The Outsider’s Tool to Break Into Hollywood

Everyone knows that in baseball a pitch is when the ball is thrown for the batter to swing at. But, in the world of entertainment, a pitch has a whole different meeting. A pitch in Hollywood is when the “pitcher”(the person with the idea for a TV show or movie) explains the idea to a “catcher” (a person who works with a company that could produce this idea). Pitching is the lifeblood of how deals get made in the entertainment world.

There are many people who watch television and movies and think to themselves, “I’ve got a better idea than this….or if this actually got on TV or in the theaters, then surely my idea could do the same.” But, they think that if they don’t have any industry contacts or experience, then there’s no way that they could get someone in Hollywood to take them seriously. However, what they’re not aware of is that there is a vehicle created by the enterainment industry that gives novices a chance to pitch their ideas to real industry players who could possibly produce their concept.

So, while for the most part if you are an outsider to the gates of Hollywood it’s very difficult to get such a chance to pitch an idea, there are certain components of the Hollywood system that give outsiders a chance to get their voices heard.

The truth is that while it’s the job of the gatekeepers to keep unknown outsiders out, there is still an interest from the “powers that be” to hear what ideas these unknown outsiders might have….because everyone in the television and movies is scrambling to find the next great big “home run” project.

Thus, a concept called a “pitch event” was born. What happens is an organizer assembles a group of producers who are willing to hear pitches from people without representation and credentials. Then, the clients (the people who want to sell their ideas) pay a fee to the organizer to receive a certain amount of pitch meetings.

Although these meetings are brief (usually about five minutes), they often take place with legitimate people in the industry. I have personally concluded successful deals that began from a meeting at a pitch event.

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I have pitched my projects at these events several hundred times and the way it breaks down is always the same. You quickly locate the company you’re going to pitch to at the table they’re sitting at which will have their name on a sign. There is a quick exchange of names, but you don’t want to waste much time on pleasantries as the duration of the meeting will be very quick…usually about five minutes. If I think I know what kind of projects they’re interested in, I’ll confirm that or if I’m not sure, then, I’ll say something like, “I’d like to pitch you the projects I have that are most likely what you’re looking for. Is your company looking for something specific?” Once I’ve gotten an idea of what’s my best chance I give them a brief explanation and then be quiet. If they’re interested they ask questions or sometimes they just say it sounds great, go ahead and send them more information. Or if there’s no match, they explain why. Before you know it, the meeting is over and you wish them well as you vacate the seat to make room for the next hopeful pitcher.

If you think you have an idea for a reality show or a movie and would like to try attending a pitch event these are the basic steps:

1) Select a legitimate pitch event

There are a number of well known organizers of these events that you can find by doing a search on a major search engine and putting in a keyword phrase like “pitch TV and film.” A few examples of legitimate organizers are: Fade In Magazine, Hollywood Film Festival, Hollywood by the Bay, and VIP Pitch Player Tours.

2) Prepare your pitch:

You will only have five minutes to convince the producer that your idea is a blockbuster in the making, so you need to be concise. You will want to create what’s called a “logline.” This is a one sentence explanation of 30 words or less which explains the gist of your idea. For example, if you were creating a logline for ABC’s reality hit, “Dancing with the Stars,” it might be something like:

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“Celebrities are paired with ballroom dance professionals and compete each week in an elimination contest to see who can become this year’s champion.”

Besides a logline you’ll want to have a few other items:

If you’re going to pitch a reality TV show, then you should have a breakdown of what will happen during shows and a sample of what a season’s worth of shows will contain.

If you are trying to sell a true life story, then you will want to be able to explain what will happen during the movie. In other words…who is the protagonist, who is the antagonist, and what is the big problem? You should also be able to explain how it will have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

3) Do the Pitching:

At a pitchmart, the “catchers” are bombarded with hundreds of ideas from a huge onslaught of people. To differentiate yourself from the crowd, you want to present yourself as relaxed, intelligent, and well prepared. Pleasantly introduce yourself, hand them a sheet of paper that has the information about your project and your contact information. Then tell them about your idea. If they like it, they will let you know how to proceed. Some producers may want to e-mail you later or others may give you a card and tell you to contact them. If they don’t think the project is for them, most will explain so.

Attending a pitchmart is a fairly intense experience that can feel like a lot of pressure, but if you’re an outsider who wants to get a shot to pitch your idea to real Hollywood entities, a pitchmart is one viable option very much worth considering. For more information on how to sell your reality shows, true life stories or your scripts go to:


by Paul Lawrence