#2 – Pitching Perils & Producers

Conventional wisdom tells screenwriters that pitching to producers is your bread and butter—TRUE. After all, there are a ton of producers out there looking for scripts to produce. However, screenwriters are also coached to get in and get out, pitch something with a big hook, get that script request and make your way out the door. Don’t you dare linger. You might say something to crush their interest in you and your script. Hmm… that isn’t really true. Okay, maybe for that one screenwriter that delivers every script handwritten, but not you.

I began to sense that producers wanted to hear more from my pitches when I branched out and wasn’t only pitching in a speed dating kind of arena anymore. (Nothing wrong with pitchfests, but most pitching doesn’t have to fit into a five minute timeframe.) In fact, pitchfests taught me some bad habits.

Guess what? Producers want to know more than what they glean from your logline.

You can also take longer with a written email pitch, as well as when pitching face-to-face (outside of pitchfests). It’s like a conversation with a new friend. Take your cues from the producer, as you would meeting anyone for coffee. 

Where conventional wisdom gets it wrong is when it comes to pitching as briefly as possible, and making it sound like that’s the way it is every time you pitch. That whole get in and get out fast, leave them anxiously awaiting your script… should not be your focus when pitching to a producer. Instead, focus on giving them everything they need to make an informed decision. No on wants to pass on an amazing script, but no one has the time to read every script, either. Catch-22!

In comes the screenwriter with the solutionthat’s you! And you have one more way to help and influence a producer into giving your material a longer look; even while they are in the midst of reviewing thousands of submissions. That tool is a note, be it part of a form for submitting a screenplay or an email you send out. Use those opportunities to tell the producer why your script is the right fit for them. 

Are you kind of guessing on the reason? Maybe, but do your research. Make certain it’s an educated guess. Either way, adding something about WHY the producer should look closer at your script can make all the difference. If you are skipping over that opportunity, stop now. If you are doing it, then make certain you are doing it right.

I recently sent out a call for script submissions through InkTip for a coming of age script. (Please don’t send me any now, we’ve moved on from that request.)  I received over 1,000 scripts! (Thank you InkTip and your talented screenwriters!) I had to come up with a process for how to evaluate them all, which I discuss in detail in the extended version of this post, which is available to all our newsletter subscribers. It’s free! CLICK HERE if you haven’t already signed up for our top secret stuff! (End shameless plug.)

Thing is… I come from the school of thought that you pitch your logline. You only add in personal information if it’s relevant, like if you’re an option/produced screenwriter or you’re a fire fighter and your script is about firefighting. 

After reviewing 1,000 scripts, however, I learned that’s wrong. Very, very wrong. In fact, the pitches that stood out—in a good way—where the ones that included a note to me about why the project fit my needs and why the script was special. I’m not saying that I want you to ramble on, but information that helps me decide if I should give your script a little more of my time is very useful. When one screenwriter said their script met my criteria and how, that helped. (It also helps if you’re right, so back up your statement with why and sell the point.) 

Thing is… I’m trying to go through the loglines fast. I’ve got more to do in a day than to just read a 1,000 loglines. I don’t want to miss a good one, so if you help me by pointing out your good logline, I notice. 

Here’s What You Do:

  • Research the producer and know what they produce–getting an idea of what they are optioning and could want.
  • If you are submitting based on an InkTip kind of script request that they send out in their newsletter, repeat the request point that’s like your script and say how/why it fits the request. 
  • Include any rewards your script has earned or experience you have as a screenwriter. (You don’t have to be too specific. You’re just letting them know you’re not a newbie.)

Here’s What You Don’t Do:

  • Don’t repeat what’s in your logline.
  • No rambling.
  • No empty platitudes like “everyone that reads it, loves it.”
  • No 100% guessing about what a producer wants. Do your research!

As I went through the loglines, eyes blurring a bit, I began to wonder why all the writers weren’t using the note section of their submission. I liked the notes so much, they held as much weight as reading the logline. 

Lesson learned for me, and I hope you, too!

Bottomline: A personal note about why your script is right for a producer is a good thing to add to your pitch.

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