It all starts with a good script.
That was the ruling sentiment and constant reminder Saturday morning at the annual AFM “Pitch Me” conference. The point was especially relevant given the doom-and-gloom atmosphere at this year’s confab.
Aspiring filmmakers, who pitched their projects to a panel of experienced producers, were given the dos and don’ts of pitching — all in the name of education.
Peggy Rajski, exec producer of “Bee Season”; producer Caroline Baron of “Capote” fame; and Shelby Stone, senior VP of development and production of Foxx-King Entertainment, heard concepts ranging from dark comedies to historical lit adaptation.
All three panelists agreed that when pitching a film, it’s important to sound unrehearsed.
“For me, what pitching is all about is telling your favorite story in a bar,” Stone said. “Somehow, the pleasure of (telling your story) has to get through.”
Stone also recommended that pitchers first get to know something about the execs they’re pitching to.
“When you get into the room, you’re playing to a person,” Stone insisted.
In terms of the actual pitch, the panel agreed that too much detail can be an immediate deal-breaker: The overall tone of the prospective picture can be lost. Instead, they recommend filmmakers be specific and start their pitch with the “quick strokes.”
Rajski said it’s important to not only hammer home the essentials but also to maintain charisma and personality. This makes the essentials much more relatable, she said.
When addressing the lone male pitcher of the bunch, Rajski commented on his laidback style, referring to him as “lackadaisical.” His pitch, for a serious historical adaptation, “The Man Who Knew Infinity,” played as perhaps too personal, but he hooked the panel on the merits of his script alone.
Yet no matter how compelling a script may be, or how well the pitch goes, Rajski provided the aud with a piece of cold, hard reality: “You’re not going to make anyone buy anything they don’t want to buy.”
She then added, “There will be mutual opportunities that are right for you and right for them.”
She insisted it’s all about getting a foot in the door.