This evening I attended a session of Non-Multiplex Cinema‘s ‘Write to Shoot’ course. A ten session course to help writers with a concept, synopsis or initial pages of a script who need the encouragement of a writers group to get that first draft done. As well as a structured course, sessions include scene reviews with writers and actors reading scenes aloud.
Unluckily for me, the usual tutor couldn’t attend this time, so we got a talk about pitching.
1. Sell yourself…
2. then sell the idea
The tutor then said that in the two or three minutes of your pitch, you need to make sure that those you are pitching to know
Who the characters are (mention two or three, but their names are not important: “Policeman, Student, Shark hunter”).
Where the story takes place (“In a mining operation on one of the moons of Jupiter”)
When the events are set (“The week before New Year’s Eve in 1999”)
What the protagonist wants (“To leave the farm and see the galaxy like his father did”)
Why the protagonist wants it (“To make up for not helping a boy who grew up to be a disturbed man who commits suicide”)
How the protagonist plans to get it (“By going on a perilous journey to a far off city to ask a wizard for help”)
You should also establish the stakes (“Winning most important legal case of his life, making sure his son doesn’t move to the other side of the country”).
Going back to item 1 in the list above, “selling yourself”… If you have 5 minutes in all, spend the first 1-2 minutes pitching yourself, who you are. You need to keep it short, clear and therefore memorable.
The tutor in the session asked for use to pitch. None of us volunteered.
He asked us to do a couple of exercises. We were divided into pairs. The first exercise took four minutes. In the first two minutes person A explains who they are to person B. In the second two minutes, person B explains who they are to person A. The tutor then asked each of the ‘person A’s’ to explain who their ‘person B’ was. The second exercise involved each person A telling person B a story. Person B was then asked to recount who their ‘person A’ was and also to re-tell their story.
We all found it easier to tell a larger group of strangers about someone else. It was also easier to be pitching what we remembered of someone else’s tale than our own special projects. It also acted as a reminder: we have to make our pitches clear and simple enough for other people to be able to (and want to) pitch to others further up the chain of command.
After 40 minutes on pitching we spent the rest of the session reading out and commenting on scenes written by attendees. There were four scripts: scenes from a stoner comedy, a political thriller, a horror movie and a sex comedy. All the scenes were a lot better than scene I’ve written in the last year, and it was interesting to hear the other writers, actors and producers give their feedback. I’m sure it was useful for those who submitted their work.