot Screenplay Second Edition by Elliot Grove, © 2009. Published by Taylor & Francis. All rights reserved.