We can talk about pitching all day. I’m sure I’ll circle back to it eventually. If anyone has questions, feel free to email me. But let’s talk about Pitchfests. Over the past 15 years they have become a major way for screenwriters to get access to the industry.
When I stared out, I went to 7 pitchfests over several years. They are usually a weekend event taking place in a hotel ballroom. You get between 5 and 7 minutes to pitch your little heart out to a producer, agent or manager. It’s basically speed dating for writers.
It can be a very stressful experience. Organizers have a tendency to treat writers like school children who need to hold hands before heading to the cafeteria. They repeatedly shout warnings about what not to do. And I can’t tell you how fun it is to be four minutes into your pitch and someone shouts “ONE MINUTE” across the room. It totally throws you off your game. The only vindication is that person usually loses their voice by the end of the day. And don’t be surprised if that company that you were hoping to pitch backs out at the last minute.
Most of the time you will be pitching to one exec per time slot. But there is an event where companies are grouped together by genre. So you could be pitching to three or four at one time. This may sound great, right? More bang for your buck. Not so fast. All it takes is one bad apple. This one time I felt that I was really getting them excited. Well, at least three of them. The fourth started interrupting me to tell me how to pitch. Soon, he had convinced the other three execs that something was wrong with my idea. Asshole!
A lot of these events will also have seminars with a panel of execs who will be hearing pitches the next day. And many have cocktail mixers at the end of the weekend. I usually skipped these events to catch my flight. I regret that now because some execs stick around to talk. Trust me, pitching over drinks is a much more relaxing setting.
For me, pitchfests were never fun. I was paying a lot of money and it felt like I was begging them to read my script. But I think every writer should attend at least one. Of course, it’s a big expense when you don’t live in LA. Now there are virtual events where you can pitch from your bedroom in your pajamas and save the hotel and airfare.
I would say don’t pick an event where you can’t have a list of attending companies in advance. And do your homework on the companies. Pick the ones that make the movies that you write. If it’s a talent agency, know who they represent. If it’s a manager, know if they are looking for a good writer or just a good movie to produce. We’ll talk more about managers another time.
So are pitchfests worth the money? Remember that event with the asshole? I pitched to 40 companies that day and got 8 requests for reads, which for me, was a low batting average. But I also landed my first assignment. All it takes is one door to open.
Next time I’ll talk more about Skype pitches and query services…