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Screenwriters - 5 Ways To Make The Most Of Your Pitchfest Experience

By Expert Author: Jesse Ross

If you're thinking about attending one of the many screenwriting pitchfest events that happen in Hollywood or in another city where Hollywood execs attend, then you should definitely do everything you can to make the most of that experience.
The whole process can be a little intimidating for many writers, but here's a list of five things you can do to get the most value out of your admission badge.
1.  Go there with an intention to professionally market your script and yourself.
The dream come true for most screenwriters is to sell their script to Hollywood and see it turned into a movie.  A pitchfest presents a golden opportunity for you to open doors in the industry toward a potential sale or to obtain representation. Opening those doors depends on you coming to the pitch table with a winning attitude.  Arrive armed with the full intention that you are going to do everything in your power to sell your script. 
Start by dressing the part -- wear office casual attire. In Hollywood, only "the suits" wear suits, meaning executives.  When you pitch, have the attitude that your script is one they can't afford to pass up.  You must fully believe in your script.  If you don't have a genuine belief in the strength of your script, and yourself as a writer, it's very unlikely that the executive sitting across the table is going to.   
2.  Make contacts and building relationships for the future.
Let's say, for whatever reason, the executive listens to your pitch and passes on reading your script.  The fact is, the default answer in the biz is "no," so you should know that that will happen most of the time.  However, you can still make the most of your face time with that person in other ways. 
Ask if you can briefly tell them about any other story ideas you might have.  They may be receptive.  Or take a minute to find out what material they might currently be looking for.  Your own style might be a good fit. 
Most importantly, before you get up from the table, see if they would be open for you to contact them in the future with other pitches.  If they are, get their business card.  If they tell you they don't have any left, which they often do, make sure you have the proper spelling of their first and last name and their company name.  Or get their email address.  Make sure that you have a way to contact them in the future.
Remember, this business is built on long-term relationships.  Even if you don't get a request for your script today, you can contact them at a later date, at which time you will remind them that the two of you met previously.  Be very friendly like you were pretty chummy back then and they just kind of forgot.
3.  Practice your pitch and know who you are pitching to.
At some point, if you are going to have a screenwriting career, you are going to have to pitch your story to an exec.  Many writers don't like to pitch, they feel they're no good at it, and they just don't want to do it.  It's okay if you feel that way to start, but you need to practice so you are confident, because it's part of the arsenal that you must have to move your way through Hollywood.
Before you go to the pitchfest, practice and prepare.  The more you can practice and prepare and then do it, the better you'll become at pitching.  Also, before signing up for your pitches, review the list of participating executives and pick the ones who are going to be the best potential fits for your script, based on the kinds of movies they've produced in the past.  Learn as much as you can about them so you can interact with them as specifically as possible.
4.  Use the date of the pitchfest as a deadline to complete your script.
If you are writing spec scripts - meaning scripts that are not pre-sold - you generally don't have someone pushing you to meet a deadline.  Pretty much no one cares when you get your screenplay done except you.  However, by committing to going to a pitchfest, you can use that as a deadline to motivate yourself to get the work done.
Just determine what milestone you want to reach by that time, and then set out to do it.  Getting to pitch at the pitchfest will be like a reward!  And who knows, someone may be interested in your script.
5.  Break out of your comfort zone as a writer and meet up with people.
Writing can be a lonely pursuit.  Unless you have a partner, it's often just you and the blank page.  A pitchfest offers you an opportunity to break out of your safe little bubble and take some chances.  Although it can be uncomfortable to try and explain your story to a complete stranger in under two minutes, it can also be thrilling when you hook them on to your story and they're hanging on your every word because they're dying to find out how the story goes. 
Connect with other people, whether it's other writers or execs. It can be very good for feeding your inspiration and creativity.  Even just mingling at one of the mixers and shooting the breeze with other writers about how the industry works can be invaluable.  You'll walk away from the weekend with a better understanding of the overall process of writing a commercial script, what's hot and what's not, and the inspiration to stay in action creatively.

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