The Great British Pitchfest ~ You’re In The Room!

It was the second day of The Great British Pitchfest and I decided to spend some of today up in the pitch room finding out what was happening and how people were finding it.

This year, as I’ve already blogged about, Bob and Signe and their team from The Great American Pitchfest are over at the festival helping to ramp up the pitching frenzy and keeping things running smoothly and as fun as sweating with nerves in a queue to see someone who could potentially change your life or shoot you down can be!

In fact, nobody seemed to be nerve wracked at all and I found a pleasant, busy room full of writers passionate about their scripts speaking to producers and agents passionate about their projects. The way it works is there’s a red carpet and roped off and signposted corridors to the desk of the person being pitched and the delegates go to the desk of the person they want to see and join a short queue, then after a five minute pitch (carefully timed and controlled by the pitching team) you say thanks and move on.

I spoke to Signe Olynyk of The Great American Pitchfest about how it works over there in the US and how it’s going this year in the UK. The American Pitchfest is huge, they take over an entire ballroom with hundreds of tables and the two thousand delegates attending get a directory beforehand to find out who’s there and where they’ll be sat then go and pitch for a full day of the three day festival instead of just the hour and a half they pitch here. The American Pitchfest seminars are secondary to this day of pitching which is what delegates pay for there. This is kind of the opposite to the UK workings where the LSF seminars are the main draw. But then our industry is very different and more of a cottage industry with different proprieties for doing business and less windows of opportunity. To me, the UK pitching this year has seemed very big with some major players in the room. Signe thought it had been going pretty well and has seen tweets from some of the producers saying that they’d heard an amazing pitch they wanted to make. All in all the buzz in the room was like a tingle of possibility on both sides. Realistically speaking it’s always going to be tough to get through that window of opportunity but where it’s hard to get a face to face meeting with someone from a major TV broadcaster, serious production company (especially Oscar winning) or a reputable agent in everyday life, the pitchfest breaks some of those social barriers and for some, doors have been opened. It’s certainly an event.

I decided to speak to one or two people in the room. Gary Hall was there pitching Gary Wild of JFL Agency. Before the pitch he was happy and enthusiastic about his work, a drama, and quite calm about pitching it. During his pitch the atmosphere was, from my point of view friendly and with conversation that went both ways. Afterwards Gary told me that he was happy with the way the pitch went and had been given some advice by Gary Wild not to try to be everything as a writer but to stick to the genres that were opening doors for him. Moving on he made his way to his next pitch.

Eben Skilleter, also pitching agents with his detective TV drama seemed quietly confident too as he waited to be next in the queue. Pearl Mina was there just to talk some ideas with a few people while the opportunity was available to her.  Others I spoke to in and around the festival over the past couple of days have said that they had quite different reactions to their work from different people. One had been advised to leave a script aside and not go back to it by one broadcaster but told yes, that’s exactly the sort of thing I’d like to make by another broadcaster. He now has the option of sending in his stuff and waiting for up to a year for it to be read or getting an agent so that his work can be seen quicker. Another had had film screenplay requests for two of her projects from three different producers but a fourth had been completely disinterested in her and she said that at this stage in her career she realised that it’s about the relationship and how you get on with the person as much as if your work is right for them. All in all people have had positive and negative outcomes. One delegate just shook his head and sighed as he made his way out of the room, unsuccessful this time around. But he put himself and his work out there and that takes courage so I have no doubt he’ll be pitching again another time. People with courage don’t give up and this guy didn’t look like the quitting type.

While I had nothing to pitch this year having spread myself a little thin with the many things I do and fallen behind on my feature script writing, I was very glad to have had this opportunity to go and investigate the pitching process, see what it feels like to be in the room and to be able to share that with others. When I’m ready with some polished projects on hand (hopefully by next year) I’d like to give this mass pitching a go instead of my usual route of getting drunk in bars with producers or bantering on social networks. I have a feeling it might bring me more sustainable success to be a bit more professional about my career!

As Chris Jones always says ~ Onwards and Upwards!


Leilani Holmes
Festival Blogger

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