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07/31/2001 - AN AUDIENCE OF ONE


My Fellow Writers,

Many writers - from rookie to veteran - despise pitching. It's no surprise of course, as everyone knows the statistic that more people are afraid of public speaking than of death itself. And being an especially introverted group, writers are probably as bad as anyone.

The plain truth is, you're going to have to learn to pitch, and pitch well, if you want to see your projects get made. If you can't communicate those projects, in some verbal form, to someone, then you'll face a nearly impossible journey. Certainly, a great script will often make its way through the maze, but you have to first get someone to agree to read it.

I think it's time for a few basic reminders about pitching. First, you don't have to dance on tables and act out every character in a pitch. If you can do that, great. If not, just be yourself. Play off of your strengths. I'm actually better with laying out clear, short stories, and letting the emotion come through my enthusiasm. Others writers are logic oriented. Some are great with describing characters. Some can give detailed and riveting twenty-minute pitches. That's not my strength, so I stay away from doing that. I'd rather do a five-minute pitch, then answer questions afterwards.

Second, whoever you're pitching to actually wants to love your project. In fact, they want it to be the best thing they've ever heard about. Why? Because they want to buy it, make it, and be promoted. Sure, lots of executives also want to make it because they want to make a quality project, or have always loved the area of the story, etc. - but the effect is the same . . . they want to love it. This should take some pressure off because you're almost always facing a friendly crowd in that regard.

Third, practice until you can't stand it anymore. Practice so much that you pass beyond the barrier of sounding rehearsed and you get back around into the area of feeling natural. On a related note, I suggest that you don't take any notes with you, because you'll depend on them too much and you'll lose the connection with your audience. If you care about the story, you should be able to play it in your head and explain it to others.

Think of pitching the story as basically explaining the movie (series, episode, etc.) to an audience of one. It's just as important a part of Hollywood storytelling as writing the script. I know that seems odd, but think about it - if you can't make them see the movie, then how are they going to make their bosses see it - and how are they going to get cast, directors, and others to even read the script? I suggest that all writers take Improv classes in order to get comfortable in front of an audience. Improv makes pitching so much easier.

Think about pitching as if you're telling the story to your best friend - you're excited and enthusiastic, and you're your best self. Practice, of course. But don't get complicated. Be yourself. And know that you'll get better with each pitch.

But first, go write a story worth pitching.

Born to pitch,



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