July 27, 2023
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Best Practices for Pitching Your Idea

Loring Weisenberger
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If you’re pitching a movie or pitching a TV show, you already know that having a great idea is only half the equation. The real-world value of any concept depends on how well you sell it.

In this post, we’ll give you a leg up by diving deep into best practices for pitching a film or television show. We’ll explore big picture concepts that will help you figure out how to pitch a movie, how to pitch a TV show, and even how to pitch a reality TV show with more skill and confidence.

1. Commit your pitch material to memory

Presentation is everything. When you're pitching a TV show or movie idea, the memorization of your material is a simple way to provide a major presentation upgrade. It guarantees both clarity and fluidity, qualities that are sure to appeal to any investor or potential collaborator.

This is especially true for projects that have undergone several layers of change over time. 

It’s not uncommon for a project to go through multiple revisions of story structure, budget projections, or cast attachments before receiving full film financing. Any serious modification will impact the next round of pitch meetings. 

Taking the time to memorize the new pitch before jumping into a meeting will help you avoid unnecessary slip-ups and confusion. In that way, memorization is basic due diligence. 

Memorizing your pitch material carries the bonus of helping you to refine your own vision. You’ll notice moments when things slow. Cut out unnecessary sections.

It may seem tedious, but the act of reviewing your pitch again and again will inevitably sharpen it. 

By the way, this goes for Zoom pitches, too

Virtual pitch meetings are part of the new normal, but that doesn’t change the necessity of memorization. While it may be tempting to read your pitch script in a separate window, rest assured that it’s still a bad idea. 

Reading a pitch out loud will feel stiff compared to a well-memorized presentation. Add the not-so-subtle deceit of pretending like you’re not reading a script, and you have a surefire method for leaving a negative impression on your audience. 

2. Be confident in your project

Confidence is key. Always. If you’re pitching a film that you don’t quite believe in, investors will smell your lack of confidence from a mile away. 

The same goes for pitching a TV show, pitching a reality TV show, pitching a web series, or pitching literally anything else. If you don’t think your project is worth making, why would anyone else?

The core of organic confidence is a mixture of excitement and preparation. We’ll offer several tips for preparation throughout this post, but let’s focus on excitement for the moment. Believe it or not, excitement is something that you can build. 

We can break the process down into three steps:

Step 1: Focus on what you love

The first step is to identify whatever elements you love most within a given project. If you’re pitching a reality TV show, for example, you might adore a particular character that you’ve discovered. Take some time to focus on that character and examine your positive feelings about them.

Step 2: Share your passion

The second step is to share the elements you love with people around you. If you tell someone about the character you love in your reality show, they might love it, too. If they love it, too, your excitement will naturally skyrocket through this small moment of recognition and validation.

Step 3: Use criticism to sharpen excitement

Of course, sharing a passion also risks criticism, but it’s important to not be discouraged in that event. A negative response can be a learning experience if you treat it objectively and constructively. If someone does not love the same character you love, that doesn’t mean that the character isn’t lovable. It just means you need to figure out how to communicate your passion with more clarity. 

By honing your excitement over time, your confidence will grow. Soon enough, pitching your project with passion will be second nature.

3. Research your audience

Remember that whom you’re pitching a movie to might affect how you pitch that movie most effectively. Researching your audience will help you customize your pitch to better appeal to their unique tastes and requirements.

Best Practices for Pitching Your Idea - Wrapbook - At Computer
A little bit of Google can go a long way. SOURCE

Are you pitching a film to seasoned financiers who have been in the industry for decades? Or are you pitching it to first timers who are looking to diversify their portfolio? 

Are you pitching a reality TV show to a group experienced in documentary funding? Or are you pitching it to a feature production company looking to break into television? 

The point is that differences great and small can have a major impact on how you communicate. Don’t approach your pitch as a boilerplate; tailor it to every meeting and audience member. 

If you’re pitching to an investor, for instance, you might focus on a project’s potential profitability. If you’re pitching to an actor, however, you might instead highlight a role’s dramatic potential or what makes a character unique. 

In any case, choosing to emphasize certain qualities or define certain terms could be the difference between a greenlight and a dead end. 

4. Practice as much as possible… and then practice some more

It goes without saying that practice is important. Not only will it help you to memorize your pitch; it will also help sharpen and improve your presentation. Practice is the best way to figure out what does and does not work. 

It is highly recommended that you practice your pitch in front of an audience, particularly one that isn’t familiar with your project. You can think of it as field testing. The presence of an audience provides a gauge by which you can measure how well your pitch is or is not working.

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Easy to follow and easy to customize, our pitch deck template simplifies the prep part of the pitch.

And don’t forget to practice with your pitch deck! If you’ve taken the time to prepare visual materials, why not spend a few extra hours learning how to use them? Practicing with your pitch deck is an easy way to build muscle memory and make your presentation feel more fluid.

5. Emphasize why this is a project that should get made

When figuring out how to pitch a movie idea, remember that the why is just as important as the what

Why is your story worth telling? 

Why does it need to be told now? 

Why should it be told by you

Answers to these questions and others like them will help communicate a clear motive for producing your project.

In other words, your pitch should emphasize the elements of the project that will compel audiences to watch and financiers to invest. These can be big picture characteristics that will go on to inform a successful marketing strategy or specific details that set your project apart in an intriguing way. 

The point is to give whoever you’re pitching a set of concrete reasons to get involved with your project. 

6. Know when to get into specifics and when to stick to the broad strokes

The line between too much and too little information is very thin. A vague pitch won’t stick with its audience, while an over-detailed pitch will get them lost in the weeds. 

When figuring out how to pitch a film or television idea, try to discern where specifics are engaging and where broad strokes are more effective. This requires balancing necessity against - as Irad Eyal puts it - “the sticky factor.” 

For example – you may remove certain details on how fantastic the world-building of your sci-fi movie is. While you love them, they could just be bogging down the narrative. 

Your audience doesn’t need to know how the Force works right now.  They want to hear about Luke Skywalker!

On the other hand, if adding a certain detail puts your audience on the edge of its seat, you might go out of your way to make sure it stays in. That information is “sticky.” It’s fun, engaging, and gives your audience a reason to lean in.

If you’re unsure about a particular detail, try field testing versions of your pitch with and without it. The reaction of a live audience will help you pinpoint extraneous info and cut to the chase as confidently as possible. 

7. Take your time when you pitch

Never rush through your pitch, not even if it’s during a literal elevator ride. Speeding through a pitch sends a message that you’re nervous or jittery. It distracts the audience from the important parts of your story and discourages engagement. 

If an investor walks away from your pitch thinking about how fast it was, then they’ve missed everything that actually matters to you.

Instead, pace yourself and encourage questions. If you give an investor room to interact with your pitch, then they’ll become involved in your pitch. With an inviting rhythm, you can transform a captive audience member into an active participant. 

To improve your pacing, consider practicing multiple versions of your pitch that vary by duration. Develop an elevator pitch, a standard pitch, and‌ something long-form. That way, you can easily tailor your pitch to any time constraint.

8. But respect your investors’ time

While rushing through a pitch is never a good move, taking too long can be just as bad. Remember that everyone is busy. The last thing you want is to spoil an otherwise solid meeting by forcing it to go late. 

Instead, make a conscious effort to respect your audience’s time.

In practice, this simply means honoring time limits as they’ve been set. If a meeting is scheduled to last for 20 minutes, be sure that your pitch is complete in 20 minutes. It makes you look responsible and prepared, two critical characteristics to someone who might fund your next project. 

If a meeting is cut short when‌ your investor is still curious, don’t push it and don’t be discouraged. Instead, remember the oldest advice in showbiz: Always leave them wanting more. 

It’s a GOOD thing if they want to call you back in for a second meeting.

9. Always follow up

Follow up on any and every meeting. Whether you thought it went wonderful or not-so-well, it’s important to reach out and check the temperature a few days after. It’s a small step that will at worst provide useful information and at best create new opportunities.

To streamline the process of following up, try to encourage outstanding questions as the initial meeting comes to a close. This gives your audience something to chew on and gives you an easy reference point when you next touch base. 

10. Don’t get discouraged

If the worst case scenario occurs and your pitch is rejected outright, don’t let it get you down. Learning to handle rejection well is one of the most important parts of pitching.

Instead of seeing rejection as a judgment, choose to see it as a source of valuable information. Are there improvements to be made? Errors to correct? Should you adjust your target audience? You can use any audience reaction to evaluate your presentation.

Once you’ve made a few adjustments, you can further transform rejection into a source of motivation. It’s time to rinse, repeat, and search for new opportunities to pitch your project. 

Wrapping up

Successfully pitching a movie or television show requires a blend of passion, strategy, and raw patience. With the right amount of time and effort, you’ll land your first investors and then some.

After that, you can start to focus on other forms of financing, like securing film grants or completion bonds.

Disclaimer

At Wrapbook, we pride ourselves on providing outstanding free resources to producers and their crews, but this post is for informational purposes only as of the date above. The content on our website is not intended to provide and should not be relied on for legal, accounting, or tax advice.  You should consult with your own legal, accounting, or tax advisors to determine how this general information may apply to your specific circumstances.

About the author
Loring Weisenberger

Loring is a Los Angeles-based writer, director, and creative producer. His work has been commissioned by a diverse range of clients- from Havas Worldwide to Wisecrack, inc.- and has been screened around the world. Through a background that blends project development with physical production across multiple formats, Loring has developed a uniquely eclectic skillset as a visual storyteller.

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