To give a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes at WriteMovies and TalentScout International Management, our Director of World Wide Development Ian Kennedy is sharing a week of his Hollywood/L.A. Diary with us at the start of March.
Expect news of meetings at major studios and with Elite producers, screenwriters and other adventures in Hollywood, plus a string of fresh images of iconic Hollywood locations.
In the meantime, we’ve brought together two of our Elite Mentors and a former WriteMovies winner living in Los Angeles to share their L.A. industry pitching tips. Here’s what they had to say… first, about staying there and getting around town.
ALEX ROSS, WriteMovies founder, film producer and former LA agent
BOBBY LEE DARBY, Screenwriter and WriteMovies Elite Mentor
KATHRYN NAWROCKI, Screenwriter and former WriteMovies Award Winner
HOTELS, BARS AND PLACES TO MEET
KATHRYN: “The funny thing is that often tourists from abroad come to LA and imagine that downtown is hub OR that Hollywood Blvd is it. They don’t know the “outsider’s INSIDE guide”… Sunset Strip has some amazing places and you will be RIGHT In the mix. You have to walk to Sunset Towers nearby which is phenomenal.”
ALEX: “I like the area near Sunset Plaza. Lots of great little outdoor restaurants: http://www.lepetitfour.com great for celebrity spotting. There is great hotel within walking distance: https://www.standardhotels.com/la/properties/hollywood.
If you are on a budget, the best hotels are near the airport: Hilton etc. Also, when there, you need to watch REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE with James Dean, then go to the Hollywood observatory. Eat at C&O Trattoria on Venice Beach and Barney’s Beanery.”
KATHRYN: “The Standard is actually a terrific choice. They have a lovely pool, casual bar. There is one of my favorite bars EVER within walking distance that is relaxed, unpretentious, with fantastic apps/drink specials when it opens at 6. The TROCADERO. No need to book. They have these amazing Happy Hours deals 6-8 on drinks and FANTASTIC apps from filet mignon tips to shrimp cocktail etc. I usually just order a ton of those and a drink or two but I do believe they have dinner.
Sunset Strip is fun. Make sure you go to CHATEAU MARMONT and even propose a meeting there if someone wants to come to you. This spot, along with THE MONDRIAN are amazing and just fun, iconic, central spots… PINCHES TACOS (not PINK Taco which is fun but not yummy food) for a meal. Authentic and fun and a walk away.
Also THE DEN is a very unpretentious pub/bar with apps too you could do for informal meetings. Jason Segel and Jon Hamm routinely hung out there. It is kinda a local gem. WALK Sunset Strip and enjoy. Greenblatt’s deli isn’t far and has genuine NYC Jewish deli food and vibe. A ridiculous silly but MUST see is SADDLE RANCH which you can walk to. Great food, mechanical bull, bottomless Bloody Marys with brunch And SUNSET TOWERS is iconic as well!”
ALEX: “Traffic [is a big problem]… So, the car hire is the cheapest part. The insurance can be more. Use a CC that covers insurance. The place has some of the highest petrol prices in the country.
If you are staying in central LA for a few days use Lyft or Uber. Drivers are really aggressive, if you use your indicator they will speed up at you to cut you off…
Parking is really expensive. Avoid valet parking… Hotels love to charge you $30+ for over night parking. Take a Lyft from the airport. And everyone wants a tip… the waiters in restaurants like to get about 20%. Natives usually double the tax. Whatever you see on the menu, add 30%.”
BOBBY: “The most meetings we ever had was 4 in a day, and that was a rough day – the logistics across LA get exhausting. Arrive really early. The studio lots are massive – Warner Bros is huge – it can take you half an hour to walk to your meeting even once you’re inside. If you’re meeting at a bar at say a hotel, make sure it’s the right one! There’s often another one at the pool level at the top of the building, and finding the right lift and the way there can make you late. So book a maximum of 4 meetings a day; Uber drivers may know the best routes, if you’re not driving yourself, but you should leave plenty of time to get between things.”
BOBBY: “The dress code for these meetings is very relaxed – jeans and any shirt.”
ALEX: “Also, LA is about sunglasses! Look into some fashion mags and get yourself the coolest you can afford. The rest is all about jeans (designer) you can literally get away with a T-shirt (as long as it is cool!)”
See Bobby’s other L.A. industry pitching tips – and tips for Europe and the UK – HERE! And find out more about what he can do for you as an Elite Mentor HERE.
Find out more about Alex Ross HERE and about our other Elite Mentors HERE.
VIDEO GAMES AND BOARD GAMES: Mark Brendan (DIRT 3, F1 2010, WORLD IN CONFLICT, KINGS OF THE REALM, DRAGON RISING, SOLOMON KANE)
Meet our new Elite Script Mentor, here to help YOU get the best from your ideas for video games…
“Mark Brendan is a writer and game designer. He has worked on numerous games, both analogue and digital, for companies such as Games Workshop, Target Games, i-Kore, Climax, Codemasters, and Vivendi as well as publishing games related fiction and magazine articles. He is currently working on a Solomon Kane board game for French games publisher Mythic Games, and writing screenplays for Dark Matter Films, the production company he co-founded in 2017. His video game titles include DIRT 3, Brian Lara International Cricket 2007, Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising, World in Conflict, F1 2010, and Kings of the Realm.”
We’re delighted to have Mark on board and we look forward to sharing new insights into video games for you from us, Mark, Habib Zargarpour (whose games credits include 007 and NEED FOR SPEED titles).
Of course, we’re still just as intent on screenplays and other writing as we’ve always been: check out the new categories of our Spring contest below!
- Stageplays (theatre)
- Teleplays (long and short form pilots)
- Spec scripts
- Books, including comic books and graphic novels
- Video game scripts
Check out the PRIZES, RESULTS DATES, and JUDGES INFO HERE.
Meanwhile, here’s a reminder of what our Elite Mentoring services offer, and whose mentoring you can hire through us…
WriteMovies Elite Mentoring for Writers includes:
- Constructive, professional, and honest feedback on the cinematic potential of your script by industry veterans.
- Either: Personal mentoring by actual Hollywood Producers, Face-to-Face (if in Los Angeles) or on the phone; or, detailed notes encompassing feedback on dialogue, story line, structure, pace, characters etc.
- Full analysis on length and effectiveness of story telling.
- Accurate predictions on possible audience response emotionality and possible cult factor.
- Professional advice on how executives and producers analyze your material and what they look for.
- Pointers to convince executives and producers of your passion and competence as well as the box office potential.
- Fundamental career advice on how to get agents, how to pitch and what to write.
- The option for recommended scripts to be pitched to agents and producers in Hollywood.
- All of which gives you vastly more confidence proceeding if you know your script is perfect.
Take the next step to get your script produced, with one of these top Mentors:
Request Mark to be your gaming script Elite Script Mentor for just $499, right here…
Our new Elite Consultant, multi-produced screenwriter Bobby Lee Darby, shares his pitching tips on how you should approach pitching to Hollywood, how to plan for it, and how to ace it!
Bobby thinks that the real experience of pitching is nothing like it seems in the books about the subject. Having made a lot of pitches, many of them successful, and watching a lot of other people’s pitches and reading the room while they happen, he’s got a strong grasp of how they really work in the industry right now.
Bobby (right) pictured with his writing partner Nathan Brookes.
What is pitching?
There are two types of pitching in the industry. Firstly, the “original pitch” – you try to sell your original idea, your original script in the hope that whoever you’re pitching to takes a shot on it. The second type of pitching is “assignment”. This is when you compete for the right to write the script for an already-greenlit project against other writers. For example, a company or a producer may have the film rights to a successful novel. They will hear pitches from several writers and agents, and whoever has the best pitch takes the project and gets to write the script.
Pitching is most often a cheap way for production companies to unearth good ideas and good scripts. It’s a low-risk, high yield investment to them. They only need one exceptional idea to make a ton of cash. A good idea could go for up to 6 figures, but producers will snap something up for $50,000 (minimum) under WGA terms. You could hold out for more, but they have the power. They have many writers and agents waiting for their chance, while the writers themselves could go years without even getting that opportunity again.
A two-sentence pitch often works well and flows nicely. This is how you grab the producer’s attention. This is how you tell them everything they need to know about the script, and in no more than 10-20 seconds.
So, here’s a small task for you to try this out. Write that two-sentence pitch for STAR WARS (the original movie, ie EPISODE VI: A NEW HOPE!), or JURASSIC PARK (or, even better, for your own script!). You should look to get a lot of practice of doing this for different films – ones you know well, ones of your own.
There are 5 important aspects you need to include in this pitch.
- The title
- The Hero/the protagonist
- Their goal
- The obstacle – whether that’s the antagonist, or something the hero must overcome.
(TIP – Ian says: I was once shown a simple formula for creating a script’s logline in a single sentence. It goes like this: [TITLE is a / It’s a] [Genre] about a [Hero] who wants to [Goal], but [Obstacle] and… [just finish the sentence with what happens as a result]. Then adapt to make it sharper. “MY MOVIE is a comedy about a desperate screenwriter who wants to win a brilliant contest but gets interrupted by his dippy ex-girlfriend all the time and has to find an ingenious way to distract her.” “JAWS is a thriller about a sheriff who’s scared of the water, who has to stop a killer shark that’s hunting his island community.” Simple, yet effective. And also, can be turned into fun games at parties, seriously, give it a try!)
It is important to include all of these things in your pitch, and perhaps more importantly, not to confuse the importance of one over the other.
For example, if you feel your antagonist is the strongest character, great, but don’t go on about them. Producers and execs want to know who your hero is, who this story is about, not the villain. If the person who you’re pitching to doesn’t know who the lead character is, they won’t feel a connection to your story. (This is also true of storytelling on a much wider scale – that’s maybe an article for Ian to do another time!) Characters are particularly important, especially for Hollywood execs. They are always thinking “who can I cast as the hero?”, “which actor would best sell this role/film?” A lot of pitches that we’ve seen fail weren’t talking about the main character enough to give people a connection to them.
The Pitch Itself
It is so important that you know the script better than your family. You have to be ready to answer something like “what happens on page 89?” in an instant. If it looks like you don’t know the script that well, it’ll look like you don’t particularly care about it.
It’s also vital that you spend a certain amount of time talking about each part of your script, giving rough time limits to each act. You won’t get much time to impress, so you need to be precise and concise.
Here’s a decent breakdown of each act, how long you should spend on it, and what to talk about. In total you get maybe 10 minutes of the exec’s time, max.
Act 1 – 2-3 minutes – As the script does, you must set up the story, introduce the hero, the supporting characters, present the obstacle, imply the genre and tone of the story. A good start can make all the difference.
Act 2 – 3-4 minutes – the crux of the script should take up the biggest chunk of the pitching time. As Act 2 is the largest Act, it is more important than ever to be concise here. Don’t waste time on things that are irrelevant to the story. Focus on what matters.
Act 3 – 1 minute. Just wrap it up, but don’t give away everything. End on a cliffhanger. You want the execs to say “what happens next?”, “how does it end?” If you’ve got them asking that, you’ve got ‘em biting.
It’s also important to talk about and spend a good 2-3 minutes on the characters and theme(s) of the script.
The execs you’re pitching to are always thinking how they can make money from this script, so it’s important to not only sell the story, but also the idea. One nice way of doing this is to provide a “big trailer moment”.
A “trailer moment” is simply a piece of action, dialogue, a striking image, that would work well in the trailer for this film. Think of SE7EN’s “seven sins” concept which they used for an effective trailer moment. You give the execs a trailer moment, and they will start to picture this film coming to life, and, of course, making them money.
To wrap up
In essence, pitching is all about storytelling. If you can tell a good story, that will be a big advantage for you. Try practicing on friends, colleagues, anyone who hasn’t read the script already. You need to know your script better than yourself. You need to know the peak of your script in relation to its genre – its funniest, scariest, most romantic moment.
Have your pitch ready at any time. You never know who you might meet today. And yeah, have backup pitches prepared to fall back on, because there might be some unavoidable block that your pitch can’t get around, however good it is, and you always need to be thinking a few scripts ahead of where you’re at in your career right now if you’re going to stay in work.
One final thing… be confident. Relaxed, not arrogant, but confident. You belong there as much as anybody else.
Exclusive to WriteMovies – To syndicate this content for your own publication, contact ian (at) writemovies dot-com.
© WriteMovies 2017
Two New Elite Script Consultants Revealed – action, horror and thriller specialists!
We are happy to announce two new signings to the WriteMovies team. Hollywood co-writers Bobby Lee Darby and Nathan Brookes have come onboard as our newest Elite script Consultants, joining the likes of producer Tom Craig (RAINMAN, SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE).
- Bobby and Nathan have collaboratively written several Hollywood produced films such as…
- ELIMINATORS (2016), action film directed by James Nunn. “A former US Federal Agent must abandon the witness protection program and come out of hiding when his London home is invaded in error due to a wrong address. When the event ends with multiple homicides, the news triggers those hunting him to send Europe’s most dangerous assassin to kill him. Now on the run with his daughter’s life in jeopardy, a determined father must get her to safety before the people he’s been hiding from track him down.” (IMDb)
- SEE NO EVIL 2 (2014), a horror film directed by Jen Soska and Sylvia Soska. “An undertaker’s birthday party is interrupted when Jacob Goodnight rises from the dead and proceeds to terrorize her and her friends.” (IMDb)
- 12 ROUNDS 3: LOCKDOWN (2015), an action crime thriller directed by Stephen Reynolds. “Upon returning to work after recovering from an injury, a police officer discovers and attempts to turn in incriminating evidence of illegal activities against his fellow cops.” (IMDb)
- Bobby and Nathan often work together (as they did on these three films), so they could be a great option for you if you’re collaborating with someone!
Of the consultancy packages we offer, Elite Consultancies are your chance to get detailed and quality feedback from a top industry executive for just $299 until August 31st. This isn’t just available for writers – we also offer this to producers, too! (more…)