So you got yourself a face to face meeting with a decision maker.
This is epic. Could be a game changer, you think.
This is your “one shot, one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted in one moment” like in the the Eminem song. It's your personal anthem that plays on rotation on Spotify as you sit in the lobby of the office of the producer you most want to meet who could make your script or book into a movie.
Or the sales agent or distributor that finance your project your project.
Or the Top 5 Agent that could put you, yes you, in his or her exclusive client roster, amongst the best of the best.
You finally get in the room. You sit on the coach and you fire off your logline and pitch. You've been rehearsing for days. You know you got this. Yet after your delivery, crickets.
Or a request to see your script, said in a lacklustre tone.
Or maybe a rushed hand shake, thanking you for coming and you'll be hearing from them soon. (Which you know is a lie, as after that you get no follow up email. And if you do, it just says, “sorry, this is not for us. Best of luck to you.” Generic pass.
What just happened here?
Did you listen to your gut while you were in there? Because if you had, you would really know what went wrong. Or right. If things went right, you would feel elated, knowing you just made an ally in the industry. This is what you want...to find the point where two magic skills come in that, when studied and practiced, can help you make a lasting impression in the room.
You don’t need a psychology degree to hone these skills, just good observation and the power of being present. There are books you can read, but I'm here to give you some pointers to help you recognize how to read the body language of others, and how it can help you with face-to-face interactions with a decision maker.
The executive starts yawning. Then he justifies it with lack of sleep, working long hours, stressful day, not properly caffeinated. The truth is, you are boring! I can assure you, a yawn in easy to suppress if they are intoxicated by your charming personality.
The executive moves his body around, crossing and uncrossing legs, playing with a pen, a stress ball, or maybe his or her arms are just locked in a tight self- embrace. What this means is he or she can’t wait for this to be over. They are wondering when are you going to shut up, or how many more meetings have to go by before they show you the door.
The executive won’t look at you. Or he just stares at you as if you were a ghost. What crosses the executive’s mind is how he's going to fake interest once the meeting is over. Or he's just thinking about lunch, drinks, dinner, or the next person they are going to see after you.
The executive is writing emails while you speak. He is texting, playing with his or her phone, or swiping right on Tinder. Of course, their excuse is they are on a deadline, or there is a crisis happening. What they really mean is they can’t wait for you to get out of there so they can do something other than listen to you.
The executive asks no questions. He or she is not curious about what happens next. They don’t ask you what you are working on beyond this pitch, or anything about you or what drives you. Your Bbzz words do not have him or her buzzing.
Don’t be depressed, because here comes the good stuff. You can use body language too, and buzz words so you shine in the room. I'm going to outline the basic ones you need to feel like a million bucks.
If you need imagine your executive naked to get over stage fright, go ahead, because you are going to need to look in their eyes. A lot. Pretend for a minute that you're a rockstar and you are sitting in front of your fans. You are so grateful they are there to hear your out and you want them to know you see them. Make your pitch (your song) especially for them.
Look around the room. Do you see pictures of spouses, dogs, kids, Oscars, or their favourite sports team? This is the perfect opportunity to make a comment. Find some common ground. For example, “ I see you are a Rams fan. Can you believe they made it to the Super Bowl?” This establishes a connection that makes the interaction more personable. You acknowledge they are human beings, like you.
In the midst of your pitch, ask them a question relating to your plot twist, your character arc, or your genre to make sure they were listening. Ask them if they have any questions for you. If they do not remember what you said a minute ago, chances are you need to refocus their attention on you. Hence, throw yourself a lifeline with the next tip…
Ask them, flat out, what movie they wish they could have made but didn't. Or what TV show do they really want to binge watch? Everyone has a dream project. Focus on the buzzword "dream" and see their eyes sparkle. Now you know if your pitch is even in their emotional sphere and if not, time to jump overboard and improvise with another idea or script that you're working on.
As you pitch, personalize your story by giving a few key words about why you're the one to write, produce, or direct this story. Use the words 'love,' 'like,' and 'admire' frequently. Te;ll them why you're passionate about the story. Do not tell them what they should think about your pitch. Let them decide if it is the next Oscar winner or hit show. Don’t be afraid to give some information about your past or your personal interest beyond the pitch, too. Keep it short. Keep it sweet.
Tell them on a personal level why you are there. It's not because they are going to finance your film or buy your script. Don't tell them that they were one of the thousand calls or emails you did, either. Make them feel special. Tell them instead how much you enjoyed going to see the films they made. Congratulate them on an Oscar win or box office outcome. Or, if you know anything about the executive’s background, their struggles, any special skills, or a quote they gave in an interview that stayed with you, let them know that.
I, for one, am always open and receptive to having a real connection with those who approach me. And I practice all of the above when I need someone's help or my clients go the extra mile. Rarely has this system failed me.
Finally, don't be attached to any specific outcome. Even if they don’t ask to read your script or see your movie, chances are, if you practice the above, they will feel good about having given you their time. Your gut will also thank you. You will feel confident and motivated, and ready to receive the YES you've been waiting for so long to hear.
Alexia Melocchi is a partner in LITTLE STUDIO FILMS and has had a successful career in the international marketplace, as both a sales agent and buyer’s rep for eleven territories, giving her diverse exposure to all types of films and functions in the entertainment industry. As producer and development and distribution consultant, she works on packaging films, securing co productions, casting and arranging for the US and International Distribution of several projects of her clients using her expertise in international sales, international acquisitions, high-level relationships in Hollywood and a global film marketing approach.
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