There are lots of things you can say in a pitch meeting that can make you look like a rookie, reduce your chances of success, or break the deal entirely.
However, I recently came across two little words that are so devastating, I thought I’d give them special attention.
To many of you, this will be obvious, but it has happened frequently enough and in a meeting I had last week, so I wanted to make sure that we’re on the same page.
Of all the things you can say in a pitch meeting, when referring to the material, “It’s done” may be one of the worst thing you can say.
If you intend to stand your ground and not make any changes to your work, there are better ways to make that clear. I’ll get to those in a moment.
Think But Don’t Say
Other versions of “it’s done” are:
- “It’s finished.”
- “I won’t be making any changes.”
- “This is the FINAL draft.”
Think these things, okay. But don’t say them out loud to decision-makers with whom you’d like to work.
There is a 99.99% Possibility Of Changes
When you are attempting to sell your work to a decision-maker, be it a screenplay, novel, or book proposal, it is understood that one of the things you provide is the willingness and ability to make changes—because there are almost ALWAYS adjustments required to respond to situations like:
- The success (or lack thereof) of a project with a similar storyline.
- A new director or editor has a slightly different “take.”
- A permit falls through and you can’t get a key location.
- Your main character has the same name as someone who just committed a high-profile murder and is the target of a national manhunt.
Okay, that last one is unlikely, but you get the point.
Making Art And Making A Living
Most writers set out to make a pure piece of art, and end up adjusting their vision in order to make a living. Some typical situations:
- An article may be perfect at 800 words, but the magazine that wants to buy and publish the article only has space for 650 words.
- A spy novel relies on disclosing some particularly sensitive classified information, and the publisher doesn’t want to be liable.
- A screenplay has several graphic murder scenes, but the deal with the studio won’t go forward unless the film can get an R-rating.
Now, a writer could decide not to sell the article to that particular magazine, self-publish the novel with the classified information and risk the consequences, or look for an indie film producer interested in NC-17 material instead of selling the script to a studio.
There are times when you have to make sure that if your work is published or produced, it will be EXACTLY the way you intend.
How To Stand Your Ground Like A Professional
Even if you truly believe that your work is set in stone, don’t say some version of “it’s done.” Instead, when you get notes on your project that you don’t like or would never consider, say something like:
- “Let me think about that.”
- “Interesting. Let me mull that over.”
- “I’ll get back to you about that.”
In general, when getting notes, instead of definitively objecting to a given note in the heat of the moment, saying one of the phrases above can give you time and space to consider the proposed change. After thinking about it, you may realize that the change isn’t necessarily detrimental to your artistic vision or you may come up with a different solution that satisfies both parties.
However, if you must have things a certain way (especially if that “thing” is your entire project), it’s rarely to your advantage to say so out loud. You can choose not to do business with anyone who isn’t interested in your exact vision and you’ll have the most options if you keep the creative ultimatums to yourself.