A Screenwriters Guide to Nailing Pitches, Generals, and Meetings

By August 18, 2021 Advice

While virtual industry meetings have become increasingly common over the past year and a half, they haven’t gotten any easier. Writers often come to Coverfly ahead of industry meetings with questions of what to expect, what to say or not say, do or not do, or what the point of the meeting even is.

Never fear. As we prepare for the Fall 2021 Virtual Pitch Week, an event that has seen writers staffed on series and sell their projects, we have compiled a quick guide for any virtual meeting based on the hundreds we consulted on.

Know what type of meeting you are having

Not all meetings are the same! Some will want you to pitch a project while others will want to get to know you as a writer, and you need to know the difference so you don’t waste the opportunity.

While meetings come in all shapes and sizes, here are the main types emerging writers have:

  1. A Pitch Meeting-- a producer or company wants you to pitch a project of yours or your version of a project they are developing
  2. A General -- while not considering a specific project, an industry member wants to get to know you and your work better to see if there is a way to collaborate
  3. Prospective Client Meeting -- a manager or an agent wants to discuss the prospect of working together with you as their client

If you are unsure, best practice is to treat every meeting like a general unless you were informed in advance that you'll be discussing a specific project.

How should I approach the different types of meetings?

It is important to approach each meeting type differently, and the best way to do so is to have a clear goal for the meeting and a clear next step you are working towards.

Pitch Meeting-- sell a specific project or your take on a specific project, so come prepared with your take on a story

General-- pitching yourself, your talents, and your body of work for any current or future collaborations, so know what you have to offer

Prospective Client-- have a clear idea of your career goals + ambitions to see if working together with the potential rep makes sense for both of you

What can I do to prepare?

Research! Research! Research!

For the company you are meeting with, look at the types of projects they have made or are currently making. Do they have a website or mission statement? Credits? How and when were they founded? Are there recent articles or interviews about them in the trades?

For the individual, likewise understand who they are, what their job is, what sort of responsibilities they have + problems you can fix, their own personal interest or passions, what they like to work on, if they have any social media or previous interviews.

For both, it is important to show that you are informed but also allows you to cater your presentation to be as personalized and relevant to them as possible.

WARNING: DO NOT MAKE ASSUMPTIONS. Just because they made horror films last year does not mean that is their focus. The best way to learn about them and their company is by asking questions. Obviously don’t ask questions you know the answer to for the sake of asking questions, but to learn more or get clarification.

Baby Steps: Set Reasonable Expectations

We understand the pressure to squeeze every ounce of opportunity out of the meeting whether it is 15 minutes or two hours. There is only so much that can be accomplished in the set amount of time, so don’t make it any harder on yourself by cramming everything in or trying to take five steps at once. Remember, the goal is NOT to sell or package a project or even sign with a rep during the meeting; the goal is to make a connection and keep the conversation going. 

The Do’s and Don’ts of the Meeting

Finally, the part you’ve all been waiting for! While there are exceptions to any rules, these are the best practices we have found:

    • DO NOT over-rehearse or recite a presentation word for word, approach this as you would a conversation
    • DO ask them questions and always leave room for them to ask questions
    • DO Clearly articulate your writing style in a thematic, stylistic, or philosophical sense, to avoid pigeonholing yourself to a specific genre
    • DO NOT pitch a project until you have a sense of what they prioritize and are looking for— then tailor accordingly
    • For reps, DO clearly articulate your career goals to see if they align and if it makes sense for you to work together
    • When pitching a project, DO focus on what the audience will feel and experience, not scene by scene what happens
  • DO NOT spend the entire time talking about craft. Get to know one another as people and talk about yourselves, your interests, and working together!
    • DO Be concise in discussing your bio or background. Always great to talk about yourself and your experiences so long as it informs or contextualizes your writing in some way.
  • When pitching a project DO NOT name all of your characters if you can help it. Usually too hard to keep track of and really who cares what the lead’s support character’s friend’s name is?
  • DO NOT panic or pander. Cliche but calm down and be yourself. The goal here is to have a good convo and form a genuine connection
  • DO BE CONFIDENT! There are thousands of writers and projects and this person CHOSE to meet with YOU!

What to do after the Meeting

So you had an awesome meeting and made a friend but don’t have a super clear next step. Now what?

Find ways to stay in touch with them so long as you are not asking them if they read the sample you sent. Trust me, if they read and loved the sample, they would have reached out to you. Plus, it is perfectly acceptable if not preferred to check in to see how THEY are doing and if there is anything you can do to help them.

Keep them updated on your developments. Placed in a contest? Have an upcoming meeting and want their advice? A project you discussed in your meeting is drawing interest? Shoot them an email so long as you aren’t pestering them. Keep them informed and trust that, if and when it makes sense for you to collaborate, you will

When in doubt…

Email Coverfly! We’ve seen it all before and are always able to answer any questions or help however we can.

Contact us here.