Beyond Lemonade – Keys to Pitching

293193656_c399040e87It’s rare for a creative person to be on the other side of the desk— evaluating pitches instead of doing the pitching.  I had that opportunity this week when we were hiring people for some creative elements for my online series.

Here are six lessons I learned sitting on the other side of the desk.  I also had the realization that at one time or another I have made all these mistakes myself. What an eye-opener to see how those missteps look “from the other side.”  Here’s what I learned:

1. Be Authentic. Don’t try to second-guess what the producer wants.  It is impossible to inuit someone else’s taste.  Don’t make stereotypical assumptions. Instead, offer a fresh take on the core idea that reflects who YOU are. When you pitch be true to the sensibility of the project, but bring something unique and original to the table.  The lesson here is be yourself and speak with an authentic voice that ADDS something to the project.  Demonstrate that you have a clear point of view and can make a real contribution.

2. Get to the Point. It’s always great to do your homework and research whatever element you are pitching.  But avoid the temptation to over-explain or simply show off your background knowledge.  Don’t get into research unless it has a clear correlation to something specific in your pitch.  You run the risk of telling the producers what they already know when you include too much extra information.  Instead, get right to the heart of what it is you are pitching.  Show don’t tell applies here.  Show you’ve done the research by the quality and specificity of what you pitch.

3. Stay on Target. Make sure everything in your pitch reflects the core idea of the project.  Beyond Lemonade is for and about women over forty.  Several of the pitches included default ideas that missed our target completely.  I say “default ideas” because most online projects are aimed at a younger audience.  The ideas pitched might have worked in the usual situation but weren’t appropriate for and didn’t reflect our unique audience.  Be meticulous in each and every element of your pitch.  Make absolutely sure that everything in your presentation reflects the core idea at the heart of the project.

4. Ask Questions. Be certain you have all the information you need to pitch. If you don’t understand something, ask. Intelligent questions convey interest and enthusiasm.   A few pointed questions can also help you tailor your pitch to the unique circumstances surrounding the project.  Be judicious and stay on point.  Don’t waste  time with irrelevant questions.

5. Be Enthusiastic. Only pitch those projects that really excite you.  If the project is not for you then pass and concentrate on something else that is more your style.  If the project is your “dream job” then let it show.  Communicate why the project is in tune with your unique sensibilities or interests.  Enthusiasm is infectious and really can’t be faked.  Show up in person.  No one can sell your pitch better than you can.  Don’t “phone it in” on any level.

6. Take Direction.  When a producer asks for an adjustment, get to the bottom of what is missing (or wrong).  Ask, “What would adding (or subtracting) this address for you?”   Don’t fixate on the literal detail the producers are questioning.  A literal fix often doesn’t really address the underlying problem.  It’s your job to discover what is actually at issue and fix that.  Be creative.  You are being hired to be a problem-solver.  Solve the problem in a way that expresses the talent and insight you bring to the table.

Developing Beyond Lemonade had been an exciting and revealing process on so many levels for me.  Having evaluated these pitches will change forever my view of the pitching process.  I know it’s not just me.  A Fremantle assistant who had aspirations to act was invited to help the director casting another Fremantle online project.  Seeing the auditions from the director’s side of the table was a real eye-opener for her.  She told me it completely turned around her view of auditions.  Here is the final take-away.  The person on the other side of the table REALLY wants you to do well.  They WANT you to be the answer to their prayers.  They are on your side.  Only you can mess it up for yourself.

The photo at the top of the post is attributed HERE

2 Comments

  1. Reply Eric Collins 5th February 2010

    Great advice, as always. Concise and straight to the point!
    I find that point .6 (Take Direction) is very important, rarely mentioned, and never as clearly explained as here.
    I wish I had read that years ago, and understood faster that when producers ask you to change something in your screenplay, a scene that you know works very well, you should not fight to keep it in, but do exactly as Laurie says, and figure out what they really feel is wrong – nearly always rightfully so!
    Thanks again!

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