Doing Your Doc: How to Successfully End Your Pitch

Internationally renowned author, speaker and story analyst Fernanda Rossi answers the following question for our NALIP members in anticipation of the upcoming program Doing Your Doc to take place in Tucson, AZ, December 6 to 8, 2013. In addition to a full day workshop on pitch, logline, synopsis and demo, funders and industry professionals will be in attendance for lectures and one-on-one mentorship sessions. All info and registration online here.

Q: How do I end my pitch so I don't get a blank stare from the person listening?

Fernanda: Most producers and directors know how to start a pitch. Few know when—or rather, how—to stop talking to avoid that awkward silence that may follow. In that moment, the producer may panic and start talking again—starting either to ramble or to repeat herself. In other cases, the listener breaks the silence with, "Interesting," delivered in that passion-killing monotone.

Rambling or trailing off or going in circles can also happen without that awkward silence. The pitch reached its natural peak and resolution, yet the story seems to have started all over again or to have lost its way in a sea of unrelated comments and anecdotes.

To avoid the above, it's better to commit to a definite plan. Unfortunately, many think that the best way to commit to an ending is to announce it: "And that's the story." They might as well say "The End"—that at least might get a chuckle. Equally self-defeating is putting the listener on the spot: "So, whatcha think?"

Ideally, the end of the pitch has a strong resounding final sentence that invites applause—if pitching to an audience—or a soft landing that naturally gets the listener asking questions—if pitching one-on-one. For example, reveal the intention of the character, which will be explored further in the actual film. Or revisit the premise with a twist. You can also ask a gentle question that doesn't sound like an IQ test but rather invites the other person to comment. 

Whether a grand finale or a soft closing, the ending of a pitch marks the beginning of a dialogue—a dialogue in which active listening becomes more important that any word said so far.

About Fernanda Rossi: Internationally renowned author, speaker and story consultant Fernanda Rossi has doctored over 300 documentaries, fiction scripts, and fundraising trailers including the 2009 Academy Award® nominated The Garden by Scott Hamilton Kennedy. In addition to private consultations, lectures, and seminars worldwide, she has served as festival juror and grant panelist. Ms. Rossi shares her knowledge and research of story structure and the creative process in columns and articles in trade publications. She is also the author of the book Trailer Mechanics: A Guide to Making your Documentary Fundraising Trailer now in its 2nd Edition.