Can anyone really sell a screenplay in Hollywood without having a family member in the industry? Could there be a secret weapon to sell your screenplay? Is the screenplay pitch the dealmaker? Is pitching at an organized pitch event the way to go?
Pitching — the process where a screenwriter has about three to seven minutes of an initial decision maker’s attention to sell a script or idea — is an art, a skill, a part of the craft. Pitching, if you are to believe the purveyors of training courses, can be both taught and learned. Pitching is, in essence, sales, and sales is part natural inclination and part training. But is pitching a script the same thing as pitching a new Prius? In my experience no, not really; scripts aren’t environmentally popular and a Prius is a thing produced in exactly the same way, time and time again. Scripts are special creatures, a one-time occurrence. The buyer tends to either not care about it, or hate it, or much less often love it.
Let me describe the three pitch events I have attended. By the way, they don’t call them events — that is poor salesmanship — they call them fests. My main experience in pitching is Screenwriting Expo’s Golden Pitch Festival produced by Creative Screenwriting Magazine. The Expo isn’t just a pitchfest, it is a gathering of real screenwriters by the ton (those who have one or more screenplays in hand and hope to interest others), wannabe writers of whom there are probably even more tons (I consider a wannabe someone who has started but hasn’t finished a script and can’t be fairly considered to pitch, because pitching an unfinished first script is an idea only slightly better than, oh, say, paying your taxes with Monopoly money), and then there are those who are just thinking about screenplays, or like having beers and lattes with people who love the movies, or at least writing them.
The first step is to register for a pitchfest. This process is covered fairly completely at the Expo web site and I won’t go into detail here (but if you're interested, you can find them at the Expo's website). The next step to pitching was done on my home computer. I was faced with the confusing process of selecting the companies I wanted to pitch to and buying the tickets to do my pitches. I didn’t have much information to go on when picking the companies for the first Expo. I surfed the Internet as much as possible, but at the time there wasn’t much to go on. So, I hit the sites I could, took the information provided by the Expo, and selected 15 to pitch to. Today there is a significantly greater amount of accessible information about what production companies are seeking which types of screenplays. When the time came to use the system to buy the tickets (every time I attended the Expo) there were serious issues that got in the way of me getting my first choice. Many of those issues have been managed but the process was very trying.