“I used to think as I looked at the Hollywood night, ‘there must be thousands of girls sitting alone like me, dreaming of becoming a movie star. But I’m not going to worry about them. I’m dreaming the hardest.'” – Marilyn Monroe
You watch a movie on television or in the theater and think to yourself, “I’ve got a better idea than this. If this one got produced, surely mine could too.” But you figure that since you don’t have any industry contacts, there’s no way you can get someone in Hollywood to take you seriously.
What you don’t know is that the entertainment industry has created a powerful vehicle that gives novices a chance to pitch their television or movie ideas to real industry players who could possibly produce them.
Pitching is the way deals get made in the entertainment world.
A “pitch” in Hollywood is when the “pitcher” (the person with the idea for a TV show or movie) explains their idea to a “catcher” (a person who works with a company that could produce the idea).
For the most part, if you are an outsider to the gates of Hollywood, it’s difficult to get past the gatekeepers for a chance to pitch your idea to a qualified, legitimate producer. But while it’s the job of the gatekeepers to keep outsiders out, “the powers that be” still have an interest in the ideas of “unknowns” like you… because everyone in the business is scrambling to get their hands on the next big “homerun” project.
Thus, a concept called a “pitch event” or “pitchmart” was born.
What happens with a pitch event is that an organizer assembles a group of producers who are willing to hear pitches from people who don’t have an agent and/or credentials. The people who want to sell their ideas pay a fee to the organizer for a certain number of brief pitch meetings.
I have personally concluded several successful deals that began with a meeting at a pitch event. The way it works is always the same…
Each company that’s there to hear pitches is at a table with sign that has their name on it. You go over to a company you’re going to pitch to, and sit down. There is a quick exchange of names with the producer, but you don’t want to waste time on pleasantries. (As I said, each meeting is brief… usually about five minutes.)
If you think you know the kind of projects the producer is interested in, you confirm that with him. If you’re not sure, you say something like, “I’d like to pitch you the projects I have that are most likely what you’re looking for. Is your company looking for something specific?”
Once you know what they’re looking for, you give them a quick description of one or two of your ideas that might work for them, and then stay quiet. If they’re interested, they will ask questions. If your ideas don’t match up with their needs, they’ll explain why.
Before you know it, the meeting is over, and you vacate the seat to make room for the next hopeful pitcher.
If you have an idea for a TV show or a movie and would like to try it out at a pitch event, these are the basic steps:
1. Select a legitimate pitch event.
There are a number of well-known organizers of these events that you can find by doing an Internet search with a phrase like “pitch TV and film.” A few examples of such organizers are Fade In Magazine, Hollywood Film Festival, Hollywood by the Bay, and VIP Pitch Player Tours.
2. Prepare your pitch.
You will only have a few minutes to convince the producer that your idea is a blockbuster in the making, so you need to be concise. You will want to put together a sheet of paper that includes your contact information as well as the basic information about your project that you will be presenting.
The information about your project should start with what’s called a “logline.” This is a one-sentence explanation (in 30 words or less) of the gist of your idea. For example, if you were creating a logline for ABC’s reality hit “Dancing With the Stars,” it might be something like this:
“Celebrities are paired with ballroom dance professionals and compete each week in an elimination contest to see who can become this year’s champion.”
If you’re going to pitch a reality TV show, you should have a breakdown of what will happen during a typical show and a sample of what a season’s worth of shows will include.
If you are trying to sell a true-life story, you should quickly describe the protagonist, the antagonist, and the “big problem” of the story, and outline its beginning, middle, and end.
3. Do the pitching.
At these events, the “catchers” are bombarded with hundreds of ideas from a huge onslaught of people. To differentiate yourself from the crowd, present yourself as relaxed, intelligent, and well prepared. Smile, introduce yourself, and hand them the sheet of paper about your project. Then tell them about your idea.
If they like it, they will let you know how to proceed. Some producers may want to e-mail you later; others may give you a card and tell you to contact them. If they don’t think the project is for them, most will tell you why.
Attending a pitchmart is a fairly intense, high-pressure experience. But if you’re an outsider who wants to get a shot at Hollywood, it’s certainly worth considering.[Ed. Note: Paul Lawrence is a screenwriter/producer with several feature-length film credits, including the movie Cruel World. He has signed a development deal for a reality show with one of LA’s largest producers, and is currently producing a sketch-comedy reality show with the world-famous Laugh Factory. For more information on Paul’s “How to Break Into Hollywood” audio course, click here.]