Success Stories: MAY'5 13 Things I've learned from pitching to Happy Writers

Robin Schmidt

13 Things I've learned from pitching to Happy Writers

I've just had a crazy week pitching to 11 execs on Happy Writers and learned so much in the process I thought it might be useful to share with others who might be thinking about doing the same. Why 11? Dishonest answer - I'm based in the UK and with the cost of getting to LA, finding somewhere to stay etc. I figured the money would be better spent on pitches. Do it all in one go. If I messed up a pitch I could always refine and go again soon. Honest answer - It turns out I'm an addict. I love it. I couldn't stop myself booking more and more. Eventually capping it at 11. Which sounds nuts, but so much of your life in this business is trying to get through the door. With Happy Writers, you're in the room. And that's just too seductive. So, here's what I learned in the course of the pitching process: 1) 8mins is both a lot of time and no time at all First pitch I did I got the dreaded hand and had to garble the finish. 8mins seems like plenty of time but no matter what you think the pitch can always be more succinct and by the end of the process I was wrapping up around 5mins on the dot every time. It might not seem like much time initially but after a while you realise it's actually really quite a lot of time. Execs want it delivered fast and would much rather have the time to ask questions and quiz you on you project. 2) Use a timer After the first couple of pitches I started using a stopwatch so I knew exactly where I was timewise. After that I could always tell when I needed to wrap up. It sounds brutal and it is. But actually it's a game and if you play it well they will remember you. 3) Why questions matter When you're pitching, it's just you talking. And you're probably saying the same thing you've said a number of times before so it won't be as fresh. When execs throw questions at you then it's your chance to come alive. And that's where you'll find your most passionate pitching actually happens. You've got to have that question time. 4) You have to be passionate about the material Being in the UK all my pitches happened in the very early hours of the morning. Unsurprisingly the 2am ones went the least well. I was just tired and didn't really bring it. The ones that went really well I was just so much better engaged with the material and I noticed the difference instantly. 5) Tell a story I know this is a cheap trick but it really works. I've been pitching a TV show based on an experience that happened to me. So I told the story of how it happened. Kept it short but instantly, relating it back to me made it come alive for the execs. I made up most of it but that doesn't matter because you're telling a story and that's the job. Time and time again they kept coming back to that 'real-life' experience, wanting to know more, wanting to know what really happened. I'm sure that makes you memorable. 6) You can't please everyone You can generally get a pretty good idea of when it's gone well. But sometimes you're just wrong. A couple of pitches I thought I'd messed up ended up in requests and a couple of others were a surprise pass and this was another reason for doing a big stack of them: I figured it would all even out in the end.... hopefully. 7) Skype is weird... Skype doesn't always work. It drops out sometimes. That's incredibly frustrating as you lose your flow and it disrupts their experience. Tough. It's also really strange when people are a long way from the camera and you can't see their faces properly. I had one exec writing the notes from his previous pitch and not even looking at me while I was pitching which was really weird. It's just weird. But you just have to take that on the chin. 8) Know your material intimately This is really important. Execs really respond well when you're not reading off a page. I memorised a ton of facts to help sell the world I was pitching but I also made sure I really knew my material. This also helps keep it fresh each time you pitch. 9) Keep working on the pitch, keep refreshing it I kept changing my pitch, flipping the order of things and reacting to what had gone well previously so I was accumulating hit points that I knew landed each time. You learn so much about your material by pitching it that you might not have even realised before and it's all valid and should be integrated. 10) Doing just one sucks. Do two at a time if you can. Most days I was doing two pitches in an evening. It's such a focussed shot of adrenaline pitching in 8mins that if I ballsed it up I really got annoyed if I didn't have another opportunity to pitch that same evening. It costs money of course but just knowing I could go again meant any failures were only briefly experienced. 11) Logline. Logline. Logline. I never got mine right. But I realised about halfway through that the logline is actually the most important piece of the opening of your pitch. The temptation is to try and put the whole story in there but that's wrong. It's tossing the ball up and following through with the bat comes next. Hook them with the logline and you've got them in your hand for the next 90 secs. By the end I'd chopped half the logline off and just trusted that the hook was strong enough. 12) It's worth it The amount I've learned from pitching to these guys has been immense. Not just about the quality of the material but about the importance of selling it to people. It's a show and even if your work isn't ultimately that great you can entice people to read if you pitch it well and that initial impression goes a long way. 13) English Accent Put on an english accent! (Just kidding!) So... did any of the above help me get my script requested? I pitched to 11, 9 requested it. Completely blown away by the response. We've already met with a producer we pitched to and even if no-one else comes back to us, that's already a win. It might not be for everyone but I highly recommend dipping a toe in and just getting exposure to the reality of this crazy business. If you can survive and even thrive in the pitch sessions then it gives you huge confidence that you can get in the room and get people to read your work. Whatever happens after that... well we'll see.... Happy Pitching! Robin

David Chester

Robin, THANK YOU for posting this. I find pitching to be extremely difficult and any tips are very, very welcome. I'm in Tokyo, also at a disadvantage time-wise, but more importantly, I just find it very challenging to pitch as opposed to write. You've give me a bit of courage. Thank you.

Rosalind Winton

Wow, I'm not a screenwriter, I'm a literary editor, but this was so interesting to read and it's true that we learn from our experiences and keep improving and working out what works and what doesn't. It's a lot to do with confidence as well, because if you don't show belief and confidence in your own work, no one else is going to.. your post is inspirational.

Lee Bailes

Thanks for sharing your experiences. :) I've not yet crossed the line to pitch, and this really helps me picture the process and see it as being more possible. I really appreciate it. :)

Phil Parker

Nice post mate. Well done and good luck!

CaSandra Mathis

Great post, Robin. Pitching is something I've yet to do, but have got to learn. I've pitched written, but not face-to-face. Don't think the written pitch was too goo either though. LOL Hope to find help down the way. Good luck with your connects. I pray you the best, man.

Pete Stone

Thanks for sharing this fun and informative read! And wow, If you're batting 9 out of 11 then sounds like you're on to something great! Good thing it is addictive for you, looks like its working out. Congrats as you keep following your Bliss!

Mike Romoth

Thanks for this fantastic post. There is a great, supportive community on S32 and it's made up of people like you who care about finding work, but who also have a sense that we are all in this together. Good luck with your pitches.

Henk Brugge

Thanks Robin, very enlightening! Thinking about translating my (Dutch) WW2 story/script in English and pitch ...

Boomer Murrhee

Thanks for sharing your journey Robin. I'm about to finish up 2 projects. Your experience is inspiring.

Bradford Richardson

Great observations and advice, Robin! Thanks.

Shawn Speake

Great post! I know a lot of creatives will benefit from your insight. Thanks Robin!

Elisabeth Meier

jajajaja. That's cool. I would have done 13 - just for the number that brings luck. Great post. I think most important are 4) and 5). And if you have 9 requests out of 11 pitches that is for a beginner a fantastic result and deserves all respect. Congrats! What you learned from all pitches is worth gold and I think in your next pitching round you will be more relaxed and get an aplomb which leads to that people suddenly listen to you. Thank you really very much for sharing, Robin!

Elisabeth Meier

What I still don't get is how it works here to get pitching appointments.

Linda Kennedy

Great insight and information . I wish you luck . Want to get back into writing .Have one treatment want to get to a pitch Your inspiring

Elisabeth Meier

@Joey Thank you!

Emma J Steele

Love this, great advice! Congratultions, Robin and agree with everything there except No 13 - would have to be an Australian accent for me! ;) Good luck with the reads.

David Levy

Great list Robin! I can attest that a lot of what you noted can work for a lot of people.

Shawn Speake

A must-read post if you're pitching!

Pete Stone

I like your number 13, unfortunately I'm from South Carolina and I wonder how my Southern accent affects pitches as the associated interprtations of the souuthern draw, academically and aesthetically speaking, often aren't as flattering as when one hears a British tongue!

Jessica Rose

Robin, thank you so much for this! I am like Pete and have a southern accent and I'm thinking they may be turned off by it, therefore, I pitch written format and not Skype. I pitched on Skype once when I was really green, per say, and I'm sure he thought I was nuts. The picture went out, but we had sound, so I was talking fast and southern! ha This is a great article and well worth the read! Thank you for taking the time to write it! Hey, maybe I'll try a Skype pitch after I practice up some. Heck, I may even given them a really strong southern draw just for the thrill of it...........Have a great weekend! Jessica

Robin Schmidt

Thanks for all the kind comments, I definitely don't consider myself any kind of expert and in any case I might be far better at pitching than I am at writing and it's really the writing that's the most important bit. But getting people to really want to read that's so important and just loving the opportunities of Happy Writers. Very cool.

Melonie Zarko

Thanks for the heads up! I'm a long way from pitching my first screenplay, but this was a very informative article. Again thank you!

Amelia Fergusson

Hi Robin. This is my first day on this site and this was the very first post I read. Thank you for sharing. I will definitely be utilising your tips.

Francesca Varisco

Robin, thanks a lot for sharing! loved your advice, especially the hint on using a timer (I do it too!) :D

Shawn Speake

Take 2 - love this post! Let's take it to the top again!

Robin Schmidt

Y'all making me blush!

Shawn Speake

Time out for a tip: reading script pages with a timer is a great exercise as well. If it takes more than a minute to read a page aloud, it's overwritten… Now back to Robin's excellent post!

Pete Stone

Shawn, thanks for timer tip for revising script!

Elisabeth Meier

Shawn, that tip is worth gold. Thanks!

Leona McDermott

Thanks for sharing your experience and good luck with your requests.

Sarah Gabrielle Baron

Wow. I'm so scared! I think I can I think I can I think I can......

Robin Schmidt

Of course you can! Anyone can... doing it well is the difficult part but it's a game, and there are ways to win it for sure. Definitely worth dipping a toe...

Robin Schmidt

Ah man... feel like I've been humble bragging now... we had a fun concept that was interesting to pitch. Those reads could well end up with nothing but it's something anyway... Thanks!

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