11 observations about pitching feature projects under pressure

Time-for-the-presentation Recently I had the pleasure of being a ‘judge’ in a pitching session for a film school and I watched the pitches, I saw some trends… here is a list of those observations.

1. Very few pitchers could ‘read’ the panel being pitched to, they could not pick up on when we were confused, bored or disengaged. This seemed to be because they got wrapped up in the detail of their projects. It’s vital to keep an eye on the people to whom you are pitching. It’s a two way conversation, not a one way performance.

2. Keep it short. Almost every pitch was too long, often meandering into needless detail for a pitch – essential to know for the film makers, but not appropriate in a first pitch meeting, unless the discussion required it (discussion, not one way performance).

3. Make ‘em laugh. Being pitched ‘at’ can be exhausting and nothing breaks the ice and creates an accelerated relationship like a little chuckle.

4. Goodies. Even the smallest ‘gift’ makes a deeper connection. One person gave us all glow sticks and as I write this, I am playing with mine and remembering a particularly strong pitch.

5. Remember to repeat the name of the project and refer back to the story in all subsequent discussions – so after pitching the story and the conversation becomes about casting, production issues, budget etc., keep referring back to the title and the storyline. This weaves everything together.

6. Some people are natural communicators. Others are not. If you are in a team, let the best communicator pitch. Seems obvious, but writers and directors may not be the best people to pitch the story as they can meander. Ironically they are often thought of as the best people to pitch. Maybe they are, maybe they are not?

7. Presentations. Of the pitches I saw, most had some kind of Powerpoint or video presentation tool. When this was pertinent and brilliantly executed, it was a bonus. When it wasn’t well presented, it quickly became an albatross around the necks of the film makers – I experienced ‘pitch stalling’ due to bad sound, lost slides, crumpled notes etc. Also, these tools tended to be barriers to hide behind, rather than cool things that enhance the pitch. So unless your presentation ‘extras’ are cool, well thought out and truly additional, it may be best to leave them out.

8. On a personal note, people who engaged with me passionately abut their project really got and held my attention.

9. If you are going to suggest actors, use this as a tool to help paint a clearer image of the characters in the narrative and not as a kind of ‘wish list’ of who to cast.

10. Most important is the story. So often this got lost in details and the supporting materials.

11. And finally, leave something in the room, maybe a card with a poster, a proposal document, anything to remind the brain later in the day (possibly after many other pitches)… ‘ah yes, I remember that one…’ And have your contact details on it.

A great day and I salute all the brave souls who stood up and pitched hard!

Onwards and upwards!

Chris Jones, Film Maker and Author

One Response to 11 observations about pitching feature projects under pressure

  1. Luke Perkin June 4, 2010 at 10:48 pm #

    Today was a fantastic experience. Getting in an external panel to pitch to was a brilliant idea and definitely made the project worthwhile. I agree on all those points, and I was guilty of some! On the first point i agree it was too much detail but also I felt some got wrapped up in become a ‘performer’ and forgot to develop a rapport with the panel, and in any business you should create a rapport and not worry about trying to impress with performance.

    Great feedback from panel, the tutors and even the students.
    I actually ordered some contact cards just for today and they never came =[ But my website and email should be with this comment.

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