Pitching projects during a pandemic is no easy task, but the WGA West is offering five tips on virtual pitch meetings. “As if the prospect of pitching wasn’t daunting already, writers now have to do it through the impersonal, virtual workplace that is the Zoom room,” the guild told its members today. “The subtle and stressful art of pitching is not made easier when you can’t read the room, make eye contact, or tell if the people in the tiny squares on your computer screen are laughing – or even paying attention.”
The guild’s recommendations stem from its recent “Pitch Perfect” panel discussion moderated by Spiro Skentzos (Arrow, Grimm) that featured conversations with writers Annie Julia Wyman (The Chair), Mikki Daughtry (The Curse of La Llorona), and Tripper Clancy (I Am Not Okay With This); and executives Amy Suh, development executive of genre series at Amazon Studios, and Sheila Walcott, head of TV/Film at Blackmaled Productions.
The five tips are:
1. Engage your audience right away
Open with what made you write this material, be clear about what drew you to it personally, and make it clear you are the writer to tell this story. You want to help execs put your face to your idea and have it stand out from the pack. You also need to be concise: What’s the main idea (the hook)? What’s the tone? What are the comps? Don’t make the mistake of referencing projects that didn’t work.
2. Be a human being
We are in extraordinary times, but we are still human. Remember that it’s ok to acknowledge the situation and let it help you connect to the people you are pitching to. You are setting the tone, so make sure to keep your energy high and engage the people you are speaking to. It’s ok to read off of a document, but remember that the best pitches feel like vivid conversations. Whatever you do, don’t wait for people to laugh at your jokes.
3. Use visuals/sizzle reels carefully
Use them only if they really stand out and add to the pitch. Don’t get bogged down in technology, so if you’re not comfortable with it, don’t use it. Remember that even in this virtual setting, your writing is never free. Don’t leave anything behind!
4. Bring the star power
As hard as it is to work around an A-lister’s schedule, it’s worth it to have them show up to the pitch. A star actor, showrunner, or director can help your project stand out, and the presence of the A-lister shows they are buying into the project. However, as the writer, you must lead the pitch and make it clear why you are the right writer for the project. Also, make sure to prep well beforehand with anyone pitching with you.
5. Know your story
Expect interruptions and questions – they mean people are paying attention. If you know your story inside and out, you won’t get thrown off. Be prepared to pivot if a certain idea or character is really working in the room. Think of possible questions as you prepare your pitch; no question should be a surprise.
The guild also offered a “bonus tip” on the possibility of equipment failure. “Plan for the worst, and don’t get flustered. Computers crash, internet goes out, and Zoom audio gets wonky. Don’t let this slow you down. Make sure you have a backup like an iPad or your phone. Show the execs you can think on your feet and take things in stride.”
Recommending that virtual pitches should last no longer than 30 minutes, the guild jokingly reminded members to “put on pants” while pitching from home “for confidence.”