What to expect from Pitchfest 2014

Some might argue that the most valuable part of the London Screenwriters’ Festival for journeyman screenwriters is the Pitchfest. Some writers even book a ticket for LSF just for the networking and access to Pitchfest, to pitch their projects and hopefully move their career forward.

So, how does it all work? First of all, have something you want to pitch! Now, this can be something that isn’t yet finished; this can get you very useful feedback in terms of how and what to pitch, and what to focus on in future. However, thinking positively, you really want polished work to hand so that if you’re asked for it you can smile and send them something you have some confidence in.

The next step is to look at the list of execs, producers, directors and agents at PitchFest. You’ll want to be quite focused in who you pitch to. Some pitchees will have restrictions in budget, medium or genre, so make sure you choose carefully. Pick several. Then, when the PitchFest schedule comes out, find out which slot(s) have the greatest concentration of your ideal pitchees.

Then, the big day; no, not PitchFest itself, but the opening of the booking system. This year that’s on October 18th at midday. Favoured slots will book up fast, so it’s a bit like trying to book Glastonbury tickets, except your entire career may depend on it. Okay, kidding. Maybe. A bit.

Then, the day itself. If you’ve never pitched before, queuing for the doors to open for your slot will be terrifying. You’ll panic that you can’t remember your loglines, pitch or name, that you’ve forgotten your business cards and one-pagers. You’ll fret and worry and panic. Then the doors open. As you all file in, you will see a large hall with a clock at the end and along the left and right walls, the execs, agents, producers and directors. Unless you were at the front of the queue at the door, there’ll already be a queue forming in front of some the pitchees in the room. So, you have to decide: Do you queue there too? You should, if they’re on your must-see list. But if not, consider one of the quieter tables, if the fit is good. That can also work as a great warm-up, to get you used to the idea of pitching, before facing the lion.

This was my revelation last year: Far from being monsters, sent to chew up you and your work and spit them both out with disgust, these are professionals who love what they do. And they want to love what you have, they want to meet you and like you and like your work. This epiphany made the rest of pitching much less stressful to me.

So, you have five minutes, and five minutes only with each person. After that you have to move on and go and pitch to someone else. You have five minutes to convince them that you and/or your work are perfect for them. If they’re not interested, they will often give excellent feedback as to why. And if they are interested, they’ll either ask for your card and/or one-pager, or give you their card for you contact them after the festival.

And that’s it. Keep doing it until you get the success you want and learn from each pitch you perform. And bear in mind that often Sunday slots are empty and you might get a chance to slide into a second session if you’re very lucky. And finally: If they suggest you get in touch with them to talk about your project? Do actually do that!!

So, good luck pitchers. May the odds be ever in your favour.

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