One of my writing colleagues in Calgary, Alberta (Anne Gafiuk of What’s in a Story?) recently attended the Alberta’s Write Stuff: Books and Screens workshop, hosted by the Alberta Media Production Industries Association. Here she is as my guest blogger!
By Anne Gafiuk
About sixty people attended the workshop, including ten hosts/organizers/panellists. Quite a mix of individuals: playwrights, screenplay writers, producers, writers, novelists. Why were they all there? To have their book or story make it onto the small or big screen. Some, like me, were sitting, watching, and learning. Others were there to offer support. And let’s not forget most of us were there to network. I made copious notes during the three-hour workshop and was relieved I hadn’t been selected as one of the four “pitchers.” I was exhausted “just” being an observer!
The panels, made up of award-winning producers, stressed the length of time it takes from concept to completion. It could be years! The timing might not be right for some themes, they say. The key: have a producer lined up. Make sure it is someone who loves the project as much as you do….someone who is like-minded, someone who will invest the time and effort into the project. Do research as to what a producer produces. The history and reputation of the writer, filmmaker, and producer also are major players. (Yikes! I am an unknown!) And go out to forge relationships. Opportunity, preparation, and luck, too, play important roles. “Do not give up!” they advise.
The time arrived for the four pitches. The audience had a certain energy. A chair, the ‘hot seat’, was placed in front of us – virtual strangers – and next to the four panellists…all wearing dark clothing of various hues of black. Was this an omen?
The first person to pitch was eaten alive for her presentation but the panel seemed to like her story…had she only just told it. The second admitted to being “scared shitless.” He was amusing, initially, and then his nerves got the best of him. The panel liked his main character but told him he needed to rehearse the pitch to know his story inside and out. The third, shy and quiet, spoke to the outline provided by the organizers at registration, but also had been listening and learning. The panel was not so hard on him. They asked questions. The fourth, again, having the experience of the first three, wowed the panel. He delivered! All four individuals then received ‘constructive criticism’ and a congratulations for their benefit and for us in the audience.
While all this was going on, I couldn’t help but think of Dragon’s Den or So You Think You Have Talent. I was so happy not to have been up there. Then I realized: missing from all of the pitches was a visual…the movie poster or the book cover we were asked to create. No one had one…and the teacher in me knows to always have a visual!
We were then given business cards and agency literature from Alberta Film, Canada Media Fund, as well as the Harold Greenberg Fund for more information.
The main take-aways:
- Be concise, clear, and appealing. Try to capture ‘the pitch’ in 30- 60 seconds.
- ‘The Pitch’ is all about the story. And both had better be great!
- Make your characters ‘real’.
- Make sure the story is topical, as it could take between 2-4 years to bring the project to fruition.
- Make eye contact with the panel.
- Rehearse ‘the pitch’. Time it. Run it past friends and family. Ask them to be brutally honest and have them ask questions.
- Know your story inside out and backwards.
- Come ‘ready to play’.
- Create a relationship within the first three minutes of ‘the pitch’,
- Never apologize.
- Wear black!
The workshop gave me a great appreciation of what goes on ‘behind the scenes’ to bring text to the screen. More knowledge…and that can’t hurt. Now what do I do? Work on my story, add some spit and polish….put myself out there and meet more people. Oh, and also get my name known by doing things like this guest blogging thing. (And wear black, apparently!).
Anne Gafiuk has loved to write for as long as she can remember. She was an elementary school teacher for almost fifteen years, then started freelancing part-time while a full-time mom. She has become very interested in vintage aircraft, the people involved with them and their history, through her current book project. She has also unearthed correspondence by WWII airmen to their loved ones and is on a mission to find more as she wants to put together an article and possibly a book based on letters during the Second World War. Please contact her if you have any pieces of mail to be shared at firstname.lastname@example.org.