July 17, 2008 Jill

written by Mike McPhaden, currently at Just Comedy in Montreal.

Pitching is a funny thing.


It’s obviously an important skill for writers. Whether you’re trying to sell your series idea to a broadcaster, a freelance episode idea to a showrunner, or a kick-awesome solution to that faulty B-plot to your cohorts in the writing room, pitching matters.


But it’s a behavior that lies well outside the cluster of personality quirks that compel otherwise sane men and women to spend unhealthy amounts of time alone, tapping their most precious, precious thoughts into a computer.


Short of some kind of elaborate, Remington Steele-type solution, what’s an introverted writer to do? Moderated by CBC’s always-sunny Jenny Hacker (Executive in Charge of Development, Comedy) the Mastering The Pitch panel is set to address just that.


On the panel:


David Greenbaum, VP Production & Development – Miramax Films

Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber, – Writers — “Pink Panther 2”, “500 Days of Summer”

Michael Rosenberg, Sr. VP of Creative Affairs – Blueprint Entertainment

Adam Steinman, VP Development – Tiger Aspect USA


The take-away:


-know your audience. Ask “Who am I trying to make laugh?” in terms of the viewing audience. Also know who you’re pitching. It sounds like execs get a lot of their time wasted by folks pitching stuff that’s obviously not suited to their network.


-Jenny Hacker asks “Can you distil your idea down to a sentence?” She suggests that until you can, you don’t know your own idea well enough to present a cohesive pitch.


-what really matters most is having a great idea and a unique voice. Figure out how to make your idea “pop” out of the pack by making it uniquely your own.


– over-rehearsed pitches are a big turn off. Yes, be prepared. Yes, know exactly what you’re going to talk about, and in what order, but nobody wants to see a fully scripted dog & pony show.  Pay special attention to setting up the basics of your idea, and then be open to the pitch turning into a conversation. The panel groaned at the memory of overzealous pitchers doing character voices and engaging in hammy prop gags.


-you’re not just pitching your idea, you’re pitching yourself. You need to leave the “catcher” feeling like they could enjoy spending the next year (or more) working very closely with you.


-don’t be a pitching commando. Nobody ever sold their idea by accosting an exec in the bathroom.


-David Greenbaum thinks writing teams, like Scott and Michael, may have a slight advantage when they pitch. They can keep their pitch low key and conversational, yet the interplay between them as they explain their ideas adds an engaging dynamic.


-Just because your show is set on a dessert island doesn’t mean your two-pager needs to be submitted along with a coconut bra and a life preserver. In fact, it smacks of desperation.


-shooting a demo can really backfire, unless you have the money to make it look excellent. A great idea on paper will look like a million bucks in an exec’s imagination.

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