Earlier this week, as part of IFP Film Week three filmmakers had the opportunity to pitch a feature film idea to a panel of current and former studio executives in an event called “The Art of the Narrative Pitch.” These filmmakers were chosen through an online selection process and asked to pitch their film in 90 seconds or less. The panelists responded with critiques and broader insights about what it takes to get a producer’s attention and get your film made. The floor was then opened up for a Q&A.
Below is some of the advice shared by the panelists, sales agent Bill Strauss, acquisitions executive Sarah Lash, filmmaker Janet Grillo and creative executive Tamir Muhammad:
1. Don’t bury important information.
“I know 90 seconds is not a lot of time to add everything but sometimes you’re at a cocktail party and that’s all you get, you have to be able to know where not to bury certain things so that the larger conversation follows up at the office.” – Tamir Muhammad
2. Make your own role in the film clear.
“I think it would be helpful to say ‘I’m the writer/director’ or ‘I’m the director/producer’ and just have a really clear understanding of what’s your role because sometimes it’s the screenwriter who’s pitching, sometimes it’s director, sometimes it’s the producer, and I think it’s helpful for the person on the other side of the table to be really clear about what your role on the project is and that might inform the questions that we might have.” – Sarah Lash
3. Be honest about your resources.
“It’s okay in a pitch to give fantasy casting but you have to be really clear that it’s fantasy casting otherwise you come across as naive.” – Sarah Lash
4. Remember your audience.
“Slow it down just for a second… at the end of the day, you have to realize we’re all humans, you’re pitching to a human but they’re going to have to make a business decision. Not for themselves, but they have to take the information they just received and share it with their colleagues in some kind of way.” – Tamir Muhammad
5. Be prepared for rejection.
“[Don’t] ask for an answer right away. I think that’s one of the biggest mistakes people make. There’s an urgency and I think the urgency should be built into where you’re at in the process, and not in your urgency of getting an answer, because very often there’s a lot of things that go into factor. Sometimes people are going to reject you even though they like your project. So don’t take your rejection personally.” – Tamir Muhammad
6. Choose charm over swagger.
“Don’t exaggerate, and don’t bluff. I think there’s some bad advice floating around on there, like come in with a position of strength and talk a big game, people will be so much more inclined to want to work with you, to listen more, to ask more, to give you a little more time if you’re likeable and seem like you’re easy to work with… lead with charm vs. swagger.” – Sarah Lesh
7. Learn how to network.
“If it’s a social situation, be social. Oftentimes you just make a nice human connection, you like somebody, and then as you’re leaving it’s ‘Hey, can I give you my card? Hey, can I have your card? I’d love to follow up.’ Let there be a reason they want to invite you into their office, as opposed to bargin in and grabbing them.” – Janet Grillo
“People who work in this industry love to meet filmmakers. That’s part of our job. Part of our job is to meet people, find out what a project is, and fund it. But at the end of the day there’s volume. We can’t meet with everyone, we can’t do everything. So I think the best way to get through is just read the room, try your hardest to connect and give that information.” – Tamir Muhammad