Ken Rotcop's a friend of Stan Lee's, and that is actually enough to recommend him to me.
If you need more credentials, Ken has taught screenwriting everywhere from UCLA to the Philippines, and wrote and produced the highly-lauded Laurence Fishburne film "For Us, The Living: The Story Of Medgar Evers". And he's been the creative head of four major studios, as well as running PitchMart (more on that later).
What you really want to know about Ken, though, is what he can teach you about pitching.
How Ken Rotcop runs a meeting
One of the first pieces of advice I truly took to heart from Ken is simple: when you go into a meeting, you are there because you have something to offer, and you deserve due respect. I can't tell you how useful it was for me to have that in mind when I started pitching in L.A. To feel even a modicum of self-worth when you walk into a meeting is essential to making a confident pitch.
Rotcop says that you deserve the time you've been offered, whether it's half an hour or five minutes. Never be afraid to leave a meeting if you're not being respected or taken seriously. Demand their full attention.
It's like Robert Evans says: The only way you can make a deal is if you're willing to blow it.
So just how do you use the time you have? Ken lays out the following plan of attack:
1. Introduce yourself
2. Shake hands
3. Tell them the genre and title of what you're pitching
4. Ask them a question to engage their curiosity and their intellect, ie. did you hear that they're microchipping children in Florida � and that people are lining up for the privilege?
A pitch is about PEOPLE because a movie/show is about people.
Keep your pitch to under 2 minutes. And, no matter what you've heard, DON'T tell them the whole story. It's your goal to tease them into reading the whole script.
5. Finish with: do you have any questions? Or: Would you like to read my script?
If they ask how it ends, tell them they have to read the script to find out. If they ask again... leave the meeting.
Be prepared to leave the first ten pages of your script. This serves a couple of purposes: one, to give them something, but only enough that they have to come back to you for more, and two, to give them something that they can read in under ten minutes.
It may be a cliche that no one in Hollywood (or wherever) really likes to read, but why take the chance it's not true?
Ken on knowing the audience
Remember: when you're pitching, you're speaking to people who have difficult jobs, who want to feel safe and secure in the decisions they make. They're not in the risk business.
And you may very well be dealing with someone who envies you and your creativity. Every executive wanted to be a writer, a director, or an actor. Any hostility you face when you walk into an executive's office may be nothing more than a bit of jealousy.
And that might just make you feel a little less nervous.
Ken's pitching template in practice
I have had the opportunity to try out Ken's techniques several times in the last month, and the outline is solid. Asking a question to engage the person to whom I'm pitching is an idea that might as well be made of 24 karat gold. It's fabulous. When you ask a question instead of launching into a sales pitch, your audience feels engaged and involved.
Every pitch is different, and the template is a great place to start, but you have to be prepared to switch techniques or tacts as you talk. After a few pitches, you start to tune into how your target is responding. Are they bored by the idea? Can you reformulate the focus of your pitch on the fly? Is it time to move to a different idea altogether?
It's important to go into every meeting prepared and with an idea of both what you're going to say and how you're going to behave. Ken Rotcop's ideas, more than any other advice I've ever received, have taken the fear out of pitching for me.
So now it's up to you. Take the outline on the road. Adjust it on the fly. But keep pitching. Pitching is like any other skill. The only way to get really good at pitching is to do it, a lot, and at every possible opportunity.
And check out Ken's PitchMart website. PitchMart is a semi-annual industry event Ken runs to put his students face to face with execs.
If you're looking for more information, Ken's DVD is one of the best and most concise treatments of how to take a meeting you'll ever hear.