Went to a seminar on Sunday at UCLA Extension about the art of the Hollywood “pitch”…yet another fascinating aspect of this business. Jill Gilbert, one of the panelists, talked about how pitching is all about making an emotional connection with your audience, that’s what they’ll remember.
And it’s true. Think about when you meet someone new, and you have a strong reaction to them, positive or negative. A few days later, you won’t necessarily be able to remember exactly what you talked about, but you’ll remember how they made you feel. So in a pitch, although you’re trying to relay your screenplay idea, sell yourself and your abilities, all while be charming and personable, the most important thing is the impression you leave on them.
During the seminar, I realized I have TONS of pitching experience. YEARS, actually. And it all comes down to pageants. Training for the interview portion of the pageant, which we would do for months and months leading up to the big day, was the most intense public speaking practice imaginable. We had 12 minutes to impress the judges with our composure and smarts. They’d throw questions at us ranging from “What’s your opinion on stem cell research?” to “Who is the head of the Federal Reserve?” to “How would you decorate a Mardi Gras mask?.” We learned it wasn’t so much what we said but how we said it…we were entitled to our opinions so long as we could stand behind them. Much like the Hollywood pitch. If you believe in your story, the movers and shakers that can get it on-screen will too.
I gotta say, my whole job with Wild Animus is one giant pitch as well. Hundreds of pitches an hour, day after day, lots of rejection peppered with just enough validation to want to go on. “Free book? Free art?” we say to the students. Many of them ignore us. Many say no without even hearing what we’re offering. But then, every third to fifth person, will stop and say, “What? It’s free? What’s it about?” And then we launch into our “pitch,” trying to get it all out in one breath as they walk quickly by: It’s-an-experimental-art-for-art’s-sake-project-completely-free-no-catch-it’s-an-adventure-story-about-the-search-for-self….or whatever order it all comes out. And if we can get our message across, make an emotional connection with them, 99% of the time they take the book.
I learned the finer details of pitching at the seminar, and then realized I practice pitching every day.