Lit Manager’s 3 Tips for a Killer Pitch

A couple of weeks ago, my friend literary manager Kate Sharp of Bellevue Productions stopped by my Screenwriters Support Group and spent an hour graciously talking about her journey to representation and answering member questions live in session. 

With many of our members currently seeking representation, the question of how to make the most of those pitch opportunities facilitated by such providers as Roadmap Writers and Stage 32 came up. Bellevue is known for making its bread and butter from breaking new voices into the industry, so naturally those online pitches were not something that Kate was unfamiliar with. 

Traditionally, writers signing up for such pitches, whether provided by such services as those noted above or as part of Coverfly‘s Pitch Week or events held by Fade In’s Hollywood Pitch Fest, are given a set window of time (anywhere between 5- and 15-minutes, depending on the provider) in which to pitch the literary manager, producer or industry executive on the other side their screenplay or TV project. Often, providers have a clear directive and structure in mind detailing how the writer should best make use of the time provided. However, having been around these events since their early in-person days and moderating AFM’s Pitch Presentation for a handful of years now, I have my own opinions. 

Years ago, my friend Ryan Cunningham, currently a manager at Anonymous Content, shared with me that he usually knew whether or not a project was of interest to him within the first 30-seconds of a pitch. Which rings true to this day. After all, as soon as a rep hears the logline, they are going to get a strong sense of whether or not the project might be of interest. However, some online pitch sessions are scheduled for up to 15-minutes, so how’s the writer to make the most of the time given? That’s where Kate’s invaluable insight came in. 

Let me pause here to state what might be obvious, but still: This blogpost speaks to one manager’s opinion. One manager I tend to heavily agree with, but still. What this blogpost offers up is one experienced manager’s (and one career coach’s) opinion. That’s it.

And while this blogpost is specific for pay-to-pitch opportunities, much of what is included here is true for any scenario, including a casual elevator pitch, in which someone asks you about a particular screenplay or pilot script. 

So without further ado, below are a few valuable nuggets that Kate shared with the group, which rang so true for me: 

No manager is going to remember the plot twists and turns of your screenplay or pilot.
In other words? Keep your pitch short. To the point. High level. Otherwise, you will lose the listener in your pitch as they will find it challenging to hold on to a lot of plot details. Kate’s take was to keep it as short as a logline. While you may be able to give us a bit more than a logline or build on your logline with some story and character detail, remember that a rep would be able to tell quickly whether or not the project is of interest to them so do not harp on it. 

A manager signs a screenwriter for representation, rather than the script
Many managers taking pitches find themselves more curious about the writer they are meeting with then any particular script that is being pitched. After all, it’s the writer that they end up signing, developing content and building a career with. Therefore, come to these pitches ready to talk about yourself, to share your interests beyond screenwriting, or amplify the life experience that ultimately makes you the best writer for the project that you’re pitching. I can’t emphasize this enough: In most scenarios it’s the writer that the manager takes on for representation, rather than a single screenplay or script. So get your personal narrative ready, and come ready to speak about the themes that hold meaning for you, the type of material that you’re writing and the experiences you bring to the page. 

Use that time to start building a relationship
Don’t monologue! Pitch opportunities are the perfect time to begin building industry relationships. That doesn’t mean that you’re expected to make the rep, producer or exec sitting on the receiving end of your pitch your new best friend in six minutes or less, but be sure to do your research prior to your pitch, find common ground, and connect where you can. Once the pitch is over, even if your material wasn’t requested, make sure to jot notes about anything said or shared that you want to remember, so that you can continue tracking the manager or exec as your writing career develops.