1. Selling a Pitch
a. Elements of a pitch meetings best case scenario.
There are many different scenarios but here is a best-case scenario from a basic pitch to a pitch meeting/option offer. Of course, experiences vary.
1. The development executive or producer has their script reader read your pitch/script. Think of the script reader as a gate keeper. They filter out all the junk. Many studio development departments and production companies have many layers of readers and assistants to filter out the bad scripts.
2. The script reader likes it. He recommends it to the producer/dev. exec. The reader will write up good “coverage,” which is a standardized evaluation of your script, commenting on factors like commercial viability, plot, character development, story, dialogue and other elements.
3. The producer/dev. exec. reads the coverage and likes it.
4. Then producer/dev. exec. reads the script and likes it as well.
5. He’ll pitch it to his boss (usually head of production, development or the production company president or head producer) and if the boss reads the treatment or script and likes it he’s the decision maker so he’ll decide to make an offer.
6. A producer/studio can buy your project outright or option it for a period of time. If it’s bought outright, they own your project and you become a hired hand to do rewrites as needed, or sometimes to do no more work on the project. If they option it that means an option to buy the project. The reason for this is they may want to see how the script takes form in rewrites or if they can get certain cast attached. An option is usually for 18 months (although it could be longer or shorter) and is exclusive (meaning you can’t option or sell it to anyone else during that time period, and pretty much the company that optioned the material owns it for that period of time). At the end of the option the company can purchase it for the purchase price that was set at the time of the option or they can re-up the option for another period of time or they can let the rights of the project revert back to you.
7. You hire an attorney, or if you already have one, you notify them of the offer. If you have an agent, chances are they are the ones who set up this meeting in the first place and will negotiate deal terms. Most novice screenwriters will not have an agent. Attorneys or Agents negotiate the terms on both sides.
8. Once the deal terms are agreed to, the attorneys write agreement which everyone signs.
9. The original pitch or script may face countless revisions and edits, culminating in a shooting script that could differ drastically from the original. Sometimes the buyer may love the main conceit of the script but want to make wholesale changes which could include almost anything (new characters, changing the locations, adding a love interest, etc).
10. The writer may do the rewrites or they may hire other writers. In the terms of the purchase or option agreement it will include payments for rewrites. For instance a script may sell for $100,000. But that doesn’t mean the writer gets $100,000 right away. The writer will probably get $50,000 for the script and then maybe $30,000 for the rewrite (half payable on commencement and half on delivery of the rewrite) and the remaining $20,000 for a polish (a less extensive rewrite). This money is guaranteed, but other writers may come in and do work on the script before the original writer is brought back for their rewrite or polish. The writer will usually get more money if the movie is made as well. The terminology for this is $100,000 against $300,000 (these amounts are just for illustration). This means $100,000 for the script, but $300,000 when the movie gets made (actually it’ll be an additional $200,000 bringing the total amount received to $300,000)
11. When the writer is doing the rewrite they’ll b a meeting with to discuss the producer/studio’s notes.
12. For the meeting typically, the producer or dev. exec. will invite you to their offices. They’ll have their thoughts about the project and you guys will creatively discuss how the next draft will look. Once everyone is on the same page they will send you off to do the rewrite. Often there will be many interim drafts before you officially turn in the rewrite.
MovieHatch Competitions: The best-case scenario above doesn’t really apply to the MovieHatch competition but in a good way. Our online competition puts your pitch online for the public to see and the scripts that accompany the best pitches are read by top-notch Hollywood producers (see our Partners page). One deserving script goes into production for up to $10M (the amount depends on the needs of the script). Let’s just agree that the MovieHatch competition fast forwards the entire best-case-scenario process.
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b. What am I selling exactly?
i. Typically, you’re selling the right to produce the movie or TV show based on your pitch/script.
ii. The producer tries to get the script written (if you don’t already have a screenplay), attach actors, a director, funding and other major elements to the project. This period is commonly called the development period.
MovieHatch Competitions: A part of the MovieHatch development and production process is the option agreement. The option is the part of the process that kicks everything off by making it official. MovieHatch requires writers and filmmakers to give our production company the First Right of Refusal to option the script the minute the competition goes live. This means that if someone else sees your pitch on our site during the competition and want to option or purchase it, we must release the ‘first right’ before you give it to them. This means we may elect to option it ourselves. But that’s only fair... after all, we are the ones giving you the exposure! (Please see “Release Terms” in the entry process for more details).
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c. Who do I sell my pitch to? Is the process the same for all entities?
i. You can pitch to actors, agents, managers, directors and producers. It all depends on what you want. Writers usually want either a production deal so that their script is produced or they want representation from an agent or manager. When you’re pitching to a producer, you might also be willing to pitch to an actor or director, especially if they’re doing double duty as a producer. If you’re pitching to an agent or a manger, you’re probably looking to be represented by these parties. And if you get that coveted representation, those agents and managers will help you get your foot in the door to the producers who will hear your pitch. The pitching process to agents versus producers is the same, in theory. You’re starting off with an introduction of yourself and if they open their doors to you then you’ll give them your pitch.
1. Most reputable producers and agents do not take unsolicited material. However there are a number of managers who do. You can always send introduce yourself through a “query letter” basically asking to pitch yourself to them. This query often has a logline in it. They’ll either reject or accept your query and if they accept it they’ll ask for a treatment or a script and decide to engage you further after that. Most reputable companies will require you to sign a release prior to reading your materials. This is standard.
2. For the companies that don’t accept unsolicited material, your best bet is to find a manager to take your project to these companies, or enter competitions that can help get you in the door (like MovieHatch), or network. Anytime you can get general meetings with anyone in the industry you should do that. You never know who can be of help. But also, don’t be abusive. If your cousin knows an executive at Fox and gets you a meeting or a phone call, be friendly and social and tell the executive about your projects, but let them decide if they want to look at a script. Don’t be pushy.
MovieHatch Competitions: Guess what? The MovieHatch competition gets your pitch onto the world’s stage: the internet. In the end, one pitch will be put into a production deal with a great team of producers (see Partners page). But that doesn’t mean agents, managers, directors and actors won’t see and love your pitch. The possibilities are endless, so you’re doing your pitch a great justice by getting it online and on a forum like the MovieHatch competition.
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d. Questions to ask in a Pitch Meeting
i. OK, there are just way too many questions you can ask in a pitch meeting. Like, “Can you please, please, please produce my script?!?!” Alright, let’s just make clear that you should never ask that. Anyway, we’re hoping that reading this section will answer a lot of your questions and I’m sure the meeting itself will obviate the need to ask certain questions. These questions may be asked before of after you give your pitch. The idea in asking these questions is to show that you’re a creative, thoughtful, industry-savvy writer who the producer would love to work with. To this point, do your homework. Know who you’re meeting with and what they do. But also be humble and let them tell you about themselves as well. Just because you did your homework online doesn’t mean you know all there is to know about whomever you’re meeting with. Here are some questions to ask. And with all of the questions you should tailor them towards the person you’re meeting with (for example if you’re meeting with someone who just made an indie movie you might ask are you looking to make more indie movies like the one you just made? Or are you thinking about doing bigger budgeted studio movies now?).
1. What kinds of projects are you looking to produce? What genres?
2. Are you working with or looking to work with any particular directors or actors who are looking for specific types of projects?
3. What type of budgets are you looking to work with? Do you want to do both studio and indie movies? Or are you more focused or exclusively focused on one or the other?
4. Is there a particular audience you’re looking to make movies for?
e. Should I go through an attorney or agent or manager?
i. Yes. Having someone is usually better than going in alone. This is especially the case if you are a novice to pitching ideas. You’ll need someone you can trust who is knowledgeable of standard industry negotiation terms and procedure. That said, keep in mind that agents, managers and attorneys rarely work for free so expect some cost. With beginning writers attorneys might simply take a percentage of whatever deal they negotiate for you, in lieu of a set fee or an hourly fee, as some attorneys charge. Agents and managers taker a percentage as well, but don’t charge. Ten percent, before taxes, is a customary percentage of whatever fee you and the producer will agree to. Sometimes a manager will attach themselves as a producer if they’ve done a lot of work with the writer on the project. In such cases they’re not likely to take a percentage as well.
ii. In rare cases, attorneys will forgo their fees or reduce them because they truly believe in the writer’s potential. Just keep in mind that just because they’re being generous initially, they’ll come to collect in the future, so as you succeed their fees will jump.
iii. Now which one should you choose? Attorney or Agent or manager?
1. They’re all good, so long as you can trust them and they understand your needs. An agent can’t draft contracts – only attorneys can. However, agents can negotiate the major terms of the contract, i.e. script sale price. This means that you will still need an attorney to draft the agreements that your agent hammers out. Some might say that all this shows that you need an attorney more than an agent. But that’s not true. Usually, agents will have a few attorneys they know and work with who will work out such contracts on their behalf, so you can basically let the agent handle the matter from negotiation to signing the contract. Agents also usually have relationships in the business and know the lay of the land, so they can help steer your project.
2. It can be almost impossible for a novice writer to get their script looked at by an agent. However, managers will often read unsolicited material, and will develop projects with the writers. A manager is more hands on then an agent. And a manager can get you an agent. Some writers just have a manager and not an agent. Although agents tend to be heavier hitters so when you start selling big projects you want to have an agent negotiating those deals for you.
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