In this installment of screenwriting Q&A we go over a commonly asked question that comes up with screenwriting competitions and conferences: is a screenplay contest pitchfest a total scam to make money – or will they actually lead to results?

“Hey ScriptBully:

I’m getting ready to go to a writer conference and they offer script pitchfests and I was just wondering whether it’s worth the extra $50…or should i save the money and by another screenwriting book. (Namely yours.)

Turlock, Calif.

Hey James,

Thanks for the question. So are pitchfests scams? Without knowing exactly WHICH pitchfest you’re gonna take part in, here are a couple of thoughts:

Screenwriting Pitchfest Tip #1: If You Can’t Afford It, Don’t Do It

If spending $50 or even $100 on pitching will force you to sell a spare kidney, then definitely pass. The CHANCES of your pitch actually leading to an immediate financial boon are quite small. (And besides you’ll need that kidney later.)

Screenwriting Pitchfest Tip #2: If Your Idea Sucks, Definitely Don’t Do It

Pitchfests are not about getting a critique of your story or get access to constructive feedback on your project. It’s ABOUT enticing story development folks – and agents and managers – into wanting to know more.

And how do you KNOW if your idea sucks? Pitch it to everyone you know. (And don’t know.) If total strangers go “Cool Idea” then you’re on to something.

And really, a pitchfest, is like an American Idol audition. (It’s a cattle call, with mostly untalented wannabes…but…they are STILL looking for genuine talent.)

Screenwriting Pitchfest Tip #3: If You Can Keep Expectations Low, They Can Be Beneficial

I think the REAL benefit of a pitchfest is forcing you to break your story in a digestible chunks…and then communicating that with a stranger who may or may not change your life.

This is great for a couple of reasons:

1) It’s pretty damn scary. (And most people don’t do scary.)

2) Pitching is a skill…and one that only gets better when you do it alot.

3) You’ll MEET industry folks who you might be able to query later on.

4) You’ll hear LOTS of other pitches from fellow writers. (This alone will make you a better writer.

Screenwriting Pitchfest Tip #4: Make Sure You Got a 1-Sheet

Okay, so suppose the agent or story exec LOVES your pitch. Well, the next thing they will ask for is a 1-sheet.

A 1-sheet is simply a 1-page breakdown of your entire story. And it BEHOOVES you to bring it WITH YOU to the pitchefest.

This is because:

1) They have something to take back to the office with them.

2) They will remember you, because you are the 1% of the other writers who’ll have them.

And as hard as you work on your pitch, is how hard you should work on your 1-sheet. It’s gotta be good and exciting and SCREAM marketability.

And then if they like the 1-sheet. They might just ASK to read your script. And suddenly you are in a different stratosphere.

You are a very small fish in a very large pond. But it’s a pond that can change your life overnight.

Got a burning screenwriting question? Please let us know over at our Facebook Page with the #askscriptbully tag. Thanks!


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About The Author

Michael Rogan
Editor, ScriptBully Magazine

Michael Rogan is a former screenplay reader and optioned screenwriter. He is also the founder and editor-in-chief of ScriptBully magazine, and has written a few non-sucky books including "How to Write a Book That Doesn't Suck (and Will Actually Sell)". He has made it his mission to help screenwriters kick ass - and rid the world of films based on action-figure lines.

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