Writing For Television: Preparing For and Surviving A Hollywood Pitch
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Writing For Television: Preparing For and Surviving A Hollywood Pitch

Pitching can be a quick way to secure writing deals, but while it sounds glamorous or easier than laboring over a script, it’s only a means to an end, which depends on many variables. It can be on the phone or in person. I’ve done both and definitely prefer in person. There are a texture and rhythm to a room full of people that can’t be duplicated over the phone. Body language, eye contact, even the small talk, which accompanies live meetings, encourage interaction no other mode of communicating can replace. If you have a choice, always choose the in-person pitch.

Setting It Up

How do you go about getting a pitch? First off, the TV show has to know you exist. Submitting a spec script to get the ball rolling is the first step. Following current TV shows and then obtaining contact information is your first priority. Resources like the WGA website, IMDB or The Hollywood Creative Directory are some great places to start. After the writing staff reads your submission, you’ll either get an invite to meet with them for a pitch or hear nothing which usually means you didn’t make the cut. Call them anyway, because writing offices are busy places. The determined writer stands out and gets the meeting more often than the patient, though passive scribe.

Dress For Success

A pitch is like an interview or sales meeting. Don’t show up in the casual wardrobe like jeans and t-shirt. The hip image of Hollywood, promoted and cultivated in countless movies, implies that TV production offices are big parties full of laid-back types who call each other babe. For the still struggling writer, dressing like you mean business is something that will help you get into the business of writing for television. Business casual attire for men and women is fine. The most important part is looking professional and feeling professional, which will give you that air of confidence you’ll want and need to do your best.

Nuts and Bolts

How do you prepare for what may be the biggest meeting of your blossoming Hollywood writing career? Start by assembling as many story ideas as possible. You’ll actually only have time for a handful, depending on their complexity. However, you want to give them your best material. By brainstorming a dozen or more, you can refine them over the time leading up to the meeting. Having a story surplus helps with two more things that are entirely out of your control. During the pitch, they might hate your idea so much after you’ve managed just an introduction, you’ll be forced to go one to another. Or, and this is a more common occurrence, the staff may be working on a very similar story or another writer has just pitched nearly the same theme as yours. Bottom line: More is definitely better when prepping a pitch.

The Big Day

Ok, you’re prepared. You look your best – or close to it. The big day is here. What to expect? Well, everything.

TV producers are just people. They’re all different and you’ll never have the same type of pitch twice. You’ll be greeted by an assistant in the office who will offer you a refreshment and direct you to a waiting area. Just as in any meeting or interview, it’s rare you’re seen immediately. When you are called in, expect one or more staff members to take your pitch. Often, they’ll have a writing assistant along with a notepad, jotting down stuff like taking the minutes of a meeting. After all that, you just have to relax and tell your stories. Try to be clear, concise and as enthusiastic as possible. This show you’re pitching to may be a hit or it may just be starting out, whatever the case, showing real enthusiasm and interest will make them feel good and tell them you’ve done your homework.

Good luck getting that pitch! It’s not easy. It takes talent, perseverance and more than a little tunnel vision. Pitching and writing go hand in hand and just like anything, practice makes pitching more accessible and easier to handle.

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