pitch face

                        Pitch Face On!


Been pitching like mad since mid-June on a feature-length animated project. We've had meetings with execs at Sony, Paramount, MGM, Dreamworks, Warner, Bron Studios, Netflix and (very soon) Apple. This is, of course, a dream come true for me to be getting into meetings at this level, and since the most common question I hear from new writers is "how do I sell my scripts/ get representation?" I thought people might be interested in hearing the story of how this all came about and the lessons I've learned along the way.

I met my manager through a fellow writer. He was excited about a script I had written and offered to rewrite it with me, and then shared it with his manager. If I had been precious about that script and unwilling to collaborate on a rewrite, none of this would have happened. If a more experienced writer takes interest in your work and wants to help you make your script better, SAY YES. At this point I had already been working on screenwriting for at least five years. I was pretty good, but I still had a lot to learn. The key is that I was willing to learn. Don't let your ego get involved here. Take the criticism you get from more experienced writers and use it to make your work better.

My manager didn't sign me right away. In fact we still haven't ever "signed" anything. Some managers don't bother with that. I knew him for about two years before I got the call to write something that his producing partner wanted. I impressed him with that project, a TV pilot script and bible, and he started working with me to develop other properties. Eventually he partnered me with a director he represented, and I wrote a script for that director. That script still hasn't been made, but it's been an incredible sample for me. About a year and a half ago he gave that script to an animator he represented, who liked my writing enough to partner with me on the current project--an idea he'd been working on for about five years but never taken to script stage.

Keep in mind that this has all been spec work. I've been paid for some VR projects, for an idea lab, and for a low-budget feature that was actually produced, but most of my writing so far has been on spec. That's the nature of this business. It's a horrible business. I'm not going to sugar-coat that for you. You have to do a lot of work for free before even getting the chance to get paid. And people steal stuff--all the time. Like big, well-known, established people who work at studios. They steal stuff. And there's nothing you can do about it, other than not get your work out there and never get anything made--at least not at the big budget level. If you're not willing to take that risk, stay at the indie level, raise money from friends and family, and make your own movies. That's the only option. If you start trying to make people sign NDAs and crap before you ever let them read your stuff, they won't touch you with a ten foot pole.

I have to say, pitching an animated project with an experienced animator has been an absolute blast. Early in the script writing process he started drawing stuff to help us conceptualize what we were doing and see how it would all work visually. Those drawings have slowly evolved, and he's hired a few other artists to do some concept art, and now we have a presentation with over 60 slides to help us tell our story. Okay, he'd correct me if he heard me say that. Our pitch is telling people "about" our story, not telling the story. We start with an introduction to the world, then go over the main characters. In doing that we cover a few major plot points, just enough to connect the dots. We introduce the last two important characters as we describe the midpoint of our story, then it's a rush to the end. We hit on the most emotional beats, the things that make our story most unique and compelling, and then we get out. The whole thing, including introducing ourselves and talking a bit about our personal connection to the story, takes about 20 minutes. That's all you get, folks. Most of the execs haven't had a lot of questions, since they know there's a script to read. And every exec so far has wanted to read the script except for one--their studio had a similar project in development and didn't want to take the risk of cross-contamination.

My partner's agent is Verve, and so they are repping this script. This whole thing is sort of like an audition for me, both with them and with the studio execs I'm meeting with. All the studios have a myriad of projects that they need writers for. Most writers make money writing these projects, not selling their own work. This is part of the reason why it's good to write spec scripts. Even if they don't sell, which they probably won't, they can get you paying work--if they're good.

It takes a long time to learn how to write for the screen. Writing novels takes longer, but screenwriting is incredibly technical, and preserving your art and your voice while meeting the stringent requirements necessary for this particular art form takes time to master. Be patient with yourself and always be learning and improving. Eventually someone will notice your talent and persistence.