The Bumblebee Effect: Taking the "Itch" Out of Pitching

September 06, 2016

The Bumblebee Effect: Taking the

By Roadmap Top Tier Writer Alumn Craig Berger (Signed by Meridian Artists)

Aren't written pitches the best? No worrying about whether the executive has noticed you're having a bad hair day, or that you'll forget your entire pitch halfway through and start babbling like an idiot. Just ship off the facts about how great your script is in a PDF and wait for the judges ruling.

There's only one problem: They don't work. Not as well as verbal pitches, anyway. My own anecdotal research suggests that a verbal pitch is about 80% more effective than a written one. Also, you're much better off if your script is requested off a verbal pitch. What's an executive more likely to remember when they see your cover page - your wild gesticulations as you described the big action sequence, or how you formatted your Word document?

Why you need to do a verbal pitch:

Why are verbal pitches so much more effective than written ones? Because a pitch is conversation. Verbal pitches give the opportunity to:

Answer questions

The executive is going to have questions about your script. That's their job. In a written pitch, there's no one there to answer them. Having the right answer available in real time can make a huge difference.

Get feedback

This isn't important simply because feedback could help you, but so the executive can see how well you receive feedback. For the executive, how you receive feedback is a big clue as to whether or not they want to work with you. They cannot see that on paper.

Show off your personality

“But I have a horrible personality!” you say. “That's why I'm a writer.” No, you don't have a horrible personality. You are a writer. That means you're thoughtful and intelligent. Don't worry that you don't always say the right thing. That's charming.

How to take the “itch” out of pitching:

Okay, I've convinced you. But let's face it: Pitching is scary. They say people's second greatest fear is death, beaten only by public speaking. So, what can one do to take the “itch” out of pitching?

Well, through Roadmap Writers, you've probably heard some good suggestions already:

  • Practice your pitch in a wig or a funny accent to loosen things up
  • Pitch with no pants on (online only)
  • Pitch as if you're describing a movie you just saw, rather than your own script
  • Practice, practice, practice

These are all great ideas that will probably help you, especially the “practicing” one. Pitch in front of anyone you can, whenever you can, wherever you can. It may become second nature, and one of those people you pitch to just might be able to do something with your script (you never know).

But what I want you to remember most of all is The Bumblebee Effect.

The Bumblebee Effect

Remember when you were outside playing as a kid and a bumblebee flew into your personal space? It probably freaked you out, especially if you'd been stung before. What did your parents say to calm you down?

“He's more afraid of you than you are of him.”

It's hard to believe as a kid, but it's unquestionably true, right? You are a giant 50 times his size and he's got a stinger. It's like going against a Frost Giant with a kitchen knife. Sooner or later, you probably integrated this knowledge and, though no one wants to get stung, this idea should have made dealing with bees a little easier.

Let's apply this to pitching your screenplay

Usually, when you're pitching your script, you're not pitching to the head of a studio, although the access you get with Roadmap Writers is better than the average pitching opportunity. If you're an uncredited writer, you're usually pitching to a bigwig at a very small company or a little fish at a very big company. It doesn't mean they can't help you if they like your script. But it does mean that the person you're pitching to won't make or break you right there. If they don't like your pitch, you've lost nothing. If they do like it, you've still got a long road ahead of you.

On the other hand, the person you're pitching to needs a hit. They're desperately looking for the script that will put them on the map. They desperately want it to be yours. All the questions they ask, any doubts they raise, are all in the hopes that you're the one that will deliver them the golden ticket. In other words, they need you more than you need them. Really look at that and understand it.

“They need you more than you need them.”

It doesn't seem true, but it is. You have the power in the pitching scenario, not them. You've got the gold; they're the hopeful prospector. You're the giant; they're the bumblebee.

Keep that in mind next time you pitch and see if it doesn't make things go a little easier.

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