Let’s face it, pitchfests are nerve-wracking. You have five short minutes to try to impress someone who might be jaded, bored or hypercritical. And yet, every year thousands of screenwriters shell out big bucks to do just that because there’s no better way to get in an executive’s face than to, well, get in an executive’s face.
But, which event to choose? In the January/February 2011 issue of Script, Jim Cirile covered the top four pitchfests - Great American Pitchfest, Hollywood Pitch Festival, Golden Pitch Festival and Inktip Pitch Summit. As a supplement to the original article, here are a few other pitchfests, and alternatives to pitchfests, worth mentioning:
EHollywoodLive - An internet version of Fade In’s Hollywood Pitch Fest. February 18-20, May & October; $225 for 5 meetings, $375 for 10. All you need is a webcam. “Great opportunity especially for those looking to save on travel,” says 2010 attendee Patricia Krogh. “But definitely block out a lot of time since the sessions tend to run long (5-10 minutes). My appointment was like an hour or so late, but I had the afternoon blocked so it wasn't an issue. (It was) great because you get to pick the execs ahead of time and you are assured that you will pitch to them, unlike big fests where it is kind of a gamble. This is the best when there are just four or five execs you really want to talk with. A rifle instead of a shotgun approach.” [Edited with corrections on 12/27/10]
Ken Rotcop’s PitchMart - May, $149. Former film executive turned screenwriting guru Rotcop’s semiannual event gathers 20-25 development executives and representatives at Burbank’s The Smokehouse restaurant to meet with his Screenwriters Workshop students (additional fee to attend the class). “Best pitch event I’ve ever attended,” said a writer who asked to remain anonymous. “It was an informal lunch where we got to mingle with all these executives. There were no time constraints, and it was all very friendly.” Rotcop personally vets the material to be pitched. “Sometimes he sends you back to do another draft; other times he just has minor notes -- typos and things.”
Santa Fe Screenwriting Conference - May, $695. This annual event is like a mini Screenwriters Expo, with classes and seminars and also a pitch event. “I’ve gone for four years,” says writer Spencer Michlin. “A lot of the attraction is the classes, particularly the four-day master class taught by Kirk Ellis. I’ve pitched lots there. It’s the same crummy five minutes you get elsewhere, but it seems as though higher level execs are invited, and, being away in the mountains, they aren’t worried about their four o’clock across town. Also, they’re much more accessible at the parties or just hanging around the bar.”
Virtual Pitchfest - Ongoing, $50 for 5 queries, $90 for 10. Not really a pitch fest at all, but rather a query letter submission service. They guarantee a response from each company submitted to within five days -- although that response may simply be “pass,” with a reason checked off such as “Nothing personal, it just didn’t grab me.” You can also pitch your project verbally. Their list includes 300-odd industry types, and they claim 27 deals and 19 clients signed as of this writing. No feedback on this one yet.
PitchQ - Actually offers the service that you think Virtual PitchFest provides -- they host your own video pitch online, where it can be accessed by everyone, or only their producer/industry subscribers (you specify). The cost is $30/three months or $70/year per video, and they also offer optional pitch coaching and taping services if you need them. Subscriber Chloe Ballatore, who has one of the most-watched video pitches on the site, says she hasn't gotten a single request or contact after a year -- but she notes that it may be because her agent tells her the subject matter is deemed a bit stale (sperm donation). The website also doesn't indicate who their producer subscribers actually are. We'll reserve judgment at this time, but as with all things, do your due diligence.
A final comment. One person who responded to our survey complained that at many pitch fests, the “buyers” seem to be “nothing but low-level coffee fetchers.” That may be true in some cases, but what’s also true is that those are the people who actually read, who will go to the mat for you and champion new material. Junior executives need feathers in their cap and thus are far more accessible than an established producer with a full plate and a full slate. Remember, the coffee-fetchers of today are the development executives of tomorrow. Any fan is a good fan. Good luck!