Many thanks to Bang2writer Jon Ryan, who asks this question on the FB page:
“I often speak to journalists about a story I’m working on and if they’re interested, they say to ‘check in’ later when it’s closer to being ready for them to cover. Is it ever worth doing that with a producer? I’m thinking of at LondonSWF if you don’t have a final draft. Or do they get so many pitches that it would be wasting their time? You often say concept is king – if that is rock solid, can it hurt to pitch unfinished projects?”
This is a GREAT question (and I will deal with it in a sec), but first I put it to you that writers are nuts. I’ll tell you why, next …
… Who else but writers would spend literally hundreds of hours of their time making *something* BEFORE finding out if people actually wanted it????
Yet my heart has broken literally hundreds of times for writers because of this. These writers will email me and call me, completely flabberghasted they’ve spent SO LONG ON A SCREENPLAY, perfecting their story and their craft … Only to find their work is met with a wall of silence by the industry.
“No one wants my screenplay!” They’ll wail, “What do I do now??”
Yet this could have all been avoided by doing just ONE thing! But what is it??
Market Research could have avoided this heartache. No, not writing FOR the market … You FIND OUT whether your concept works; whether people respond to it; what you’re missing; what the opportunities are; where else you could go with it.
So, in answer to Jon’s question:
YES. A thousand times, yes. DO pitch everyone you can and DO pitch your unfinished projects.
And I mean everyone. Everywhere. Every chance you get. Don’t hide your loglines away. Show them to anyone and everyone who’ll listen.
Social media is good for this, but so are events like London Screenwriters Festival (other screenwriting events are available!), especially when you get asked the inevitable networking question, “What are you working on?”
Take notes on people’s reactions. Listen to their suggestions. Remember what you first conceived and whether those suggestions add something, or change it beyond recognition. Weigh everything up very carefully. Sit on your loglines a while, return to them with fresh eyes. Do it all over again.
From there, write a one page pitch. After that, a treatment. See what the people who liked your pitch think of those! And so on.
Once You’ve Done The Above …
… Then – and only then, once your concept is rock solid, like Jon says – should you write your draft. It won’t take long. It’ll practically write itself.
And no, I don’t mean make a nuisance of yourself, btw. You’ll soon find yourself unfriended and blocked and avoided in the cafeteria at LondonSWF if *all* you do it pitch your ass off to people 24/7. It’s all about engagement: give AND take.
And never ever tell fibs about the status of your project. If someone likes your pitch, never tell them your unfinished screenplay is ready, then go home and rush a draft out. Industry people read screenplays all day, so guess what: THEY CAN TELL.
Yet if you’re honest, someone might see an opportunity to work WITH you – what’s not to like there?
So get writing and polishing and pitching those loglines. What’s the worst that can happen?
here’s the worst that can happen: someone hears your logline and writes your screenplay before you. your advise sounds just right and i wish it was, but unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect, or fantasy, world. don’t you think?
No we don’t live in a perfect fantasy world, who said we did? Not me. Anyway, even if those people DID write your fantastic idea Alex, it would be executed differently. So you could hide your light under a bushel and discover that someone has had the same idea as you ANYWAY (and believe me, they will, regardless of whether they hear or see you pitching it or not) or you can tell everyone you can what it is, get great feedback, make it marketable … and get ahead of the competition. More on why you shouldn’t be afraid of people nicking your idea under the copyright label of this blog and via this article: http://bit.ly/RLjkyN
Great advice, Lucy. I’ve found that when I ask groups of pro writers if they pitch ideas before they are finished, they ALL say, “Yes.” When I ask groups of aspiring writers, very few pitch their ideas out loud. Totally agree that pitching is a such a valuable way to get feedback.
Thanks, Lucy. On the train to LSF now, ready to do exactly that. Now feeling more confident 🙂
Excellent! You’re welcome and have a fab – and productive! – day pitching <3 x