This is so on the money:
by Ken Miyamoto
Screenwriters are always being told what they should say in Hollywood pitch meetings, meet and greets, and query letters. While there is a plethora of excellent advice in that respect, it’s what screenwriters shouldn’t say that really makes or breaks those first impressions.
Whether it’s in a query letter to agencies/management companies, during a chance elevator pitch with a Hollywood power player, or during first time meetings at studios or production companies, these are the all too common newcomer mistakes that the powers that be hear all too often, and wish they never had to hear again.
1. “Hollywood needs something like my script.”
No they don’t. They’ve got an endless stack of scripts from writers that likely have more experience than you.
2. “I don’t want to ruin the ending.”
Their readers will likely do that for them before they read the script. Ruin it. And it better be a good one because nothing sells a script like a great ending.
3. “Ever since I was a kid, I loved telling stories…”
You know when the teacher in the Peanuts cartoons talks unintelligibly (Wa-wa-wa)? Everything after that opening sentence is what the powers that be hear. Get over yourself. Everyone in Hollywood has that story or a variation of it.
4. “This is my first script.”
In query letters, they likely won’t read any further. In chance encounters, it’s the kiss of death. In meetings, the first thing they ask after talking about your script is, “What else do you have?” If the answer is nothing, you’ve burned a bridge. Lesson learned? Don’t come to the game if you aren’t ready to play with a stacked deck (of scripts).
5. “It’s a western…”
Westerns are poison in the eyes of most development executives, agents, managers, and producers. They are costly to shoot authentically and audiences generally don’t show up to watch them in the theaters (A Million Ways to Die in the West, anyone?) unless name directors are making them (The Coen Brothers, Quentin Tarantino, etc.), and sometimes even then audiences don’t show (A Million Ways to Die in the West, anyone?).
6. “It’s a fantasy…”
Fantasy scripts are poison as well in the eyes of the powers that be. It doesn’t matter how much the Lord of the Rings trilogy made. You aren’t Peter Jackson or J.R.R. Tolkien. The exception would be unique takes on public domain fantasy properties like Snow White, Peter Pan, etc.
7. “It’s a space opera…”
There’s a little franchise called Star Wars. It’s hard to beat, especially with a plethora of new Star Wars films coming from Lucasfilm and Disney. You can’t beat that franchise. Even the Wachowski siblings tried, and failed, with Jupiter Ascending. And while Guardians of the Galaxy shocked everyone with its success, the only reason it came to be was because of Marvel and its Cinematic Universe success.
8. “It’s high concept.”
This is a term that is used on the other side of the table, and shouldn’t be used by screenwriters attempting to sell their script. The powers that be will dictate if your script is high concept by reading your logline. If it is, it’ll be evident by that alone.
9. “I’m not very good at pitching.”
You want to convey confidence. Apologizing for something you lack forces them into uncomfortable territory. In the end, the powers that be don’t want you to pitch. They really just want you to showcase your passion and knowledge of your script. If you can’t convey that, why should they hire you? So put your insecurities aside….