We’ve been hard at work lately having pitching scripts to industry, having pitch meetings with producers and distributors about our many projects! Alex and Ian had a productive meeting at BAFTA recently, discussing the slate and future opportunities. So, what have we been up to? Let’s take a look…
We’ve also recently had pitch meetings with many companies including Film4 and several of our winners’ projects have been going from strength to strength!
We guarantee pitching to industry for the top three scripts from our competition – so enter our Winter 2019 Screenwriting Contest today from just $44, and you can follow in the footsteps of our past winners and get your script out there!
Want us to promote your script in our next our next Hollywood script pitching whirlwind tour, or other pitching? We are seriously looking for 2-3 scripts for 2x Academy Nominated and 2x BAFTA winning, Habib Zargarpour to direct. If you have what we need please participate in: https://writemovies.com/spring-2018-screenwriting-contest/
WriteMovies founder and producer Alex Ross and VFX expert turned movie director, Habib Zargarpour, just went on a tour of various Hollywood production companies talking to top executives about their new project. Here’s what happened!
Meeting #1: Skrzyniarz & Mallean. High powered Boutique law firm. (A lot of Los Angeles law firms now also act in a management capacity opening doors for clients etc. They, along with talent managers tend to be easier to work with than agents)
Alex and Habib started with an early morning meeting during which Habib gave a full presentation on the script they were pitching. The lawyer was very impressed.
Among other things she suggested who to get in touch with for funding. Alex gave the attorney a follow up call and there is definite interest on working on this project, and potentially other suitable scripts.
Meeting #2: Rough Diamond Productions
Another great meeting during which the producer showed interest in the project. She and her team totally got the value that Habib would add, to deliver a studio grade, VFX based picture for a fraction of the usual price. Many of the smaller production houses want to get involved in higher end VFX based projects but cannot afford the costs. This is what is so interesting about Habib’s work, in that he and his team at Digital Monarch Media have devised a software/hardware package, which has been tested by some of the greats such as Spielberg, Jon Favreau, and Denis Villeneuve, which allows producers to deliver studio grade VFX for a faction of the price. Their latest Virtual Film Toolset is called Expozure and was used on Blade Runner 2049 and Tom Hanks’ Greyhound.
There was a request for more info on budget so the team have a better idea on how and where to take the project –with the packaging suggestions we had in the first meeting, there’s some good signs and avenues for us to explore.
Habib Zargarpour and Alex Ross on their script pitching whirlwind tour in Hollywood, May 2018
Meeting #3: Branded Pictures Entertainment
After a full demonstration by Habib, the producers expressed interest in the project and explored Habib directing another of their projects as well.
Meeting #4: Meeting with Epic Pictures:
An interesting meeting with the top brass. They already really like the script. Totally got what Habib can bring to the table as a director. Needs us to come up with a formal proposal. “See you on the red carpet”.
Meeting #5: Blue Ant Media
Alex and Habib finished their day by meeting with Julio Sobral, former senior Fox Studios executive and now top of the food chain at BAM. Julio has a very deep background in post-production and FX and also really liked the fact that Habib was a partner at Microsoft Studios and helped to design a number of games which generated more revenue than a lot of blockbuster movies. So the ability to fully map out the ancillary revenue streams for your project are key to production companies and something you need to work out before you go to pitch.
BAM is part of a substantial chain of media companies, so Julio wanted us to come in and pitch not only with a view to getting Habib and Alex’s film done but also to consider working on some of their other projects.
And that was just day one! Next, look what happened on day two of our Hollywood script pitching whirlwind tour! And don’t forget: We are seriously looking for 2-3 scripts for 2x Academy Nominated and 2x BAFTA winning, Habib Zargarpour to direct. If you have what we need please participate in: https://writemovies.com/spring-2018-screenwriting-contest/
How we’re pitching our screenwriting contest winners to the industry…
Since our relaunch in February 2016, we’ve gained a wonderful, varied slate of award-winning scripts and writers, many of which have now completed their year of free script development as we prepare them and their writers for the pitching process. As our campaign to pitch them gathers momentum, I thought now would be a great time to show you what we’ve been doing for our winners and the great responses we’ve been getting. We can’t reveal the confidential details of course, but there’s plenty we can show you as this gains pace.
STEP ONE – NAIL THE SCRIPT.
Even our winners’ fine scripts usually have a few important question marks in them, from a producer’s point of view. (If you would lose your job and your reputation for greenlighting a project that bombs, you’d feel the same.) So we use all our expertise and industry experience to feed back studio-quality reports and guidance for our winners, for a year, for free. It often takes that long – sometimes even longer – to get the script so sharp and convincing that producers can’t use easy excuses not to greenlight.
The process can even go beyond the one-year mark. One of our early winners has been very ill for much of the time since his prize; another – who is aiming high – decided to give the script a big review when I fed back to him my concerns that the things I felt producers would be wary about when I gave him the prize, still hadn’t noticeably progressed in his script. The writer’s approach to feedback, and their general responsiveness and promptness of redrafts, makes more difference than the guaranteed year-long timeframe: some scripts and writers are ready far sooner, others never convince us they’d reply promptly enough to a concrete offer from a serious producer.
Remember, WriteMovies have been pitching scripts to the industry for twenty years, and launched two Oscar-nominated writers into the industry. Things are ready when they’re ready. We don’t take any cut of option fees whatsoever – so we’re prepared to put in as long as it takes to give our winners the best chance of breaking through. When we succeed in doing that, everyone wins.
STEP TWO – THE ONE-PAGE PITCH
We’ll show you more about these and why you might want to make one, in another article soon. But these are meant to be a short, snappy, visual teaser of what this script would FEEL and LOOK like to the viewer. In an industry where the real decisionmakers are often hard to get on the phone, it’s important to present your script in the most professional way possible – that clearly shows how this movie could be SOLD to top talent and audiences. Getting our one-page pitches right is an important way to show that we, and our writers, mean business.
In the Terms & Conditions of entering our main contests, you’ll see a promise of ‘intensive pitch coaching’. This is it. We coach our winners to prepare their logline and one-page pitch, guiding them through multiple drafts as we get this right with them. At the end of it, the writers are far better placed to present and pitch their scripts in future.
And you know what else? More than a few have found that the process of presenting their script in a one-page pitch, has made them sharpen and focus and intensify their script more effectively. Everyone wins.
Meanwhile, we often give our Elite Mentors the chance to feed back on the scripts on our slate – and the writers love getting feedback from top industry pros like them. Sometimes the Elite Mentors even get involved and help push the script forward towards production themselves, which is the best of all worlds.
STEP THREE – RESEARCHING WHO TO TARGET
From quite an early point, we’ve already warmed up the industry to the projects on our slate, because of the promotion we give our winners in the weeks after their win, and consequently when their logline is promoted extensively to the industry through InkTip. We also sometimes use our dedicated Industry Newsletters (which go out to hundreds of producers and agents) to promote scripts more widely too. But these methods are only a small part of the real pitching process. The world is busy and full of competition, and everyone you want to reach out to needs treating as an individual.
Lots of writers take a scattergun approach, approaching as many producers, directors or actors as possible. Lots of writers think the world OWES them for creating their scripts, and should now bow down before them. Good luck with that. If you don’t understand the real life of producers and talent, you’ll need a totally world-changing script in order to break through with that attitude. And, if you’re so oblivious to the individuality and business needs of the people you’re approaching, you almost certainly won’t have achieved a script that good anyway.
So, between us and the writer, we compile SHORT lists of producers or talent who we think could really go for this project (exploring all sides of my motto: Aim High, Use Allies, or DIY – Do It Yourself). We research them properly, their track record and preferences, and how best to reach them. We then make our approach on whatever platform, opportunity or situation is the one they’d be most likely to favour. With our track record and polished scripts and one-page pitches, we’ve got a good chance of getting in the door. If we’re then invited to send the whole script, awesome. From that point, it’s up to the writer and producer/talent: we keep the line open and follow up until there’s a result, for better or worse. And then seal the deal or get proper feedback that we can use to improve the script or our understanding of its prospects, and then move on to the next on our shortlist.
Wherever possible, of course, we pitch in person, or failing that on the phone. Most people prefer doing business with strangers by email, but building their trust and their image of us gets us in a lot of doors that writers alone couldn’t. Our in-person pitching in the last two years has got many of our scripts read by leading players and has earned us important new allies, some of whom put us in touch with other people who’ll read the script now it’s been recommended by someone they trust and rate.
Getting a ‘no thanks’ often isn’t a closed door, if we’ve handled the approach right. It’s just a no to this script at this point in time. But with the range of our slate – now and in the future – and all the other services we offer, we always look to keep the door open for mutual support in the future. We keep in regular touch with all producers or agents who are happy for us to, such as through our industry newsletters.
It’s often frustrating how little of all this activity we get to share with you publicly. For obvious reasons, producers and talent wouldn’t want us to share the detail of what we discuss with them. But believe me, if you become a winner in one of our main contests, we’ll be working furiously behind the scenes to take your script as far as it can go.
While many agents and writers would be annoyed to learn that the company we approach have already got something similar on their slate (maybe worried they’ve been plagiarized!), personally I welcome it. Why? Because it shows we really did get this to the people who’d be interested in it. And the praise we often get back from them is great momentum to take into our next approach.
Enter our latest contest now, or enter our next one early by purchasing a consultancy service, to get the benefit of our decades of industry experience into YOUR project.
© WriteMovies 2017. Exclusive to WriteMovies – To syndicate this content for your own publication, contact ian (at) writemovies dot-com.
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
Why winning writing depends on being a team player…
Winning one of our competitions has several perks – the cash prize, the year of free script development and mentoring, the free publicity, and, of course, the potential that your script will be promoted to talent agents, producers, and studios within the international film industry – and for the best winning writing, we’ll even pitch it ourselves (and that’s something we promise in our competition Terms and Conditions).