Just when you feel like parking your pitching for the moment, along comes a breakthrough to give you new hope – this is my takeaway sentiment this Christmas just gone, and I would like to share with you all what I am talking about, as hopefully it will encourage you to keep pressing forward and to keep striving for your goals/dreams in 2018.
I was reluctant to write this article, as I felt it was a little premature, but encouragement from Rosalind Winton, the wonderful official editor of Stage 32, meant I had to at least consider sharing my joy. You see, I have been pitching my script Project Code X - The Alpha Plan to producers on Stage 32 for several weeks now, without much success. To be honest, I didn’t really understand what a pitch entailed. When I joined Stage 32 at the end of August last year, I had two draft scripts written and, without much preparation, I jumped straight into the pitching process. I was just so blown away by the opportunity to talk to producers directly and knew that feedback from them would be the most valuable input of all.
Between September and December, I did a couple of live pitches and a few written pitches via the Happy Writers Pitching service, but it took me a while to perfect my pitch and to pare it back to the true essence of what my script’s story was all about. For my logline, I enlisted the dynamic support of the Stage 32 writing community, who very generously offered their help in perfecting my logline and even got it concisely down to the recommended 35 words! (High fives to you all, you know who you are!) I also got feedback on the first 10 pages from Agustine Calderon, who advised me I needed to include a more dramatic opening shot to hook the audience right away, so I went away and worked on that too and incorporated it into the script (For that, I studied some really striking opening scenes and found great inspiration from ‘There Will Be Blood’ for my own opening).
Of course, it wasn’t all a positive learning curve and my first live pitch went terribly. I mistakenly thought that pitching over Skype would be like a Skype interview, which I had previously done for a job interview in Paris. However, it was far from it (Read: Always, always, always prepare in advance!). There was no interview style ‘Q and A’ back and forth as I had imagined, so I was completely thrown asunder by that. I had also read too many ‘Dos and Don’ts’ the day before from too many diverse sources about what a pitch should be like. You know how the saying goes, ‘too many chefs spoil the broth’... This meant that by the time I went to pitch my story, my brain just fogged up and I couldn’t even remember it anymore. Thankfully, I don’t embarrass easily, but I knew I was waffling about some distant story that really had no bearing on my own.
After that initial epic disaster, I turned to Nick Assunto, who often coordinates the Skype pitches, for advice and asked him for the three main things I needed to put into my pitch. He gave me his three essentials and I went away and worked on those instead. For me, I love clarity and brevity, so his pointers were the perfect tool. Nick said the three basic elements were Characters, Story and Tone, with Characters being the one that trumped all. I drilled that into my brain and began working on my pitch based on that.
A few days later, I pitched my script again to a producer, and the scorecard that came back was a five for pitch delivery, five for clarity of pitch, five for set up of protagonist and world, five for obstacles and conflict, five for clarity of tone, five for originality of concept and five for strength of voice, with a REQUEST to read my script. I was thrilled! The comment at the end also said that my pitch was a clear, interesting concept and that the story was well fleshed out. It also said that I presented good details on my background, something I heard RB Botto stress as very important in an interview before. He said always fill out your bio as fully as possible so that when someone is interested in your work and wants to know more about you, all the information is readily available.
So I was asked my advice on pitching based on my recent scorecard, and my advice is simple - LISTEN to what people in the know are saying, and DO THAT. There really is no magic formula and the notion that some people are just more lucky than others is complete and utter rubbish. The formula is straightforward: listen to feedback, keep adjusting yourself and your work in light of it, and if you keep doing that long enough, you will eventually find success. Stage 32 provides all the resources, information and contacts you need to be successful, and the support from their team is second to none. They provide a fantastic service in personally connecting unknown writers with people in the industry, and you really get the sense that they truly enjoy seeing both sides of the equation to find success.
To be honest, I can’t thank Stage 32 enough. Last year was a light bulb moment for me, when I realised that screenwriting is what I loved doing more than any other job in the world and that it is something I can really see myself doing for the rest of my life. When I think back to the play I co-wrote with my friend back in primary school when I was 11 years old (it was a Sleeping Beauty/Snow White mash-up, which our class ended up performing for the rest of the school!), I know that the desire to do this was always there and it never really went away.
Finding Stage 32 last August was definitely one of the best discoveries for my ambitions of becoming a professional screenwriter, and I am very grateful to RB and team for creating the platform. Seriously, where else can you actually talk directly to producers, hear what they have to say and have them impart their advice and knowledge into your life? For me, this has been so priceless and has automatically forced me to up my game! Since joining the community, I have found a very hands-on editor in Rosalind Winton who is editing my scripts, pitched my projects, incorporated the feedback, met loads of interesting people and started a new creative venture... all done through Stage 32.
So what is my final takeaway? Use the site often, listen to the feedback, keep perfecting your projects, and keep putting your work out there. Success is an endurance game, nothing more.
About S. J. Robinson
S. J. Robinson is a freelance writer and the Irish author of the Project Code-X trilogy of high-concept thrillers. The first book in the series will be coming out in May of this year. She is also the privileged mom of two beautiful kids who she would like to see inherit a bright future and better world, and she tries to infuse this passion into everything she writes. She is currently working on a beautiful quarterly magazine for creatives to find inspiration with editor Rosalind Winton, and you can sign up for your free copy right here at www.fringemagazine.net . To find out more about her creative adventures, feel free to stop by her profile on Stage 32 where you will receive nothing less than a warm Irish welcome!
As for the script, The Alpha Plan is a mystery, sci-fi thriller, adapted from her book trilogy PROJECT CODE-X. It tells the intriguing story of a young woman called Rebeka Taft, a maverick neuroscientist, who has been recruited to the mysterious Project Code-X. When Rebeka learns the government project she’s working on hides a dark purpose, she tries to quit; only to have her charming but super-villain boss threaten to endanger her family if she leaves. A limited number of advance reader copies of the book are available at the moment and she would be delighted to share it with any of the members of Stage 32 who may be interested in reading it.
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