It’s Not About Selling: Pitching Like a Human Being

Last week I went to a pitch party.  I hate pitching. Pitching runs counter to every part of my being– I’m from a former British colony where you don’t “blow your own horn”– but I made the exception and trekked to this pitch event since it was organized by an old teacher I hadn’t seen in forever and  I hoped to run into a few old writing class colleagues. It also didn’t hurt that the event was in a cool-looking bar on the Lower East Side.

What pitching feels like to me.

What pitching feels like to me.

Linking up with the class colleagues part was a bust. The one who wrote these great zombie movies moved to San Francisco, another one who was writing this hilarious and ingenious period comedy wasn’t there, presumably giving the shill-a-thon a miss, and and I saw only a few vaguely remembered faces. Still it was a fun night out, a sort of cocktail party pitch session, very different from the last sweaty-palmed thing I attended where three writers were set loose dry-mouthed in a room with five minutes to spend at each weary executive’s chair-desk.

The executives last week might have been just as weary but at least they had the benefit of alcohol to get them through the night. And the event underlined the importance of reaching not for the “bag of gold spec sale” but a genuine relationship with a human being that could be built on going forward. You’re talking to a person, Teach said…take a moment and acknowledge that.

And Teach laid out one other pearl that will help me rethink how I look at pitching. Many writers feel self-conscious being their own hype machines, rattling off achievements and pithy zingers of the “It’s Aliens meets Wedding Crashers” variety we hope will make the production company or executive or agent see dollar signs but if there’s one thing about writers,  we love to help. We’re comfortable helping. What if instead of looking at pitching as selling, we looked at it as helping?

What pitching could be (with the exec as cuddly teddy bear)

What pitching could be (with the exec as cuddly teddy bear)

Go on. Try it. Look at the whole pitch game from the point of view of the executive…Do you have something that can help them fill a gap in their slate? Do you have a skillset that might be helpful to them on a project they already have? If you don’t write the genre or the type of script they’re looking for, don’t try to change their mind or foist your project on them regardless, help them out by leading them to a fellow writer who does.

And the final way to help? Write a good script. Readers and execs are always complaining about how many bad scripts there are out there. (One producer I met estimated in the last six months he’d read 80 bad scripts.) The people who need content to do their jobs are hungry to read something good. That’s where we come in because it begins with us. It starts on on the page.

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