The summer is one of the most active networking times in Los Angeles. In addition to the LA Film Festival, there are several pitch festivals- which are kind of like the Superbowl for writers. It’s a chance for writers to get in front of production companies and agencies to pitch their scripts. If a pitch goes well it can lead to script requests, meetings, and hopefully, the sale of a script. That being said, with a lot riding on each pitch, these sort of festivals are not for the faint of heart. In the coming weeks, one of the biggest of these festivals, the Hollywood Pitch Festival, will be upon us. I decided to sit down with writer Lisa Resigner who recently attended The Great American PitchFest, and asked her to share her advice and tidbits.
With over 120 different production companies and agencies at The Great American PitchFest, it must have been overwhelming to know which one was the best to wait in line for- What was your strategy on choosing which companies to target?
Do your research in advance so you are prepared to make informed decisions at the event. First, identify which companies are looking for pitches in your genre and budget. I was pitching a high concept thriller, which required a minimum budget of $10 million dollars, so that narrowed things down considerably. I made an A list and a B list of both production companies and management companies I was interested in. I also looked at each company’s IMDB ranking and added it to the margin of my list. This helped me quickly evaluate which companies I was willing to wait for, based on the length of the lines.
I know you put a great deal of work and effort into being prepared with your pitch and one sheet. Is there anything that you forgot to do or didn’t bring and will do for next time?
LOL, I would bring a highlighter! I had to borrow one from a friend. The event provided Post-It notes, but I should have brought my own, just in case. Other than that, I was pretty well prepared. I had a strategy for my pitch going in, a stack of one sheets to leave behind, and binder and folder to stay organized. When needed, I used my iPhone to do last minute research online. I recommend purchasing a printed copy of the Executive Directory to use at the event. Be sure to jot down a few notes after each pitch, including the interest level, so you know how to do your follow ups.
Other than bringing a highlighter and post its, if you could go back and change one thing for that day, what would it be?
Without a doubt, I would have kept my folder with my one sheets in my purse and not made it visible on the table. Although I fared well, I think the number of script requests would have been even higher if I had not had my one sheet so readily available. You need to capitalize on their interest in the moment, because that’s when it will be at its highest. I don’t regret bringing the one sheets. They provide more information to remember you and your script than a business card would. However, the next time I pitch, I will give the executives a chance to request my script first, before I take out the folder with my one sheets.
What other changes will you make to your strategy for the upcoming pitch fest in August?
Because the Hollywood Pitch Festival allows you to make appointments with the companies you want to pitch to, you can tailor your pitch specifically to them. I will be doing more extensive research on each company’s credits and brand, as well as the individuals taking the pitches, with the goal of making a more personal connection and building a rapport. At the end of the day, this is a relationship business, and anything you can do that increases your chances of making a positive first impression matters.
How important is networking at these events outside of the pitching room?
If you can afford to, I always recommend paying the fees for additional access at any industry event to maximize your networking opportunities. At The Great American PitchFest, you were able to purchase tickets to an Executive Luncheon and an Agent and Manager Luncheon. I attended both and thought they were worth it. Just be yourself and don’t have an agenda. I did not “pitch” at either luncheon, but rather used them as an opportunity to get to know the individuals more personally, and them, me. After the luncheon, during the pitching venue, I did pitch to a manager that I had lunch with, and he did request my script.
What was the hardest aspect about PitchFest?
For me personally, I would have preferred set appointments with the executives. I think the uncertainty of not knowing exactly which companies you are pitching to, and the rushing around, added an extra element of stress to an already stressful activity. I have a lot of public speaking experience and was well prepared with my pitch and materials, but I was still a bit anxious every time they rang the bell and I had to navigate a hundred plus people to get to the executive’s table as quickly as possible. Some people did not get up right away when their time was done, and it ate into yours. Several times, the volunteers had to step in and ask people to leave. They did a great job, but the inherent structure of the event, makes for an intense atmosphere.
What was the best lesson learned?
I learned how to perfect my pitch with regard to its focus and timing. Production companies are interested in buying the script, and managers are interested in selling you as a writer. That being said, I would have prepared two distinct pitches from the get go, rather than modifying one pitch on the fly. I also didn’t factor in the amount of time it would take to get to the table and how long it would take for the person ahead of me to get out of the chair. I would have shaved a minute off of my pitch time, so I wasn’t as rushed with the executives toward the end my pitch. Getting the script request is the ultimate goal, and the amount of detail required to do that is actually less than you might think.
What advice would you give to someone attending their first pitchfest?
Focus on the hook of your pitch, not the details. What made you decide to write the script in the first place? That epiphany you had when you got the idea is, most likely, what will interest someone else. For me, the hook was what everyone responded so positively to. Focus on selling your hook and what you bring to the table as a writer. Be prepared, be professional, and most importantly, be yourself. Try not to be nervous. This is a business decision, not a reflection on you as a person, or even your potential as a writer. While their requesting your script could make you, their not requesting it shouldn’t break you. If it feels like it will, you may want to rethink this business, as it requires a limitless supply of both courage and conviction.
Lisa Rysinger is an author, speaker, and creative entrepreneur. She specializes in high concept thrillers. For more information, visit her website.
“The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.”
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(photos courtesy of Lisa Rysigner and sv.tie.org)