Matt is a young, aspiring filmmaker. Actually, he’s more than aspiring – he made a film that did very well in a national competition. Because of that film’s success, Matt was invited to pitch his next project to some legit producers in one of the “pitch fests” routinely held in L.A. He reached out to me on Facebook for some advice. Here’s a pretty close version of what I shared with him:
The best advice I can give you is advice you’ll be tempted to ignore once you’re in the room. I’ve sat on the producer’s side of the table and listened to pitches all day at a few of those events. Those rooms are hardwired with competition. Once the adrenaline kicks in, it’s easy to start overdoing it. That’s why it’s important to be smart and stay focused on your goal.
Selling your movie in those five minutes is not the goal. The odds are astronomically against it. So don’t measure the experience by whether or not they buy it the room. The measure of your success on that day will be how much you learn, who you meet, and if any doors are opened to you. Your goal should be to make an impression – a favorable one. Your goal is to make a connection – a meaningful one. I’m not telling you to be passive. I am telling you not to be desperate.
Don’t be theatrical unless you’re naturally theatrical. Don’t be ultra cool unless you are ultra cool. Be confident, not cocky — unless you’re naturally cocky and people tell you it works for you. Oscar Wilde said it best: “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
Get your pitch down but don’t be a slave to it. Sometimes a producer will interrupt you in the middle of a pitch just to see how you respond. So know what the movie is about and why it needs to be made more than just knowing all the words you’ve memorized to pitch it. And it would really help if you know why the person you’re pitching to should make your movie. Connect it to something she’s done before and had success with. This only works if you’ve done your homework – which is the easiest but most underused best practice in pitching. With all the instant information that’s available today, there’s no excuse for not knowing who you’re pitching to, what they’ve done and what they’re up to.
The bottom line is it’s unlikely your career will be made or broken by this meeting. But your career could be off to a good start if you make enough of an impression that a relationship is started.
Good luck! Let me know how it goes.
Pitching is a big part of what I do. I’ve pitched projects to executives on studio lots, to actor/producers on set in their trailers, to A-list producers in chichi restaurants, and directors at their favorite watering holes. What I’ve shared in this post are basic principles for pitching. There’s a lot more that could be said — and I plan to write on this subject again. Thanks for joining me here at the corner of Art & Commerce — I hope these posts are helpful to you.