When you pitch for a show, one of the first things you’ll be asked to do is to come to your meeting prepared with lots of story ideas. Each episode should have a strong story ‘hook’ that grabs us and a strong journey with a clear beginning, middle and end. But most important of all, you need to know which character each story belongs to!
Much of the time, your story will belong to the hero of your series. In other words, your main character is the one who experiences the situation and problems of the story – and the one who goes on the journey to fix those problems. But as with many shows, there are often multiple characters who will also need to have their own stories, with each one becoming the main character of a particular episode.
When I first pitched for Rugrats, I was told that the producers were looking for strong ‘Chuckie’ stories. Later when I was able to get my first original show Dead Gorgeous off the ground, part of my job as a showrunner was to make sure there was a balance...
There’s been a lot of talk over the past few years about how to pitch your screenplay or series. Pitch experts have been popping up all over the place and many writers and producers have attended workshops in order to learn the latest pitching techniques. But what I’ve also noticed is that suddenly there is a lot of anxiety!
I’ve just returned from Bordeaux where I was a Chairperson for Cartoon Movie – two days of approximately 60 pitches given by filmmakers from around the world. Some of the films were at concept stage, some were in development and others were already financed and well into production. As for the pitches? Well, some were really strong while others were weak.
Now I don’t mean to say that it isn’t important to learn how to clearly present your work and I know there are some experts out there that will teach you to do just that.
But I have some strong thoughts on this topic which I hope will help relieve your anxiety when it comes to pitching, and what I believe it comes do...
There are some interesting studies out there about how we humans think, and it is interesting to learn that some of us are naturally stronger and more skilled in the ‘detail’ while others are able to stand back more easily and see the bigger, broader picture. I’ve been doing a lot of consulting and teaching lately and have had the opportunity to observe how these different modes affect one’s ability to create, write and also pitch a great story.
If I’m honest, my personality type – and probably my comfort zone too – lies firmly planted in the ‘detail’. I spend hours getting to know what brand of toothpaste my characters would use and spend twice as long trying to choreograph a passing moment in a scene or trying to find the most perfect three lines of dialogue. But over the years I have also consciously trained myself to be able to pull back and see the bigger picture, and I realise that the combination of these abilities is what allows a writer to succeed.