Speed Dating. What does it conjure up for you? Horror at the idea of being considered a desperate singleton? Fear of putting yourself on the line and not getting any dates? Or – if you’re a newbie writer – is it a chance for a trial separation from your computer and fleeting fling with a director? Or even better, a bunch of directors! Well, you know what they say about filmmakers…
On 27th May in Dublin, dozens of writers took the leap into professional speed dating, with the Screen Directors Guild of Ireland and the Irish Playwrights and Screenwriters Guild playing Cupid. I am usually on the other side of the table i.e. being the pitcher not the pitchee. This change of seats was an eye-opening experience which makes me reflect with a red face on the previous pitches I’ve given. What I learned is that being pitched at is like being hit in the face repeatedly and I promise to atone to anyone I’ve metaphorically assaulted if they ever let me pitch to them again.
There’s an art to pitching, especially when the meetings are very brief. The instinct is to launch straight into pitching the story in order to make the most of every second. The problem is that no pitchee can absorb information constantly for 9,000 seconds. So it’s better to impart a concise summary of the story which hooks the listener. What’s that called again? Oh yes, a Logline! Say it with me: Logline. It’s not an anti-social disease. If you have one, you won’t need to go to the Betty Ford clinic to get rid of it. For those writers who are allergic to loglines (you know who you are), read the first chapter of Blake Snyder’s book ‘Save The Cat’, which explains why they’re essential. For those of you who still want a career in screenwriting after a pitch session with me, read the whole book.
There are excellent online resources for learning to write loglines and synopses. One of the best is ScreenwritingU. You could also read the loglines on InkTip to learn which ones work. Ask yourself: how does your logline compare? (Cue ‘Jaws’ music)
It’s not all about the script though. You have a personality too. If it’s covered in dust due to the fact that your computer – which is your constant companion – doesn’t require its use, polish it up and bring it with you. Passion for your project will be your trump card. It’s also good to have a non-Fifth-Amendment answer prepared about why you want to spend your life in poverty, allowing other filmmaking-addicts to desecrate your treasured masterpieces.
So let’s imagine for a moment that the meeting goes well and the pitchee wants to read the script. How will they get it? Do you:
- Hand them a hard copy, which they must then carry to the pub afterwards for much-needed scoops, resulting in an inebriated loss of your copyrighted (you have protected it, haven’t you?) screenplay?
- Take out your iPhone and e-mail them a wrongly-formatted script with no page numbers but with spelling mistakes?
- Hand them a superbly-written one-page, which also lists your contact details?
- Hand them the superbly-written one-page along with a well designed business card listing your contact details and social media links?
Answers in 140 characters please to @Filmflashe
If you survive the pitch, convince the pitchee to read your script and are still married to the idea of a screenwriting career, what’s the next step? You’ve got approximately four days before s/he forgets who you are. So should you:
- Wait for her/him to get in touch with you?
- Send a thank-you e-mail to the pitchee without attaching the requested script?
- Send a thank-you e-mail to the pitchee with the script attached in Final Draft when s/he uses Movie Magic Screenwriter?
- Send a thank-you e-mail to the pitchee with the script attached in the correct file format but without your contact details, website or social media links?
- Send a thank-you e-mail to the pitchee with the script attached in the correct file format and your contact details / website / social media links, but without any reference to the pitchee’s work (doesn’t s/he have a website)?
So the moral of this blog-story is that making a living from screenwriting isn’t all about talent and craft. You need to work your business muscles. Pump that professionalism!
If you were at the joint-Guild speed-dating: remember that we – the directors – met dozens of people in quick succession, so help us out to remember you. Thanks to Niall Queenan who e-mailed me the following reminder:
“I saw you toward the end of the second group, spiky haired chap”.
That’s the way all dates should end: with a good memory and a smile on my face!