Monday, August 17, 2009

THE ART OF PITCHING: There must be BLOOD, but it needn't be a blood sport

PITCH SPORTZ is a radical and exciting workshop that provokes and inspires filmmakers to find and employ their own, unique characters and styles in preparing and presenting the best possible pitch for their scripts and film projects.

The first incarnation of this workshop happened on Sunday, 16 August, 2009 - and from the response and excitement generated among its participants, there will definitely be more.

While the experience is still fresh in my mind I thought it might be useful to mention some of the issues that arose from the presentations and interactions that occurred.

Pitching can be a rather dreaded and unnerving activity for most of us. The idea of fronting up to someone and telling them how great one's story is can seem at times almost unAustralian. The diffidence with which one navigates the cool hipness of the so-called film scene frequently conspires against the expression of genuine emotion or personal committment.

A script or story idea may have much to recommend it, but if the screenwriter, director or producer is unable for whatever reason to imaginatively and succinctly conduct the listener/investor/production comany into the core emotional experience that the film offers, the script or project may never have its time in the sun.

The first and most important thing you need to understand is that you are NOT selling a script - or rather a collection of words ABOUT a script; you are selling a character - and that CHARACTER is YOURSELF.

When Kurt Vonnegut was voted into the Academy of American Authors he was asked to give a speech. Omn the night he sat up on the dais nervously riffling through the pages of what he was going to say. A colleague who worked for the Academy, who was sitting next to him, turned and asksed what he was doing. ""Just making some last minute corrections in what I'm going to say," Vonnegut replied. "Oh, I wouldn't worry about that," his friend said; "they're not interested in what you say, so much as what you are."

One could equally apply this wisdom to the art of the pitch. It's the characters, stupid! and YOU are the CHARACTER! As a character you are addressing an audience. The words you employ to communictae your ideas may certainly be relevant and useful, but on their own they won't
be enough. What they are looking for is not something that you or anyone else can easily put into words - something extra is required - that secret ingrediant that is some times referred to as charisma or spontaneity. Really it is about you - the ego with all of its anxieties and negativities - getting out of the way. "Teach us to care and not to care. Teach us to sit still."

The greatest pitcher is like a jazz musician through which a great riff drives the action - improvisional, fluid, unafraid and living dangerously - and above all - fresh. Alive. Inspiring!

So here are some questions/tips that may be helpful in organising your thoughts and, and helping you develop a strategy for creating a fresh and successful pitch.

You might also want to bring your pitch along to the next PITCH SPORTZ workshop and test it out in the arena... But for a start, you might ask yourself:

What is it? (your project - genre, style, medium, etc)

Who is it for? (at whom is your project aimed?)

What sort of experience do you want your audience to have… and why is it important?

What other shows is it like?

What makes it UNIQUE?

What is the HOOK? Does it have a hook?

Why do you LOVE it? Show us the love!

Remember : When you pitch you are both CASTING AGENT and CHARACTER.

Cast the character that is appropriate to the pitch. The well-cast “character” is that part of you that can most effectively present (make present) the energies inherent in the project.

Memorise the pitch – don’t read it.

If you use AV aids make sure they are appropriate. Don’t bring in polaroids to hold up if they can’t be seen.

Don’t race through what you have to say – pace and timing speak volumes as to your
feelings concerning what you are pitching. The truth is always in the SUBTEXT.

Don’t give us the impression that you want to get to the end as quickly as possible. We will begin to doubt your commitment and love for the project.

Make sure the combination of YOUR CHARACTER and YOUR PROJECT are Credible – if you're pitching a show about a funny, quick-paced and original comedy series, don’t do it in an unfunny, plodding and stale manner. We won’t believe you!

Never apologise! I don't care what you MEANT to do, only what you actually DO!


NOTICE: For more information about the Art of the Pitch, go to

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