5 Tips for Rising Above “We Pass” When Pitching Your TV or Film Idea

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Here are 5 tips for rising above the words "We Pass" when pitching your TV or film idea.  

9 times out of 10, you will hear these words if you are a content creator and are selling your ideas for the big and small screen. My first pitch was an emotional roller coaster of wins and losses!

I remember my first pitch as if it was yesterday! By God’s grace, my writing partner and I were able to get through the "Wall of Jericho" without having representation and into the doors to pitch our big idea! So already this was a BIG HUGE WIN! (More on "Unconventional Tips for Getting in the Door" in another blog post)

It was our first TV idea at the time, and we worked effortlessly to create the world of our show and to write about interesting and unique characters and how their worlds collide. The win here was that it resonated with the development person.  His words were, to be exact, (yes, I remember them verbatim. It was my first real validation that I had talent!) He said, "You have created a great world for your characters to live. People usually only focus on great characters!" (That's a tip in and of itself! That is, spend just as much time creating the world of your show, as you have creating the characters.) The network executive had offered us our next steps which were to pitch the higher-ups.

In our meeting, we learned that the network had had a couple of projects in development with similar themes, but the executive felt our show was pretty good and wanted it to go to the next level.  He was so gracious; he offered us an opportunity to prep with him before pitching his team.

We were excited!  I felt I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. All of our preparation and pitch rehearsals had paid off.  Did I mention how excited I was?  If I can be brutally, embarrassingly honest, I'd even visualized myself riding in a stylishly swift new car driving all the way through the gates of my new mansion! (Don't laugh at me, I’m a dreamer, and that’s okay because it helps me as a writer). I knew in the pit of my soul this was it; my breakthrough moment.

Imagine how I felt when we received the email (I shared it with you in a previous post, (Should Content Creators Ask for an NDA?), that the higher ups had decided to "pass" on our show.   No need to imagine.  I can share with you how I felt. I felt like a black hole had come and sucked away all of the life, ambition, dreams, positivity, optimism, and any other words associated with winning, out of me.   Instantly, I completely felt like I had failed.  At least, this is how that “we’re going to pass” registered to me.  Other feelings that followed were: “You're not good enough. You'll never make it. Your concept wasn’t good, and Squeaky don't quit your day job,” just to name a few.

The truth is I was too hard on myself. Just like most people do, I completely forgot about all of the positives and only focused on the "pass."  In fact, I hadn't even thought of a plan b, should I hear the word "pass."  Hell, at the time, I didn't even know that was universal language!

Here's what I would have told myself then to help me get through the paralysis I suffered creatively after this pitch pass.  It's the same plan I think you should follow on your pitching journey.

Prepare a contingency plan before your pitch meeting that answers:  What will you do if you are told, "We'll pass?" Your plan should include:

  1. A follow-up question.  You want to ask for the reasons why they decided to "pass."  You have to be opened to the truth if you want to get better. To help you with your next pitch, understanding the "why" could help a lot and save you time in preparing for future pitches. It could also take away your feelings of failure and any paralysis you may experience.  I recently spoke with a person in development about this, and he confirmed that there is nothing wrong with asking this type of question. It shows your drive.
  2. A list of Gratitude’s. Create a list of gratitude’s before walking through that door to pitch.  Scribe all the things you were grateful for before hearing that dreaded phrase.  You should never forget your wins!
  3. A list of Affirmations. Create a list of powerful affirmations which should include, "I have all the answers within me. This “NO” is not universal.” and pick as many others that will inspire and motivate you and change your thinking around. You want to remind yourself of your power within right away. Never leave your power with the people you've just pitched!
  4. Journal.  Mark Batterson writes in his book, Draw the Circle, "we have a tendency to remember what we should forget and forget what we should remember."  Taking the time out to journal immediately after the pitch will allow you to remember all of the great things that happened and the things that need improvement.  Be sure to remember all of the details: Who was in the room? How did the conversation flow? What you felt worked. Where you felt you needed improvement.  What was said by the person you pitched.  What questions were asked?  What questions couldn't you answer?  How did the meeting end?
  5. Plan of Action. Create a plan of action that you will carry out should you hear that dreaded phase. Your plan of action should include:

  • Sit for an hour or two of complete silence. You need time to think of your next steps so you can be most productive.
  • Give yourself a time-frame to fix all the things you felt went wrong in that meeting and any suggestions made by the network, if you agree with them.
  • Brainstorm a list of people or books that can help as a mentor to you while fixing your issues.
  • Do all you can to set up your next pitch immediately; only allowing yourself the necessary time to fix your problems! You want to do this so that you don’t allow yourself to dwell in the rejection. Trust me feeling paralyzed by rejection is real!  It's said, the way to face fear is by doing the thing you are most afraid to do.  Well, I feel the same about pitching. Face paralysis head on and move past it!


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