Pitching a movie or TV show is an art form. You go in, weave an entertaining tale in around fifteen minutes, and then field a series of questions. Afterward, some people meet up and decide if they liked your pitch.
Those people are usually executives or creatives that can make the project happen.
But sometimes you don't have to wait for the execs.
Sometimes you know in your heart of hearts that you bombed that pitch.
Trust me, I've been there.
Bombing is its own art form. A spectacular spiral of problems and guttural noises that leaves you feeling weak and the knees and nauseous. But it's something you need to get used to because all writers bomb pitches. Every single one. I have bombed plenty.
There are many reasons you can bomb a pitch. And them ore you're aware of the reasons, the more you can do to keep yourself from bombing it.
So, come with me as I look back on some bombs, and share your own stories and lessons in the comments.
I Just Bombed My Pitch. How Did it Happen?
Think of this as a post mortem. This is me examining my failures and promising to do better. I'd love to hear your tips and tricks as well. But if you say "imagine them in their underwear" I'm going to tell you it never helps.
It just makes me sweat.
Let's bomb together...
Here are 5 reasons my pitch bombed...
1. There was no personal connection.
When you pitch you want two personal connections to be achieved. First, you want to prove to them why the material needs to be written by you. Why are you the only person for this job, or why should they buy your idea, one that only you could generate.
It sounds stupid, but just the simple act of pitching is not enough. There are lots of times where I just jump into a pitch without setup. that's wrong. Talk to them, get to know the people you're pitching to...because the second personal connection needs to be to them.
Why do THEY care about this idea? Why should THEY be the ones to make this happen?
So try to lean into the aspects of the story you think will compel them.
That starts with a personal connection.
2. I rambled the story and scrambled the details.
A pitch needs to be structured. Let people know the beats of the movie without over describing them. Make sure they know what act we're in, what the arcs of the characters are, and how the story ends.
Almost every time I've bombed, it's been because I rambled.
Go in with a structured pitch, know which parts of the story you want to highlight and which are most important.
The best pitches play out like a movie trailer. You're telling your friends about the best movie or TV show they haven't seen yet.
When you ramble or get caught up in backstory/science/tangents people lose interest.
One thing that helps me is to structure the whole story around plant and payoff.
Set up the details in act one, pay them off in acts two and three.
3. I talked way too long.
The best pitches run from around 10-15 minutes. There are people who go over and are great, but I'm not one of those people. My first pitch ever, I went on for FORTY-FIVE MINUTES. I could see eyes gloss over. I saw someone check their watch. Twice.
Sure, I got in all the details, but at what cost?
I definitely didn't get the job.
It's SO HARD to get this right and it takes a few pitches to nail your timing and get an internal clock going.
Practice in the mirror, time yourself at home, trim and trim again.
But don't trim too much...
4. I didn't have enough to say.
One time I had a pitch with a hugely famous person. I was flustered. I knew my weakness was droning on and on, so I went in there and delivered...something like a seven-minute pitch. It was not great...
In that amount of time, I wasn't able to connect, to be structured, or to even show them what the movie was about.
It was basically me delivering a very long logline.
I recommend writing a 2-3 page word doc before pitching. That doc should be EVERYTHING. I find memorizing that doc or the main beats will get you to 12-15 every time. When you leave them time for questions at the end, you can deliver the details they want to hear.
Always be ready with more information, but only deliver what's necessary to hit your points and have them emotionally engage.
5. I couldn't convince them "Why now."
Finally, the biggest thing you have to get right in the pitch is to answer the question, "Why now?"
I aced a few pitches recently. The project didn't move forward because the executives said they didn't see a sense of urgency in telling THIS story. What was the reason we had to do it now? What did it have to say about our time, culture, and sociological strata that makes it a must-see?
This is one of the trickiest things to show because a great movie or TV series should always be relevant. But you need a hook, proof of how and why these things happen.
Don't devote a ton of time to this, but try to hook it in at the opening or close. "I have to tell this story now because...."
If you nail this, then you nailed the pitch.
And if you bomb, come back here and vent.
What's next? Use our Elevator Pitch template
Learning how to write an elevator pitch is a skill you can’t put a price on. Why? Because we’ve all been there when lightning strikes and that excellent idea comes to life in our minds. Maybe it’s the greatest movie idea in the world. Maybe it’s an idea for a tv series or a piece of branded content.
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