I like to think of pitching as an iceberg.  The waters surrounding the iceberg are the trends in the industry – like co-productions, transmedia storytelling, and strong narrative reality shows.  The ice below the water that you can’t see is the preparation you need to do before you go into any pitch and the tip of the iceberg is the actual pitch itself.

Now is the time to be preparing for your time pitching at the market. You’ll need marketing materials for each of your pitches and goals for each of your projects. In the next couple of weeks, we’ll go through pitching different genres – formats, reality, doc and drama.

First off, you need business cards and lots of them.   Pitching can begin from the time you step on the plane from your home country. You’ll meet people heading to the market at the baggage carousel, getting a cab or checking into your hotel.  One time, I met the buyer I had been trying to get an appointment with at the Nice airport and we shared a cab to Cannes.

You also need to practice your elevator pitch – who are you and what do you do?  It’s a good idea to have a couple of elevator pitches, depending on the person you are meeting.  If you’ve won awards you want to include the fact that you are an award winning producer, or if you are selling a hit show in your territory you want to make sure you include that.  The goal with an elevator pitch is making the connection with the person. Humour is always helpful but the crucial aspect is authenticity.  This business is based on strong relationships.

You need to take a close look at each of the projects you want to pitch.  Obviously, it’s much easier to pitch a project that has some momentum behind it – broadcast licenses, clear co-production opportunities where the creative matches the need for the locales or a strong, vocal fan base.  Setting goals for each of the projects also helps to focus your efforts and targets the people you want to meet.

Research is an integral part in preparing for pitching.  The number one complaint I hear from broadcasters and distributors is that people pitchers don’t know anything about them or their networks.   Meetings sometimes can last only 5 minutes.  Before you go to that meeting, you need to be clear on what is on their schedules or catalogues and why your project could fit.  This means doing a great deal of research to find the proper fit with co-producers, distributors or broadcasters.

Sometimes it is difficult to ascertain since broadcasters especially are re-branding themselves constantly for greater audiences.  You can probably find the newest information from the trade magazines like Broadcast, Variety, or from press releases on what the buyers are looking for.

One producer I know had a dossier filled with information on each person he had a meeting with or that he wanted to meet. On this one page, he had information on the broadcaster highlighting what shows were hits on their network, what they were looking and some personal information on the buyer.  With the internet and social networks, access to this information is really simple.  There’s no excuse for not doing your homework.

In subsequent posts, I’ll look at what you need to successfully pitch different genres.

Mickey Rogers’ website is a mine of information and advice on pitching and new TV projects. You can also order her book, From Start to Screen;  The Essential Guide to Pitching Creative Ideas from the site.

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