The Head Space For Pitching

The Head Space For Pitching, guest post by Ross Klavan. Includes giveaway!

In the so-called “old days” in Hollywood (or so I’m told) there was a saying that went something like: “Good pitch, bad writer.” If you were good on your feet and could really sell a story in the producer’s office (so the wisdom went) then most likely you were a hack, worth the hire, maybe, but not eligible for any form of artistic or human respect.

The Head Space For Pitching, guest post by Ross Klavan. Includes giveaway!
Today, it’s a little different. I’m not sure what’s replaced the “Good pitch…” bromide, but it must be something like, “Good pitch, good writer…bad pitch, don’t let the door hit you on the way out and nobody will ever talk to you again.” Everyone pitches everything. Even art schools train future Picassos to do a “white wine pitch,” referring to the beverage that makes a star appearance at most art show openings. For some reason, in an increasingly technological, digital age, everyone is expected to be articulate about their work.

For writers, the call to pitch can be daunting given that many people are driven to the writing life by an anxious discomfort or dislike of speaking in public, selling themselves or of spending too much time with other human beings. Writers usually spend an awful lot of time alone.

If you’re new to The Pitch or the process makes you briefly lose consciousness, here’s a couple of ideas to keep in mind…

---You’re not pitching to God, your parents, your significant other or anyone who can do anything for you in the metaphysical or deeply personal realm. It is, as they say in the Mafia movies, business not personal.

---The people who are listening to you do NOT want you to do a bad job and are not hoping that you’ll fail, lose control of your bodily functions, freeze or pass out. They actually hope you have a story that will solve their problem—empty space.

---It’s OK to sell something. There are philosophies, religions, ideologies and individuals that disagree and put “selling” into a broadly defined, morally reprehensible category that usually has something to do with bordellos. You may not think it’s right to sell cigarettes or liquor to minors or Bernie Madoff schemes to investors but that’s not what you’re involved in (at least, not in the pitch). You’re selling a piece of work that you’ve put a lot of time and sweat into and if you don’t do it, it’ll just sit in your closet or garage collecting dust.

---For most people, for most pitches, all you’re really hoping to do is get them interested in asking you to the next level. Send us a treatment, send us the first 50 pages, maybe even send us the script or the manuscript. It’s very, very, very unlikely that you’ll sell a project off nothing but the pitch. Not unless you have a solid, long track record and are (probably) pitching to people you know or who know your work.

---Even a good pitch might not get you what you’re after. Book and film companies very often have “slots” to fill. If you pitch a horror story and they’ve just done a horror story and have an open slot for a YA romance, then your pitch is just five or ten minutes of bad luck. In that case, if they liked your pitch, be able to answer (positively) the question, “Do you have anything else?” Or take seriously their offer to answer your call the next time you’ve got material. Which should be soon.

---Overall, they’ve got their game and you’ve got yours. There’s a less polite way to put this but the PC version here will suffice. During the First World War, American soldiers, not wanting to get killed for no reason, would refuse to run after enemy troops across No Man’s Land saying, “Don’t chase ‘em, we’ll get ‘em next time.” If this pitch doesn’t go, the next one might. Or the one after that. If you’re the type that suffers tremendous ego damage from a pitch that goes south, take it and try to recover your wounded self-esteem as quickly as possible. There’s a Japanese martial arts saying that translates, “Get knocked down 9 times, get up 10 times.” You know what I’m saying. There’s no payoff in being precious.

---An attitude of knowing that pitching is a game not a medical procedure might help. It’s also a performance—you’re not a salesman, you’re performing the character of yourself who’s got a terrific piece to sell and wants to sell it. Practice. Keep it natural. Make it short, sweet and interesting as Hell. Tell ‘em what you got and then go out and have a drink, enjoy the rest of the day. And, at least from this side of things, I wish you the best of luck.

Ross Klavan’s work spans film, television, radio, print, live performance and visual art. A novella, “Thump Gun Hitched,” was published in 2016 by Down and Out Books as part of “Triple Shot” along with Charles Salzberg and Tim O’Mara. His darkly comic novel Schmuck was published by Greenpoint Press in 2014. Klavan’s original screenplay for the film Tigerland was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award and the film was released by New Regency starring Colin Farrell. He recently finished an adaption of John Bowers’ The Colony and has written scripts for Miramax, Intermedia, Walden Media, Paramount, A&E and TNT-TV among others. The “conversation about writing” he moderated with Kurt Vonnegut and Lee Stringer was televised and published as Like Shaking Hands with God, and his short stories have appeared in magazines and been produced by the BBC. An earlier novel, Trax, was published under a pseudonym. His play How I Met My (Black) Wife (Again), co-written with Ray Iannicelli, has been produced in New York City, and he has performed his work in numerous theaters and clubs. He has acted and done voice work in TV and radio commercials and has lent his voice to feature films including: CasinoYou Can Count on MeRevolutionary RoadAwake and the Amazon web series Alpha House, written by Gary Trudeau. He has worked as a newspaper and radio journalist in New York City and London. He lives in New York City with his wife, the painter, Mary Jones.
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The Head Space For Pitching, guest post by Ross Klavan. Includes giveaway!



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