Yesterday I had the great pleasure of helping out at the NATPE pitchfest, critiquing ten-minute pitches – or rather, having 10 minutes to hear a pitch and give feedback. Even I thought that was a bit tight and I am the queen of the elevator pitch, but 90% of the time, it worked out fine.
Here are some of the things I learned:
1) Most people are more prepared than they used to be. My colleagues and I compared notes and, across the board, we gave nearly all the participants a B+ or above. I think this is great news; I want everyone to succeed. It also means that the bar has been raised, so keep that in mind when you go to pitch. The competition has gotten stronger.
2) Those who hadn’t prepared well really hadn’t prepared at all. There was no grey area. I talked to people who had never seen a TV show in the genre they were pitching. That is inexcusable. You must become an expert in your genre. It’s not that you should pitch your story in terms of other shows, but if the producer you’re pitching to asks how your show is different from Veronica Mars/The Office/Project Runway and you don’t know, you can’t have a conversation – and you won’t make the sale.
3) Most of the time, the pitch was too long. Think of a three-minute pitch as a sizzle reel – as opposed to a bad movie trailer. You know the kind I mean, the ones that tell so much of the story I no longer need to see the movie. I don’t need to know the plot moves, I need to know the main characters and relationships. If it’s a reality series, I need to know what makes it special. Do not tell me the pilot story unless I ask for it.
A three-minute pitch is the most-useful tool you have in your marketing arsenal. It gives enough information for the buyer (or agent) to decide whether or not the project is right for them, but leaves some time and space for a further conversation. But I’m going to take my own advice and keep this short. More on that in a future post…