Pitching #trianglers

Waiting for a train to Bradford for day two of a ‘pitching’ bootcamp as part of the Triangle script development scheme I thought I’d reflect on what I learned from day one.

To kick us off at 11am there was a panel session on pitching with the mentors of the scheme, Alby James, Caroline Cooper Charles, Hugo Heppell and Alex Usborne chaired by novelist and screenwriter, Philip Palmer. All of whom have had considerable experience pitching and being pitched at. The session started with an introduction to the panel and their experiences of pitching dos and don’ts. Hugo Heppell gave us an amusing insight into 1 minute pitches posted on the web for the American Express and TriBeCa Film festival 1 minute pitch competition where filmmakers can upload their pitch to YouTube. Here’s a great one that encompasses what not to do!

Finally we were treated to Alex Usborne pitching a documentary that he’d pitched at a documentary forum and secured a commission. This brought encapsulated everything the panel had been referring to and brought it to life.

There were five headlines I took away from this enjoyable and insightful session:

1. Context
It’s really important to consider the context in which you are pitching – where, when and with whom, formal or informal. This sets the approach to your pitch and it’s important to tailor your pitch accordingly.

2. Type of Pitch
There’s the verbal pitch and the written pitch, a 1 page outline (download guidelines here). It’s important to have both. For the verbal pitch there might be an opportunity to pitch informally – a screenwriter colleague was sat next to a producer on the way back from Cannes one year and was commissioned to write a script of the story she pitched on the plane. Then there might be a meeting with commissioners/ development execs and finally a pitching forum to a financiers/ commissioners/ distributors.

2. Structuring the pitch
The pitch might last anything from 1 to five minutes. Introduce yourself and the talent and give a sense of the team’s reputation. Give a sense of the commercial viability of the project (who’s the audience for it?) and convey the story – give a sense of the theme, the main character and the dilemma they face and include the genre. Depending on whether you are pitching for development or production finance give a sense of your strategy to moving the project forward and be clear about what you want from the people you are pitching to. Use film references with caution – you don’t want to confuse people by throwing in references that aren’t highly relevant. If you have the director you may want to use visual materials – stills or a mood reel to convey aspects of the film (style, colour palette etc), cast, but try not to get too geeky and technical.

3. Style of pitch
Be passionate. Be concise. Create intrigue to leave people wanting more. Don’t rush it and be true to yourself.

4. Prepare and practice
Do your homework on who you are pitching to – if it’s to broadcasters, research the relevant slots where your project might play. Find out how long the pitch is for and whether there will be a Q&A. Is there a chance to get a pitching slot at a time when the people you really want to pitch to will definitely be there? Make friends with the technician if you are including visual materials and check everything works.
Practise your pitch. Timing is everything – there’s nothing worse than a pitch that overruns. Finally, have a second project you can pitch in the event they are not interested in the first one or be prepared to know what you’re going to say if your project’s not for them.

5. Follow up
The treatment or script needs to back up your pitch. Be straight about who else you are pitching to – it might help gauge interest and work in your favour if people know others are interested. You probably have about a month to follow up – there’s nothing worse than building rapport, getting people interest and there’s nothing to follow up with. Even if the project is not for them, stay in touch and maintain the relationship so you stay on their radar.

We then had 20 mins or so with our Triangle mentor to help identify areas to focus on including story, themes, genre and the commercial viability of the project so that we could be in a position to pitch our project, Departures, to a group of peers and get feedback.

In a week’s time we’ll be pitching to the mentors and Verve Pictures and this panel will decide which teams will move a step closer to getting their movie made by progressing development to prepare to pitch their projects to Film4 and BFI at The Edinburgh Film Festival.

All the resources from these Triangle sessions can be found on Screen Yorkshire’s website.

Philip Palmer blogs about the same event here.

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