The Screenwriters World Conference is a rare opportunity for any screenwriter to connect with top industry professionals, learn cutting edge writing craft techniques, learn to “pitch” their own material, and then have the opportunity to present your work to real players who can get your movie made!
The three-day Screenwriters World Conference offers various packages for the attendees, from cheap to expensive. With so much teaching talent and so many industry professionals, it’s no wonder the highest-priced packages with the most access have already sold out! A further benefit is the opportunity to meet your fellow writers. You can view them as colleagues or competitors, but either way you need to get into the fray.
One of my former students, a writer from a Scandinavian country, came to one of these pitch conference events three years ago, and as a result of attending, she has since optioned three of the scripts I coached her on! We recently spent a week on a barrier reef island doing a writer’s retreat where she and a producer rewrote a pilot for a TV series. And guess where she met the producer? You guessed right!
There was an old advertisement for the New York State Lottery: “You’ve Got to Be In It to Win It.” Even if you don’t sell your current screenplay, this conference provides a unique opportunity for you to build relationships with the people who can help you succeed. Woody Allen has said that showing up is 80%. In my classes, I say it’s 90%. There is no substitute for actual face-to-face contact with someone who shares your interests.
Once you have committed to going to the conference, the next step is to prepare. If you are going merely to see how things work, it is still important to be able to use the opportunity if it presents itself.
Here are three tips that may help:
1. Have more than one story to pitch
An agent once said, “We are like Fuller brush men – we sell brushes so we need a lot of them.” This translates as: A writer needs to have more than one story to pitch. That doesn’t mean writing a ton – it means writing one or two good scripts that can be used as writing samples to get writing assignments, as it may be difficult to sell a spec outright, especially if you are a first time writer. You need to develop two or three more ideas to the point where you can pitch them, and have at least one completed script and a synopsis or treatment for two more.
I am always asked if the stories should be in different genres. The answer is another question: If you got a green light on any one of them, is this the kind of material you would want to spend your professional life working on? So if you want to write comedy, don’t pitch a horror movie.
2. Use common sense when presenting your pitch.
This sounds obvious, and perhaps it is. Keep your pitch interesting and short – and make sure you actually have taken a moment to capture your recipient’s attention before you launch into action. Remember that a pitch is a tease – you want the person you are pitching to, to actually read the script, and you want to connect so that you can build a relationship beyond the specific story you are pitching. Remember the brush theory.
3. Don’t be a supplicant
No one is doing you a favor by reading your script. You are presenting a business opportunity that can benefit everyone. When you pitch, be sure not to act overeager or desperate. You can take a “yes” as a compliment, but keep your cool. If you are asked what you are working on, just say, “I have several projects in development.” If you are asked to elaborate, have your other stories as well organized as the one you just presented. Being a one-hit wonder is great, but being a writer with a basket of material is the sort of long term player that producers and agents prize.
To recap, on top of all of the other great advice available, keep these things in mind:
Have more than one project to pitch, use common sense when dealing with producers and agents, and never act like they are doing you a favor.
Go to the Screenwriters World Conference: remember – you’ve got to be in it, to win it!
Best of luck to all!