notes from carole kirschner’s class – 5 secrets of a killer pitch

here are notes from “Five Secrets of a Killer Pitch” with Carole Kirschner, from the free GAPF class this past weekend. carole runs the cbs writers mentoring program, and wrote a book Hollywood Game Plan which i haven’t read but have heard good things about.

the notes were taken by fellow writer beau henry, who won the austin film festival sitcom teleplay category with his office spec in 2008. you can follow him on twitter @BeauHenry. thanks for sharing your notes beau!

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WHAT IS A KILLER PITCH?
The awesome trailer you can’t stop talking about.
The tantalizing appetizer.
An artfully structured and well-rehearsed performance.

4-ACT PITCH STRUCTURE

  1. Make a personal connection.
  2. Introduce your project.
  3. Deliver your creative pitch.
  4. Strategic close.

SECRET #1 – Personal Connection

Carole says making a personal connection with the person you’re pitching to will double your chances of a sale.

The person your pitching to is “looking for someone I like and want to work with.”  You have to be that person.

Start off your meeting with either a compliment or a question.
– “I’m a huge fan of your work on ________.”   OR
– “How did you come to be active in such-and-such charity organization?”

And you may want to consider saying, “I’m not here to sell you anything, I just want your feedback.” –reserved for Pitch Fest-type situations, obviously you don’t want to say that in a meeting.

Come up with a Personal Logline (you can find more info about this at parkonthelot.com).

SECRET #2 – Be Over-prepared

Be an A+ student!

You need to know the creative and business sides of your project.

Business Prep
  • Is this right for their brand?  (Answer this in ACT II.)
  • Are there any attachments that make your project more attractive?
    • a production company
    • talent (actor, director, celebrity)
    • a format from another country (like The Office UK)
    • underlying material (novel, graphic novel, etc.)
    • NOTE: Carole told an anecdote about pitching a TV movie about the first black woman in the FBI.  They called Diana Ross’s people and vaguely asked if she’d ever be interested in doing a TV movie.  They said, “Maybe.”  They didn’t go into anymore details.  When they finally pitched it they said “…and Diana Ross is interested.”  It sold.  Obviously, you probably won’t want to try that.
Creative Prep
  • Two components
    • distinctive characters
      • “A brilliant, but drug-addicted doctor…”
    • inherent conflict
      • “…fights the system to save patients.”
  • The two components become your logline.
  • In addition to the series logline, come up with log lines for TEN episodes to show that your series has legs.

SECRET #3 – Performance
Take improv classes.
Passion.  Confidence.  Brevity.
Rehearse over and over and over.
Get feedback.

When you walk into the room, don’t sit on the couch and sink in.  Sit up, lean forward. If you feel the energy in the room flagging, get up and move around while you talk.

Don’t just describe the character. – “John Rogers, 40, and tall…”
Keep them emotionally involved. – “We’re in a small Southern town, at a working class bar… we notice one of the waitresses works harder than the others… she’s cute, all-American, but there’s a something behind her eyes… something that sets her apart… her secret is that she can hear the thoughts of every person in the restaurant…”

End your creative pitch (ACT III) with your logline that sums up your whole project.  “So what it’s really about is…[LOGLINE].”

Remember that there is someone in the room taking notes, and that they will have to use those notes to sell your project up the food chain.  Make it easy for them by summing up your project in a concise logline.

SECRET #4 – Perspective
Be totally committed to selling your project, but UNATTACHED to the outcome.
Don’t worry about things that are out of your control.
Be ready to move on.
“They won, we lost, NEXT.” – Barry Diller.

Strategic close (ACT IV):
“That’s my pitch, I’d love to hear your feedback.” OR
“That’s my pitch, do you have any questions?”
Then, “Would it be helpful if I left you my treatment/script/outline?”

SECRET #5 – Your Personal Discovery Story
How you came up with the story, and why you’re the ONLY person who can write it.

Why do you want to tell this story?

This works as a great segue into your creative pitch (ACT III).

OTHER NOTES
Don’t give someone YOUR business card, ask for THEIR business card.  Giving a business card is telling that person, “You call me.”  They’ll never call you.  It’s your job to get their card and call them.

Instead of exchanging cards, make personal connections.

If you have multiple pitches, commit to ONE.  If there’s time, do another.

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