A great animated series or movie always starts with an inspired creative vision, but for most of us that is not enough to get it produced. Typically an idea will go nowhere without an irresistible verbal ‘pitch’ to get it financed. Pitching: One could argue that this mysterious process is at the heart of our industry! ‘What heart?’ you ask. Hmmm. Good point. No wonder pitching is so elusive!
The pitching process reminds me of broccoli. People either love it or hate it. And people who pitch are often green’either green with inexperience, green with envy, green with riches or green with nausea. The goal is a ‘green light.’ And, like broccoli, when a pitch goes bad, OMG can it stink up a room!
Speaking as someone who has regaled, failed and been derailed’and soared, bored and whore’d from both sides of the pitching desk (that is to say, above and underneath)’I thought this month it might be useful to share some time-tested ‘dos and don’ts’ for effective pitching. Anything to avoid the smell of bad broccoli!
DO thoroughly research and understand the needs, tastes and psyche of the development or acquisitions exec who is about to reject you. This includes being familiar with shows which currently appear on their channel, Googling trade press interviews and asking your peers who aren’t too selfish to share their experiences and ‘intelligence.’ (Hint: you can find many such peers in the unemployment line.)
DON’T violate the restraining order that was placed on you when you thoroughly researched your last pitch by breaking into the exec’s home and rummaging through the underwear drawer.
DO try to be relaxed, charming and fun. Be prepared to schmooze just a little bit before launching into the pitch. Try to put everyone at ease and demonstrate how effortlessly ‘cool’ you are. DON’T forget to stop at home and change out of the Klingon costume you wore to the early morning sneak preview of Star Trek.
DO show all assistants, gatekeepers and junior execs the same courtesy, respect and charm which you intend to show their boss.
DON’T overlook the parking attendant’whom you will be required to pitch first’before finally being granted that coveted, privileged audience with the all-powerful individual who will determine your fate: the boss’s teenage son on work-release from rehab.
DO distill the essence of what makes your idea unique, appealing and commercial’and open your pitch with that irresistible ‘hook’ which will hold them rapt with attention! DON’T wake them up when you are finished. Simply put a dollar bill under their pillow and take the tooth.
DO use artwork and/or video to support your pitch. And you will stand out from the crowd if you have something more than just simple sketches of the characters’and can find clever ways integrate the art with your oral presentation.
DON’T try to incorporate your tattoos.
If you are pitching to be the production entity, DO be very clear and forthcoming about the soundness of your finances, the size of the kickback you are offering and the special offshore account you have already set up in the exec’s name. DON’T whine for a parking validation more than three times. (After all, maybe your new best pal, the parking attendant, will take care of you.)
DO seek imaginative ways to make your pitch interactive by involving the person to whom you’re pitching. DON’T offer backrubs’ unless you’re damn sure you’re hot. And positive you are the gender of preference. (And remember, children’s program execs always expect happy endings. No, I meant in the story! Shame on you!)
Finally, when they pass, DO take it graciously and professionally. Your goal is to leave the door open for future rejection and humiliation. DON’T pout, throw a tantrum or take out your frustration on the executive’by lashing out or being abusive. That’s what your spouse, kids and new rescue puppy are for.
Robby London is an animation industry veteran who is currently pitching an amazing children’s show inspired by The Slanket, Suzanne Somer’s Torso Trak and Richard Simmon’s Sweatin’ to the Oldies.