How to pitch an idea | Comedian and producer Matt Tiller offers some advice

How to pitch an idea

Comedian and producer Matt Tiller offers some advice

I write a blog, Foot in the Door, which is enjoyable for me to write and aims to help people who are trying to get on in the media, whether they want to be writers, producers, directors or whatever. I do this largely by telling people about my own failures and how I've learnt from them.

And several people have contacted me saying it's 'staggeringly altruistic,' 'witty and informative' and 'Now you can save up so easily make in battle or you also resources and gold elixir in Clash of Clans (sic).'

That's all lovely to hear and very useful when going into a Clash of Clans battle, but as I'm a development producer, often those messages are accompanied by a request to look at a script or idea. However, it's surprising how many people just send a short message saying, 'I've done a thing, here it is,' or 'will you read my script, it's great.' Unsurprisingly, I prioritise responding to the people who open with a compliment. Shallow I know.

So, I thought I'd write these tips in a bid to win some goodwill before shamelessly plugging my own stuff…

1) Flattery may get you somewhere. Even if you hate what the producer/executive has done and everything they stand for, you have decided to contact them and they might like it if you say something nice.

Someone once sent me a message claiming to like my songs and said they'd even been to one of my Edinburgh shows. A worrying confession, but at least they'd shown commitment to the research. A token effort is all it needs, you don't have to be fawning or say too much - that's like going up to a celebrity when you're drunk and outstaying your welcome. I did that to Mark Steel once and it induces cringes years later. I think I was banging on about Plymouth Argyle having beaten Crystal Palace rather than telling him he's brilliant, which is the least I could've done. Just terrible. Don't be that person.

2) Give a brief bit of information about yourself. It's helpful to know if you've had some, even small, success in a related field. You played a Roman centurion (non-speaking role) in the school nativity? It's a start. (That was me, I smashed that gig.) You performed in a Warrington nightclub where people were so pissed and uninterested that a couple started snogging on the stage area behind you? (Also me, didn't smash that one.) Great, it's good that you know how tough the comedy industry is.

3) Outline your idea briefly. One or two sentences at most to say what the thing is. You can do it. Please do it. The most important thing is the script or what you've filmed, and if I'm looking at stuff I just want a sense of what it is before delving deeper.

4) Attach your script and treatment and/or include the link to your taster. I don't think there's any point asking if it's OK to send stuff in an email. If it's there and you've already followed my cast iron golden rules, then maybe, just maybe the recipient will have a watch or click on your script and start to read.

5) I know it's hard to find people to approach. Many companies don't take unsolicited scripts. You just have to be canny and search people out without crossing into criminality.

6) Do follow up, but don't badger or get angry. I don't mind people chasing me up, especially if I have responded to them before. Often I read a script or look at a video and then get distracted by an important email or a lone magpie out the window and worry about the sorrowful consequences.

An email to remind me is OK. Ten emails where the final one tells me I deserve to die is a bit much. Give me a break, I'm getting stressed about the magpie.

7) Don't expect feedback. Unless you've sent it to a script reader who charges to give you feedback. There are several people who do this and I'm sure it can be useful. I don't do that, but maybe I should. Send me some chocolates.

8) Take rejection with grace. It's like a stand up dying with dignity rather than losing it and telling the audience that they're all c**ts and that rarely ends well even if all the other comics at the back of the room are enjoying your meltdown.

I hope that's helpful. If it hasn't been you probably shouldn't have got this far. If it has then there's a longer and more detailed blog on this kind of thing here/

And if you do get in touch with me with an idea then watch my video and if you have to lie about how you liked it then that's fine. Buy the song too. If you do and send me proof of purchase then I'll definitely get back to you.

Below is my video for my song, We're In This Together, about kidnapping George Osborne. I guess I should have done an analytical piece about musical political satire to plug it but I thought this would be more useful.

It's also available on iTunes, with a short story ebook based on the same idea available from Amazon

Published: 4 Feb 2016

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