Long distance pitching for filmmakers and screenwriters has been around for a few years. Virtual Pitchfest was the first I became aware of, and it’s still around, boasting an impressive list of industry participants. VP works on the basis that you, the customer, buy a set of pitches for approximately $10.00 each and use them when you’re ready. The site claims all queries are granted a response within five days. I haven’t tried it, but, as these things go, it looks like a good deal.
What I did do was engage in a couple of other conduits for long-distance pitching over the previous two weekends. Six pitches at $45.00 each, publicized by Stage32 and conducted by The Happy Writers. Of six long-distance pitches I’ve made, I’ve now had three script requests. I’m writing one of the scripts this very evening, because I pitched a TV pilot concept which, to my surprise, elicited a script request from both a manager and a production company rep. All I had was the plan for the story. Now to whip out 60 scintillating pages of pilot, and hope they’ll still accept the script by the time I get it all into words!
The Happy Writers works as an intermediary, setting up a Skype conference (or, you can submit a written pitch; I’ve now done it both ways) in which HW President Joey Tuccio or one of his associates calls your Skype account, you answer and he points his web cam at the industry pro you’re going to be conversing with for up to eight minutes. I did two live pitches this way and my approach was just to have a light conversation about something I’ve written along with what I see online about how their company is trending, what they’re making and what they’re looking to do. My success rate (at getting a read request) working in this manner so far is one out of two, fifty percent. It’s a long way from a read request to making a sale, but it helps one get to the latter when one is assured it’s possible to achieve the former.
With The Happy Writers holding the communications information and all transactions going through them, the industry pros can be reasonably assured that even if they end up connecting with a psycho on these Skype calls, their own remoteness is preserved unless they actually decide they like your stuff so much they actually want to establish a relationship with you. In that way, I’m sure it has much in common with Virtual Pitchfest, and, no doubt, the third and final avenue for making these kinds of pitches I’m going to point out in this article.
And that last avenue is, The Production Arts Group. This one’s publicized by Jennifer Berg and The PAGE Awards, my favorite screenwriting competition. Taking this route, one pays a membership fee one time, $59.00, for which one gets to “set up your own writer’s profile page, study the profiles of all the industry professionals in the group, get your questions answered in our Members’ Forum, and participate in our industry Chat Sessions.” And occasionally, quarterly or so, a roster of industry pros is established for a round of pitching, for which there is an additional fee. I’ve been tempted to try this route next, actually. Why? It’s a relative bargain compared to what I’ve done with The Happy Writers (which is, itself, a relative bargain compared to flying across the country to Los Angeles and taking part in the massive pitchfests held there. My sessions so far have been $45.00 each. Times six. That’s $270.00. For the $59.00 member fee plus $120.00 for the quarter, I could have arranged to pitch to up to nine industry pros (many the same people participating with The Happy Writers), I could have pitched to one and a half times as many pros for two-thirds of the cost. Live, learn, and share.
If you screenwrite for long enough, you probably get over, at some point, the need for overt “self-expression” and harden yourself through experience into the mental attitude you need to become a professional screenwriter, a role in which you’re more likely to find work putting verbal flesh on the ideas of others. At some point, it all becomes a matter of how crafty you can be, what kinds of good ideas you can have and how well can you express those in words for the sake of action on a screen seeming both larger than life and true to life. You’re not really expressing yourself any more if you make it that far. You will have remade yourself into the vessel, the medium, for your craft to find its way into its own expression. If you feel you’re just about getting there, I’d recommend that you try some pitching.
And now, back to work.