Saturday, September 4, 2010

So You Want to Write A Screenplay

Who doesn't these days?

A friend of mine, a screenwriter who landed the post of a WGA writing intern at a popular TV series, told me the story of his cab ride from LAX to the studio -- in which the cabbie pitched him a script! It's an often retold story, so I rarely tell anyone on a flight to LA or nearby Long Beach that I'm a screenwriter.

But then it happened to me yesterday on the phone. I called a printer in another major metropolis where studios reside to get a quote on photocopying the Top Three Screenplays in the New Hampshire Film Festival Screenplay Competition and delivering them to our judge's office. When the guy on the other end of the phone pitched me his script, I scratched his company off my list. I was not about to give him the he could pitch to our judge upon delivery too.  I didn't care how good his prices were. (Actually he was going to charge me more than the service I eventually hired.)

Knowing when and where to pitch to someone is as important as knowing how to pitch. I'll give the guy credit: he had his pitch down cold. But when he asked, "Is this something your company would be interested in?" I could only repeat what I had told him at the beginning of our conversation -- that I am the Director of the NHFF Screenplay Competition, and that he is welcome to submit his script in next year's competition via Withoutabox, but I'm not a company. Rather, I'm just a screenwriter who, like him, would also be interested in finding a studio interested in acquiring my script.

Like great dialogue writing, pitching needs to be about listening first. If he had listened to me when he initially asked, he would have heard that I was not a person he should be pitching to. Or even if I was, I was not interested in hearing his pitch at that moment. I felt like I had dialed into a telemarketer. Resisting the urge to tell him, "Take me off your list!" and hanging up, instead I removed him from my list when I hung up. want to be a screenwriter?  First rule: listen.


  1. Pitches are really tricky. I worked for a small PR company this summer in New York City and I wrote a few pitches for the first time. However, my boss was a former journalist for CNN and he taught me a lot of what Scott refers to as the "new " marketing and PR techniques. He stressed that it's always to read the past editorials of the journalists you hope to pitch to and find a connection that they will care about. It was tough, but if I was on the other end as a journalist, I would hope a PR professional would read my work as well.

  2. It is kind of entertaining how people are sometimes. The fact that he didnt realize pitching to you over the phone was inapropriate baffles me. Not to mention how desperate he made himself look. It is especially funny that he was soo tunnel visioned that he didnt realize you were not the one to talk to about such a thing!

  3. That guy should have listened to you and then he would have realized that he was wasting his time and yours by pitching to you. He also lost a connection. A little listening goes a long way.

  4. Seems as if everyone thinks their pitches are the "next big thing". It's unfortunate that he failed to listen to you and instead pitch to you, which brings about another good concept which is listening. I think we could all work on that.

  5. I had to activate a credit card a few days ago through a 1 800 number. I was in a rush and did not think that the activation process would be...well... a process! The woman i spoke with pitched three ideas to me! I did not want to be rude so i listened, i was on the phone for almost fifteen minutes!