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Shridhar Raghavan


Ram Mirchandani



Vikramaditya Motwane

Questions & Answers:
How to Pitch your Story
-Answers to Most of Your Questions on Pitching


A Q&A Workshop conducted at the FWA office on March 23rd, 2015..

(Read FWA Notice about this Workshop here -http://fwa.co.in/blog/pitching-workshop-by-vikramaditya-motwane-shridhar-raghavan-ram-mirchandani-sophy-sivaraman/)

where

Shridhar Raghavan – Scriptwriter wellknown for his Pitching Expertise

Ram Mirchandani – COO Endemol, with extensive experience of Film Production

Vikramaditya Motwane – Writer-Director now also a Producer

Demystify ‘Pitching’ through Answers to Writers Queries.  

Watch Full Video of the Event for Complete Live Workshop Experience.

 

Read Text / Transcript of the  Workshop given below..

You can even Watch Video / Read Transcript of Specific Questions you have on Pitching. 

Introduction by Shri. Kamlesh Pandey, Hon. Gen. Secretary FWA.

After you have done a great screenplay or story what comes next? How to sell it, who to sell it?
I will cite my own experience from late 80s or early 90s. I was only three films old and was working with a co-writer, senior to me. We were sitting on a script in Juhu Hotel.  In those days we use to ‘sit’ on the scripts like nowadays you have meetings, we had sittings. During a break, when we went into the bathroom, a film director whose film had just released and became a big hit, was relieving himself. My friend went next to him and while pissing, waved him and tried to pitch three stories in two minutes. Pitching sessions could become that crazy, weird times, weirder places. For me doing such thing was just impossible. I got intimidated. Please don’t be that desperate too.

Yes, Marketing your work and marketing yourself in today competitive times is vital to your success that’s why this session where we look forward to learning the secret of pitching, the art of pitching.

But first and foremost, be confident. Don’t get scared of the people you are going to pitch. They are there because of you. If you don’t write, they don’t have a job. Don’t forget you are very important. Even when they want to make a silent film they will need a script.

Today all kinds of people want to become writers, actors and even producers. When we get their applications for becoming our members, it surprises me. But this is because Writers have some kind of USP, that ‘respect’ attached to us. So just go with confidence. Don’t get nervous or intimidated by those on the other side. Those people are also insecure because their job depends on us. If they happen to deal a wrong film on a wrong project, they lose money.  Their stakes are higher. They have to make sure whatever they select will make money for the company.  Of course, it is a hard thing testing someone’s work, but if you are sure of your work, then why should you worry?

I have seen mediocre writers sometimes even bad writers selling bad stories so well. Yes, it is possible, unfortunately, that good writers may not be good pitchers. If good writers are trained to be good pitchers, it will be great. 

So I hope you enjoy the session. Let me introduce the panel. Mr. Ram Mirchandani, who has extensive experience of working with Studios like Eros, UTV,  to give us the PoV from the other side of the table. Mr. Sridhar Raghvan, a well-known writer, more well-known for his pitching skills will tell you how to frame your pitch effectively. And Mr. Vikramaditya Motwane, whose films we all have loved so much and who has made his way like most of us. He has been on both sides of the pitching table, as a filmmaker pitching his scripts and now also as a director with Phantom films listening to pitches from other filmmakers. So we have this mixed panel to enlighten us on pitching. Let’s welcome them.

SRIDHAR Ok, let’s first bounce questions..like what are your worries, apprehensions when it comes to pitching your story.

Que1 - How to narrate the whole story in 10 minutes?

 

Vikramaditya  Motwane: -  You say 10 minutes are not enough? I would say 10 minutes are more than enough actually to pitch not only one, but a few of your works. You must tell your pitch in 2 minutes time. You see, the person across the table will listen to you and within 2 minutes they will decide whether they are interested or not. So walk in with confidence if you believe in your story. Don’t just scream or go on dragging your story, be articulate, be confident. This is my story here is my pitch, here is my logline. The logline is your story in one line. It should be strong enough to hook the listener. Only when he is intrigued by the logline, will he be interested in listening further. So that doesn’t take long.

Sridhar: -  When you go to a book stall or a DVD store and pick up something and you don’t know the actor or the writer, how you decide if you are going to buy it? You look at the back of the book or the DVD and read the brief. You get a rough idea about that particular product. That is actually what a pitch is. A pitch is a way to hook the reader. A pitch is not an attempt to tell the entire story in 10 minutes. No, it’s not. It’s more to interest a person in the kind of work. I see there are only three things important for a pitch.
First is your premise. It is like the heart of your story which frankly is, why did you write it in the first place? The reason that attracted you to write that particular story or script.
Second comes your character because we are interested in a story only if we are interested in the character, the situation in which your character is placed and the journey of this character. They may not particularly like your premise but like your character. They may like your premise but may not like your character.
Third is your confidence.  You need to come across as somebody who is very relaxed, very confident,
self-assured, but who is open to criticism, who has a decent idea and who knows his character and situation very well.
If you have 10 minutes, and if you are done in 5 &1/2 minutes, say thank you and get going. Don’t waste time. It’s not an exam paper where you want to continue till the last second.

Sridhar – Let’s discuss the question of confidence when you are pitching.

How many of you have tried pitching your material to may be your friends, family or whatever?  How many of you analyzed this? I mean do you feel that I am writing well, but I am not able to communicate well when it comes to pitching? A simple way to deal with this is to figure out whether your material has a problem, or you are the problem. Take a film you completely adore and try to pitch it. If you are unable to pitch it well when the film already exists, and it’s good, then you are the problem. A way to tackle this lack of confidence is to start telling it over, again and again. You’ll find it smooth.

Que2 – Signing an NDA form. Sometimes they have a clause that says they could be working on similar ideas and I won’t sue them even if they make a film similar to my story?

 

Kamlesh Pandey: - You can’t help it. Please go ahead and sign it.  There is no harm in that. It has no legal value. Nobody can take away your right to sue anyone in this country even if you are a criminal.

Sridhar: -  Other than that it is genuinely possible that they might have heard or maybe processing similar ideas or concepts. To protect yourself whatever you are pitching, ideally it would be great if you had a screenplay written and registered. If you are only pitching just a story, that’s also ok to a certain extent. But if you have an idea and you are pitching, I would personally suggest, please don’t, because ideas cannot be copyrighted.  Take a newspaper and pick up any news article. There are 50000 ways to interpret it. So many things that you see around - all the raw material is out there in open. So if you have only an idea, don’t get over-excited about pitching it just because there is an opportunity.

Que3 - Should I ask them what Genre they are looking for?

 

Sridhar : -  You shouldn’t be worried about what they are looking for, you should worry about what you want to present there. Why are you trying to read the market? Instead of seeing what they want, see what best you can give. It works better that way. Sell what you are best at than trying the other way.   

Ram Mirchandani : - See I don’t think a producer is ever looking at any particular genre. When a producer is making a film, it’s very important for him that the film breaks even. The story or content that is being narrated has the potential of the breaking even. For example take Vicky Donar. It is a slice of life film. Very realistic, very entertaining. So it’s not a genre but one single hook of the idea that succeeds.

Que4 - Lack of cinematic experience on the part of producers, listeners. People who listen to script lack cinematic experience. This has happened to me a lot of times. How to address that?

Que5 - How do we ensure that the listeners are really qualified to evaluate my pitch? 

 


Sridhar : -  They are representing their company to the best of their abilities. Your job is to represent yourself to the best of your knowledge. You mind your job don’t bother about them.

Vikramaditya : -   I am a writer myself and understand the frustration a writer goes through but please don’t go with that attitude. If you walk in saying, “Dude I am the best prepared out there, you guys don’t know a damn”, they will ask you to go away. They have many options.

Sridhar – Let’s take examples of recent films and try to pitch them. This will be a good exercise. Don’t get nervous. Just try with a free mind. Let’s take the example of Queen. Who would like to pitch?

 

Member1 -  A girl’s journey of discovering herself.

Sridhar : -  You had 10 minutes and you finished in 10 seconds. Imagine you have to pitch it for the first time and the listener doesn’t know about it. Does this pitch talk about the uniqueness of the story?

Member2 - This is a story about a normal middle-class girl who works in Rajouri garden and is about to get married in a couple of days, completely elated about getting married. She has many dreams only to realize that, the guy she is madly in love with dumps her a day before the wedding. She takes a step of doing something that no middle-class Delhi girl would do. She goes on her honeymoon alone and how she makes new friends not necessarily from our country but from other country, discovers herself and comes back strongly; comes as an independent girl and now rejects the guy who dumped her.

Member3 - It’s a story of a girl who is ready to get married and due to some reason her wedding does not happen, so she goes on her honeymoon all alone. What happens during her honeymoon and why her boyfriend dumped her? And what did she learn about herself and the world during her journey and what she thinks of herself after coming back, the whole story about herself.
Member4 - The story about a girl who had no dreams but suddenly after getting dumped she goes out of India on her honeymoon alone. Exploring the outside world, she also discovers herself from inside and regains her confidence.

Member5 - This is a story of a girl who had never dreamt of becoming big in her life. Her only dream was to get married to the guy she loved and to go on a honeymoon with him. Due to some reason her dream doesn’t get fulfilled and she decides to go on her honeymoon alone and on her journey she thinks of how she is feeling and how happily she enjoyed it.

Sridhar : -  I have noticed the last couple of pitches has confused ending. Imagine that nobody else in the room has seen or heard the story.  Is this how you would pitch it? We are all assuming that we know that story. Assume I am a Japanese guy and you are telling me the story of a film that I should buy. Now tell me the same story again because what you are telling now is the theme. What is the pitch of the story? Just try it.

Vikramaditya Motwane : -  When you say someone goes and finds himself, that’s very artistic. Please don’t ever do that for the first line. Say it as the last line. When you say she goes on honeymoon alone they want to know really how, how does that happen? When you say, a Rajouri girl gets dumped by her boyfriend the whole element of truth is this she was to go on a honeymoon with him. When he dumps her she decides to go on honeymoon alone all by herself. Out there in the unknown World she makes friends, she discovers life. Your end line is ‘discovery of life’, discovering the confidence. This is the way you end your pitch. Don’t start off from there.  It will feel like an artistic film. Make it sound like a simple film that you really want to go and watch.

Sridhar : -  Though this is specific to Queen but applies in the larger context to all your stories.
First is the world you set up. Then you place your character in this world. Here is a middle-class girl looking to get married in XYZ location. She has been dating this guy for long long time. She has ordinary aspirations in her life. Then what problem happens to destroy this world? She is dumped just before her marriage. Why do we like this character? Because unlike other people who get depressed, what she does, makes her the hero of our story. She says the hell with it I have invested time and money in this honeymoon so what if the guy is not there I am going to go on this honeymoon anyway. So the simple thing she learns throughout her crazy journey into an outside world of which she has no idea, which she was supposed to be exploring with her man by her side, discovers she doesn’t need a man by her side and she also discovers many other people who make sense to her life and with the course of it she loves her life and herself. This would be a broad stroke 2-minute pitch.

I am just saying that in all your stories you are mostly pitching the first act and then giving the outline of other things. Please don’t use the words like protagonist, antagonist, Plot Points, Twists, etc. That is deeply depressing and very hard to tolerate for writers as well as for the studio people.  These are all jargons.

Give an idea of the world you are setting up, your characters and then what the problem happens and what they do next that is actually what you pitch is all about. If the opposite person is interested then s/he would want to know what happens next which means you managed to entertain. That’s the job of a pitch. It might be for a book; might be for a movie. Nothing else. Don’t try and reach the interval point or the end point or try and cram to explain the four song situations. All that is not important. The idea is just to make them feel for the character and the premise and give an impression that you have a hold on the particular subject;  you are confident and able to do it. I think we are done for the session. (Laughs).

Sridhar – Let’s take another example.. tell me another good film.

Audience – Eternal Sunshine.

 Kamlesh : -  People who have seen the film, I would like to know from them.
Member - It’s a love story happening twice, every time is a first time. There are two characters; they fall in love once and then they get separated. Again fall in love.

Member - Two people meet for the first time and then realize that they were in love in the past too.

Member- Two people typically falling in love for the first time experiencing everything that lovers do and eventually end up in a break-up and accidently they lose their memory and then coincidently they meet again and fall in love once again. Out of all the random people, they fall in love with each other and it happens without them realizing it.

Member - I think the central idea is, even if you live your life again, then the same thing happens. There is a doctor, who helps erase bitter memories that one can’t overcome. So one couple goes and get their memories erased but when they meet again, they end up falling in love with each other and then they realize that both of them had got their memory erased and there is a subplot where the doctor himself had erased his memory sometimes.

Member- There is a couple who love each other dearly and then they erase their memory, they meet again as perfect stranger and then that happens when happened before..they become a loving couple so they cannot live without each other even when they meet as perfect strangers.

Sridhar : -  I would ask you a typical studio kind of question, if they love each other so much, why do they go to erase their memories?
Member- Something happened, which made them take such step in their life.

Member-  It is a story of a couple who love each other and then some misunderstanding takes place between them and they start fighting. They promise each other that they will not see each other’s face forever. Then they go to a clinic where they both erase their memories. After few days, they again meet as strangers and fall in love once again. Slowly they get their memories back then they realize that they were lovers before their memories were erased.

Que6 -  I will put my question with an example of Udaan, which is my all-time favourite film.
If you take Udaan and break it down to the pitch level or a logline, and take it to any commercial or non-commercial producer I can guarantee you that it will not come across as a very strong film with such immense potential in its gut. How does pitching work in such situation when the potential of an idea can’t be described in one line?    

 

Vikramaditya Motwane : -  In your pitch you are taking the listener to a world which is new. Like Eternal Sunshine, there is a doctor who can take away your memory suddenly I am interested. This is a new world, the world I don’t know. Then there is a couple going to this doctor to erase their memories because they had a fall-out. They find each other after old memories are erased and they still fall in love. This works as an interesting pitch and the way story goes.  Because you are walking into a world, you have never seen before.  Screenwriting is exactly that, about introducing people to a brand new world. So even in the case of Queen, we are talking about a girl who goes on honeymoon alone. I have never seen that. You have to make your screenplays seem like no one has ever heard them before. If I see different movies with same stories, I will not like it. The same thing applies here, if your pitch is similar to the other writer’s pitch, then the producer might not show any interest in that. If your pitch is different from other pitches, then the producer might think of considering that.
In Udaan’s case, my pitch would have been that of a boy who comes back home from boarding school after eight years and finds he has a step-brother he never knew. That becomes a pitch. Something you haven’t seen before.

Que7- Imagine that you are not in the kind of group you are working with now. And if you had to pitch Udaan as a complete fresher without any contacts, any connection, even with that genuine idea, and that passion in you, do you think that same pitch would have worked for you even then?

Vikramaditya : -  Things have changed now. In those days, people would not have even listened to small film ideas. I came close to making a film twice but couldn’t do. Anurag Kashyap himself was finding it difficult to get funding for his films in 2003. Udaan was in 2005. Now it’s 2015. There is a huge difference in the industry now. Now people are open to all kinds of ideas. Still, I did have people interested in Udaan then. They liked the story.  

Que8 - What is the pitching method for treatment focused screenplays where the treatment defines the film and the story is not significant. Say like Oye Lucky Lucky,


Member - I disagree with that because Oye Lucky Lucky is a very good story, it’s not just a treatment, it’s a beautiful story about a thief I think.

Ram Mirchandani : -  Can I just intercept here? I was there at UTV when we released Oye Lucky Lucky. Our full team loved Oye Lucky Lucky and it was just a 10 minutes pitch. There wasn’t the script at that point of time just the story. But in that 10 minutes story line Dibakar brought up the character of Abhay so well and all of us agreed unanimously.

Que9 - As a director when you talk about the script, do we say how simple or difficult will be in terms of production or any quote any budget or not, will that make any difference?
Ram Mirchandani :
-  No as a writer, it doesn’t matter.

Que9 - But what if I pitch it as a writer-director?

Vikramaditya Motwane : -  You can, but we are discussing pitching as a writer. Though I don’t think the budget should be an issue if they are interested in your story.

Que10 - How important is the narrative in pitching. I mean how the story will unfold on the screen, for example, say Pulp Fiction?

Sridhar : -  If you are pitching Pulp Fiction you will pitch the three individual stories separately. Then tell them how you will merge them in a certain way. They should be interested in each and every story in the first place. So don’t worry about structure; don’t worry about your scenes, don’t worry about your beats; about your plot points.  It’s not about getting specific, it's more about being very general, again the premise, first act, the hook, the character, the journey. These are the broad things that matter.  And as we noticed everybody who was pitching here, has taken not more than a minute, that means 10 minutes is a hell of a long time. So don’t start narrating scenes in details. That will be the worst thing in pitching. Just get them hooked on to the premise of the story, why it’s different, why they haven’t possibly seen something like this before, and why your character is interesting. Once you got these three answers and you got the correct body language that makes you seem like a nice person and not like an aggressive, you have done your job perfectly well.

Vikramaditya Motwane : -  It also helps to pay attention to how listeners react. Note their body language too. You’ll have to sometimes amp it up or amp it down depending on the response. You will know and you will see that whether the listeners seem interested or not. It is very important part of pitching what you say when you say, how you say. At times you may switch between scripts, if you find the listener is not interested in one subject, tactfully move to another gauging the response.

Kamlesh Pandey : -  Just for your information we have been thinking about it for a long time to have a pitching session of our own. We are going to have it on a much bigger scale in near future. We have been working on it. We have been looking out for some big production houses interested in joining us. There are some who are keen and we are trying to get more of them. Once we have them on board, then we are going to have our own pitching sessions soon.

Sridhar : Finally the outcome -  good or bad, do not see it as an absolute success or failure.
Whether you manage to sell or don’t manage to sell, you have managed to pitch it. Count it as an experience, learn from it and move on. You will get to understand exactly how people react to your pitching. They may yawn, they may sms, they may die, they may this they may that. Anything can happen in those 10 minutes. Maybe some will get bored, maybe some will cut you short, maybe someone will be rude, maybe someone say this is nonsense, that’s totally ok, you at least understood how the business works it will help you next time. This is not 10th Grade exam. There is no pass or fail, this is just a journey to get better at what you do. It’s not a sign of weakness or a sign of laziness on their part; it’s actually a great diagnostic tool to find out what’s wrong with your story. You may be able to improve from this for future and do better. These things happen, but that’s the part of this business.

Que11 – Can we read instead of narrating?

Sridhar – Reading is an absolute NO NO. One should avoid reading at all cost. Narration or story telling is an age old tradition, in fact, rural tradition. If you can’t tell your story, it is a bad thing. We should be able to tell our story well if we know it and have confidence in it.;

Que12 -  It is a good idea to do the soft board characters.

Sridhar : -  You see, some people like to do pitches with presentation, with the PPT, with the audio-visual things. There is nothing wrong with that. In the allotted time, if you find the visual way to tell your story, which is actually convenient, no issue at all. A group of people is willing to give their undivided attention and it’s up to you how you can hold it. If you feel you can hold it better that way, please check it, if you have the option, go for it.

Que13 - Sir how can we define commercial elements?

Sridhar : -  But why you want to define commercial elements? It’s not our concern as a writer.

Que13 - If they ask us about the commercial aspects then what?
Sridhar : -
  No, they won’t ask you for commercial aspects as a writer.  At no point of time, I can say this story will work for 3 crores and 4-7 crores this story doesn’t work for me. The story is worth regardless of the money attached to it. So I say you don’t worry about this. They are extraneous factors. Just worry about your story. If it is working commercially or not that the studio will decide.

Ram Mirchandani : -  Unless you are a writer-director of the story, at this point, it’s too early. But for a writer-director it matters. If you are pitching to a studio and you are a director also then I can say it’s an important thing for you to be confident that this script demands only 5 crores or this script can’t go more than 6 crores. So as a director if you know your parameters well then that will reassure the studio or the producers. Try to understand the dynamics support if you are proposing for a director also.

Kamlesh : -  I think we should leave that damn thing to the studio. Don’t bother with it. It’s for them to decide how much it will cost them. If they want a Super Star in a simple story, the budget will be a lot.

Sridhar : -  Don’t worry if you have a good script, some or other studio will produce it. If one studio doesn’t find it attractive, some other will sometime. You have confidence in your script. That’s what is important.

Que14 - Sir how should one pitch a script based on existing stories, folk stories, etc.?

Sridhar : -  You will be pitching it the same way. And just add that this story I am writing is based on this particular work or book or short story written by this person. If it is a good story, then we are more than interested.

Que15 – How to pitch purely artistic stories where there is actually no story?


Vikram – Tell me one story which can’t be pitched..even Ship of Theseus or Court or any of such films. I don’t think you can’t pitch a film which has a deep philosophy behind them. Basically, there will be some storyline that you should be able to make out.

Que16 - Under normal circumstances, a pitch can get over in 3-5 minutes but if I have multiple ideas and if I pitch them all one after the other, than the producer might like at least one out of these.
Similar Questions – Can we pitch more than one story?

Sridhar : -  I’ll say don’t stress. Don’t overdose it. Don’t time it that in 10 minutes I can sell everything. I would always tell you if you have 10 minutes and you finish earlier consider that a great thing.
Don’t try to use every second because it is not important. Talk about yourself, talk about your material. If you really feel there is scope request them if there are willing to give you some time then you can share some more thoughts with them. They will be able to see the range you have. Otherwise, say thank you very much and leave.

Ram Mirchandani : -  I would advise you not to do that. I will prefer one strong, focused idea and at best two but not more, because you are not there to make a project or a proposal. You are there to make a film. The minute you are talking about two three things, you are making a proposal. So one strong, confident idea should be fine just make sure you know the matter well.

Que17 - Do we have to give them a copy?

Vikramaditya : -  They may ask you to email them the synopsis if they like the pitch. Ideally you should also carry enough hard-copies of your synopses/script if they ask for it.

Kamlesh Pandey: -  Ram, can you give any examples of a bad pitch without taking the name of the person. You must have gone through that..

 

Ram Mirchandani : -  I will rather give an example of a good pitch that came to us in 2004, for Main Meri Patni Aur Woh. It was directed by Chandan Arora and story was by Raghav Yadav. They had a 2 minutes pitching time. The story was about a short guy who marries a tall, attractive girl. In the same house that they stayed, there is a paying guest who is tall and handsome. Now the story is about the insecurity that the short young guy goes through. So in two minutes we finalized the film. The pitch was 2 minutes but very interesting and we made it on a good budget but in 2 minutes we decided to make the film and in 6 months the film was released. So that is the example of a great pitch.

Que- What is a bad pitch, please?   

Ram Mirchandani :-  See I will say a typical bad pitch is when I get a full 200 pages script without a logline, without a theme, without a synopsis like -  ‘Dear Ram here is a script’. Now that’s something very irritating. When someone says,” It’s a great script,” it’s a turn off right there. Because I would first like to understand loglines, synopsis, one page or two pager even if it is a five pager. It gives me an idea of the story. Only if I am interested in it, will I read a 100 page or a 200-page script. So I think the worst thing to do is just send out a script or screenplay or a dialogue script without any preamble. The bad pitch in face to face meetings are elongated pitches.

Que18 -  Can we pitch a small film to a big studio or vice-versa or choose a studio as per the script?

Virat : -  It does help to pitch to appropriate studios based on the type of films they make. Like if your story is of Fantasy genre more suitable to Disney then pitching it to Phantom is not advisable.

Sridhar : -  Just because one production house said this is not working for them, don’t get upset. It doesn’t mean your story is bad or your idea is bad, it might mean that it is not viable at this moment for somebody to make it. Some other studio might consider it, or same studio may consider it sometimes later in future. Also, big production houses don’t necessarily only look for big films. Look beyond barriers. A film might not work in one language or region but certainly click in a different language or some other medium. So you should pitch it anyway if you really believe that’s the best thing you’ll do.

Ram Mirchandani.:-  Every big studio also has a slate that they plan at the beginning of the year. The slate has big star films; they have mid- size films and also have smaller films than break even. The idea is that a given studio needs to have these smaller films especially in today’s times when the content has proved successful like Dum Lagake Haisha and NH-10. These are the kind of movies that have worked this year. So obviously content is working and not necessarily big stars and big budgets. So I think every studio will be open to small ideas as well.

Que19 - Is it fine if we give references of films to explain the world or the character or anything?

Sridhar : -  I don’t think it is a problem unless every line you keep throwing in is like giving some reference. The listener might think if you have something original, or everything is an inspiration. But using a couple of references to help the visualization of the world you are setting up, is fine. You may say it’s an action film but unlike Die Hard.

Que20 - Is it better to tell the climax or hold the climax, saying what happens next forms the rest of the story.  

Sridhar : -  No, I will say stick to ACT 1, max go up to the interval if your story demands like Ghayal, otherwise just stick to ACT one. The climax is very far. If I don’t like the first page, I won’t read the last page. If you go to Wikipedia, look for the most interesting film you ever like. On Wikipedia read the plot written in 200 words. I promise you will never buy that film because they have technically put up all the information related to the film from the beginning, middle and end. But it is boring. Give precise information. A – Your brief introduction, B- The Logline, which is the one line version of your story, and C - Brief synopsis which is meant to make them interested in it. You don’t write the whole story. You tell them, in case they like, you have the ready script you can go and narrate them or send them a little longer synopsis. That’s it; you don’t need to tell the climax. Don’t worry for that.

Vikramaditya Motwane : -  It’s not the end of the world if you don’t make to some of it. Most of the time, it’s going to be an exercise to figure out how you can better it next time. Also be open to feedback, be open to criticism, be open to everything. You have to get an idea how the industry actually works. You will be so well prepared the next time that you would be able to do it easily. It is your story; you have to make it sound interesting. You can try multiple times. First try once if it doesn’t work, try something else second time then a third time. Pitch your film like it is a unique one never seen before. I guarantee you the producer will come back and say that’s it.

Que21 -  So we do get the feedback at the end of it if our pitch was liked or not?

Vikramaditya – May be or may not be. But you will come to know. If they like it, they will ask for a copy or maybe more, so you will know, they are interested. Don’t expect an instant reply. They have to sleep over the idea, discuss among themselves, or consult their superiors.. Take it as an opportunity to experience pitching, present yourself.
Sridhar – Even if they don’t ask for it, you get the feedback anyway..

Kamlesh : -  Yes as Vikram says take this as an opportunity to expose ourselves to them. Let them be  amazed that so many wonderful ideas / scripts are floating around. Something which they are not aware of and keep listening to same half a dozen people they are going to all the time. So much of material is available in the market and some people say where are the scripts, especially the actors? I would like to call them and show, here are the scripts.

Que22 - Is pitching for TV different from Films?      

Sridhar : -  I don’t think so. I have done ten years Television and it is always like finding a story. If you have a good story to tell that hooks then you win them. If you got 10 minutes with a TV channel, you'd again do the same thing, tell the story in a way to make them interested. It might be a historical, mythological, but it should be interesting.  The aim is to get them to say come and meet us and tell us more about this. So we have to still pitch a nice story or a nice premise. The world has to be new, the characters should be interesting that we can empathize with and are interested in watching their journey. I mean all storytelling is the same whether we apply to Television or film or video games. Or even a book. I can’t quite say much about video games. But again it is the story / character that will do the trick. Take for example Ghayal, the character is on a violent mission, which is what most video games are like. It works because I am emotionally interested in that character.

Que23 – How do you see pitch vis-à-vis the written synopsis?

 

Sridhar : -  Remember one thing the pitch has to be verbal. The written things synopsis, logline, are already there with all clarity. But the pitch has to be verbal and when you speak you should come across as a person who has got some spark that I should love to hear you more. The pitch has to work as an oral expression; the written thing will come as supportive document, like ready reckoner that they can refer later and look forward to calling you.

Kamlesh : -  It’s like to speed dating, you know this is your first but make sure you get the second too.

Que23 -  What if they like my pitch. What happens next? Do they ask us to narrate the script?

 

Sridhar:--  If somebody is interested in your pitch, at the second stage you still don’t come to script narration but maybe you tell them the detailed story. Again it should not take more than 10-20 min. See time is valuable in business so anybody who is really concise and can tell the story in a shorter time, comes across as someone who is in control of his craft.
There is no point in reading the whole script and consuming 3 hours and 25 minutes. Try telling the story instead of reading. The whole thing is inside you, what is blocking you, is the nervousness, the anxiety that all of us have. The idea is you try and keep their interest intact with every meeting. When you meet them more, explaining how you took the concept forward - things may move on. In every meeting, the idea is to make them feel interested in meeting you again. They may like your passion, your energy, your thoughts. That particular story or script may not work, but they may offer you something else.
So it’s a calling card.

Kamlesh : -   Take your pitching experience as an exposure to a big production house. You may not succeed in selling your idea, but you will be a better pitcher next time. They may not like your script but might like you as a scriptwriter. Who knows you may land up getting any other assignment or even a job. You have to sell yourself not just the script.

Sridhar:--  Also please mind your body language too. Be open to inputs, criticism. If you lay back with folded hands and stare at them, you are already saying I don’t care how you react. Then that person would feel, you are judging him. Instead be receptive, polite and note their feedback. Say things like, Ok, I get your point, I don’t see that is a big problem, but I can cover it up, or if you give me some time maybe I will come up with a solution. Now this helps more.
People are giving their time to listen to you because they are keen on hearing new ideas. So respect that. They are genuine like we are. It may be so that they have heard a lot of other ideas during the day, so they may appear tired. Give them the benefit of doubt. Don’t imagine of any negativity in the room. It’s quite possible that what you have written is not working for them. That doesn’t mean anything. You walk away gaining some experience, some knowledge of how this process works.

Kamlesh : -  Let me explain it to you as a story where you are the protagonist and your goal is to sell your damn script. Imagine yourself as the real protagonist in your story who is going to pitch a story.
Imagine how you want to see yourself there in that scene. You are a writer. You have to create a damn scene over there physically, emotionally in your words, in your expressions, your body language and that’s why you have come here for. You have to act out this whole process like a 10 min short film. You have to make a live short film, then and there.

Sridhar : - Among other things if somebody gets embarrassed or is under confident, then just imagine you are talking to someone familiar, just forget them and just zoom out and feel relaxed.

Que24 - Can we change the pitch/subject if their reaction is not favourable?

 

Sridhar : -  If you can do that, it’s fabulous. When I pitch, I always read the opposite persons and change based on their reactions. I would watch their body language and what I am saying. The whole idea is to understand what they are looking for and then try to cater to that.

Que25 - Can I request Ram Sir, to answer one question because you been on the other side. Can you share with us, what are those typical DO’s and DONTs, you would like to share?

 

Ram Mirchandani : -  It’s important to have the confidence the fact that you are pitching something that you are 100% convinced about. And that is why I feel like when somebody said that in 10 minutes, I can pitch three ideas. I would advise you not to do that. I will prefer one strong, focused idea and at best two but not more, because you are not there to make a project or a proposal. You are there to make a film. The minute you are talking about two three things, you are making a proposal. So one strong, confident idea should be fine just make sure you know the matter well. Also, I don’t think the number of people in the room should make a difference.

Que26 : -  How should the introduction be?
 

Ram Mirchanchani : - See introduction would be basically about what you have done, a little bit of work like say short film, or done any film script or TV. But don’t waste much of time in saying that I have done this, I have done that. Be as concise as possible and start with your log line. Be confident and cool.

Que27 – Is there anything else one can prepare to face a studio..?

Sridhar:-- Do your homework. Check what kind of films the studio you are going to pitch makes. So for example you are talking to Disney then you can tell them this is the log line and I am pitching it to you particularly because this is exactly the kind of zone that Disney is comfortable with.  Now that is called tailoring your pitch for a certain studio. The studio will be happy to see that you have studied the kind of work they do or the type of subjects they are looking out for. Also if they are opening up into something new and if your story fits in that, try to pitch it accordingly, it might just help in opening up or creating a new channel.

Que28 - Ram sir what does the panel comprise of? Are there marketing people too?

Ram Mirchandani : -  Yes there could be. A typical panel size is of 4-5 or for a big studio even 7-8 persons. There could be a marketing person, someone from research, creative team, like that people from different facets of the business to understand the things and share their inputs. A Calculated decision is taken based on a scientific process which involves all these experts.  

Que29 - What do you mean by the proposal?

Sridhar :-  This film can be made in X budget, it’s exactly what Arjun Kapoor is looking for and we have written film-fare keys too, and ‘she’ is looking for this kind of subject and maybe she also fits in and we have got dates of ‘that star’ and we can start shooting in 6 months. That is the proposal when you give more details besides the story. But I may be shocked to receive the proposal when I still don’t know the story.  Stick to the story and try to convince with the material you have instead of actors..

Que30 -  Sir how do you pitch a whodunit? Do you tell actually who done it or what?

Sridhar : -  It’s up to you if you pitch your story and they seem interested in that part of your pitch.
I still couldn’t pitch a story when I also explained who did it. I would never pitch it that way, but it’s an individual choice actually.

Ram Mirchandani : -  When Bijoy was pitching David, he pitched it to  6-7 studios and he left the last 15 minutes undisclosed. He told everybody that, if you like it, sign an MOU saying that you are doing a film or at least sign an NDA and only then will I narrate the last 12 minutes to you.
Que31 - Sir you told us about our body language but what about the body language of the listener? How can I make out whether he is interested or getting bored?

Sridhar : -  How could you do that, see actually this is not something that you get trained into it, but you have to feel it. If they are showing signs of disinterest then as said above they will be yawning, smsing, etc. But on your part what you can do that you do to keep them interested. Many a times, listeners lose interest when the pitcher starts rambling or voice is not clear. He may ask you to repeat a couple of times and then give it up. You should also not get distracted by some scene or character and miss the track. You are leading them and if you miss; naturally they will also miss it. Eg. You are telling the story of Harry and Sally but lose the plotline in describing Sally. Don’t digress your pitching by overdoing any character or your favourite scenes, scenes are a sure no-no.

When in doubt, you can also check with them if they are getting you. Ask- Am coming across? Am I talking too fast? Am I ok with this? Shall I elaborate that point? See the whole address should be natural and normal. Imagine you are talking to somebody you really get around with. Don’t see it as a test or that you have to impress somebody just keep it as relaxed as possible. That’s all I need you to read.

Que32 - It is difficult to transport someone into my story’s world, especially when someone else has already pitched him similar story/idea.

That’s where your pitching skill comes. You have to describe / explain your world. You can achieve that with practice. You can give parallel examples if needed..like we discussed as seen in so and so film. If somebody has already pitched similar idea, then question arises what’s the USP of your idea. In such case it will be anyways very difficult to make the person listen to similar idea, forget transporting him to your world.  

 

      

Compiled By - Sanjay Sharma
Video Editor - Jitendra Kuche 
Shot By - Sumant Prajapati

 

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