Pitching for Success


Pitching is an incredibly important skill to have as a writer or filmmaker.

Freelance journalists pitch their ideas to editors in order to get gigs; authors pitch their books to agents and editors to get them published; and independent filmmakers pitch their ideas to potential collaborators, producers, and financiers to get their films made.

Take a look at a weak pitch e-mail I received from a would-be collaborator and how I responded. Hope it clarifies the elements of a good pitch e-mail.

Go forth and conquer,


At 3:48 PM, Donny Gaskin wrote:


We are vain and magnificent amateurs with a vision, and we need your help. I've often read, and have always been taught, that regardless the size of the endeavor, the breath of your passion, desire and will, you're never weakened by asking for help.

My name is Donny Gaskin, and I am a filmmaker, of a kind that has become increasingly less rare, that breed of filmmaker, who's yet to make a film. But has no intention, barring death and dismemberment, from letting that remain so.

I've written a number of shorts, and am in great need of a producer, who shares my passion for film, and the same maverick sensibilities to make a film happen, by any means at my disposal. If you are so inclined, to hear more, and open to discussing a partnership or collaboration, I would welcome any opportunity to speak with you further.

If not, I'm very grateful to you for reading this, and thank you for the time it took to do so.

With kind regards,
Donny Gaskin

At 10:58 AM, Iquo B. Essien replied:

Hi Donny --

I hope this note finds you well, just wanted to offer a word of advice with a helping spirit.

Try to write a clearer pitch so that people understand what you're looking for. This is an industry full of busy people and many would not read past your first (oddly philosophical) paragraph that sounds more like you're trying to justify writing the e-mail than actually selling your idea, further complicated by the typo (you meant "breadth" not "breath" of your passion) that suggests you didn't read it over carefully before sending it.

Try to sell yourself as qualified even if you have reservations about never having actually made a film. Starting with your lack of experience (eg, "I am a filmmaker, of a kind that has become increasingly less rare, that breed of filmmaker, who's yet to make a film.") is a bad idea, especially if it follows with a mention of dismemberment and death. Why not begin by mentioning one or all of the shorts you've written? That sounds like a qualification. Note other films you have worked on, people you've worked with, and production courses you've taken as a means of building your case.

In the end, your pitch email should read like an ad, with yourself as the brand. This is the only thing would-be collaborators will respond to because it sets you apart as a professional as opposed to a wannabe trying to get your foot in the door.

You have to take the process of contacting other filmmakers very seriously. Edit your emails for grammar, punctuation, and usage (you tend to overuse commas), treating them as you would a work email. If you are trying to make potential business contacts, you only hurt your chances with an unfocused, wordy, and unprofessional effort.

I hope these tips have been helpful. If you don't hear back from any others, don't take it as a sign that your vision is not worthy of being realized. Some folks are busy, and others are just not the forgiving or helpful type. Best of luck in your endeavors.


Iquo B. Essien

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