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Bizzers give film students pitch pointers

'Pitch Me' session gives chance to practice, get feedback

Aspiring screenwriters, directors and producers received priceless pointers and feedback on the art of pitching projects at AFM’s “Pitch Me” session Saturday morning.

Nine students of the Independent Filmmaker Labs and a handful of grateful audience members pitched their works-in-progress to a three-member panel of experts, moderated by Stephanie Palmer, former director of creative affairs for MGM and current prexy of Good in a Room, a consulting firm aimed at pitching. Sebastian Twardosz, VP of Craftsman Films, and Peggy Rajski, exec producer of “Bee Season,” provided constructive criticism and helpful advice.

Works pitched varied from low-budget indie comedies to family dramas and politically charged thrillers. None of the pitches stood out creatively, although head-scratching tales of tapeworms, Playboy bunnies and holy doughnuts will not be forgotten anytime soon.

Common pointers aimed at perfecting the art of the pitch included the following:

? Have an emotional hook that will engage the audience and keep them on the edge of their seats. Also, come prepared with a strong outline that shows you know the tone of your screenplay and who its audience is.

? You can pitch yourself or your story, but give the listener a reason to remember you. Entice somebody and get them to like you, because it’s a matter of persistence and who you know.

? Speak in bite-sized sentences, articulate your screenplay’s point of view, and don’t worry too much about story details. Instead, focus on the specific character arcs that will help convey the structure of the movie. Also, tie it to the moment if you can.

Other pearls of wisdom dished out at the sesh:

? Screenwriting teams should come prepared knowing who will pitch what and answer which questions;

? Don’t start with the brand, because studios don’t want marketing pieces, they want original, interesting stories;

? Avoid mentioning the budget or leaving a one-page synopsis, because it will only give the listener opportunity to poke holes in your story and find an excuse to pass.

? Remember, a pitch is only three to five minutes long, so mention your protagonist, antagonist and central conflict, and how the story’s unique, unexpected or ironic. When execs ask, “Why this movie?” you should have a definite answer that distinguishes your screenplay from the hundreds of others piled high in the intern box.

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