Book review: JAWS IN SPACE – Powerful Pitching for Film and TV Screenwriters by Charles Harris


When I saw that this book was coming out, I was excited – who DOESN’T want to create an awesome elevator pitch like “JAWS IN SPACE” and sell their ideas in the best ways possible? Plus, pitching’s one of those scary things that you fear – unless you learn about it.

I must admit that I had my reservations – how can pitching be the topic of a WHOLE book, I wondered? Well, it can! Charles Harris has created the perfect handbook for anyone who is a bit uncertain or scared about pitching their work.

We’re not just talking advice on live pitching face to face, either. Do you know what preparation needs to be done and offered aside from the verbal pitch? Do you know what supplementary material producers will and won’t want? Do you have any idea how a meeting works and what producers might say; and more to the point, what they might mean by what they say?

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, which demystifies pitching and makes it seem doable for anyone, no matter what stage of your screenwriting career. Charles offers up advice on the how-to of pitching, plus how to approach it for different genres and different types of scripts (such as TV series’ and documentaries).

It’s the ideal book to read before you go to an event such as London Screenwriters’ Festival, because insight is given into what producers want and how to conduct yourself professionally around them. The anecdotes from other writers really help clarify some of the points made and are amusing too!

There are some fabulous bits of advice throughout. One of my favourite quotes was:

Pitching is not just for Christmas. Pitching is about establishing relationships that can last for decades.

Some of the advice really hones in on aspects writers may not have thought about before, such as writing your own personal logline – after all, you will have to sell yourself as well as your work!

The brain can only retain so much information, so you need to be able to convey your project well and concisely, getting across all the good bits. Charles guides you with excercises to hone down your story into an enticing logline and summary.

Common pitfalls are brought up throughout and are worth taking note of, such as not wasting your time with character names in place of their roles, and confusing unfortunate situations for character flaws. Title-mashing is worth avoiding (unless the titles you are comparing your script to are recent and made a profit) as is name-dropping actors (unless you have a letter of intent from them).

When it comes to pitching, don’t leave out the ending and don’t ramble (avoid “and then… and then…”) or outstay your welcome: less is more, as they say! Stay professional at all times, even if you don’t agree with what the pitchee is saying.

Some tips came at me like a lightbulb falling onto my head. Ouch! Charles suggests making a VERBAL TRAILER of your script – GENIUS! Instead of filming a trailer for your script, make a contained short that can encompass your idea and also be used in other opportunities like festivals – GENIUS! Pitching an animation or a script that relies on a particular visual? Bring along high-quality artwork to illustrate!

However, Charles is sure to also point out the exceptions – most pitches won’t need visual aids. The pitch must be able to entice on its own merits without extra materials. Things can go wrong during a pitch too, so Charles gives examples and advice on how to avoid and overcome these sorts of problems.

Not only that, Charles gives tips on how to up your mental game – exercises on improving voice, posture and confidence are included. One of my favourite bits of advice was:

Think of nerves as useful energy.

It’s always a good idea to know your material by heart so that you don’t have to read from prompts, but my personal advice would also be to practice out aloud. So many times in the past I have practiced things in my head, only to stumble over my words when it comes to actually saying stuff. So grab that mirror and pitch until your mirror-self is throwing money at you!

Charles will be at London Screenwriters’ Festival, so why not go and meet him and get him to sign your copy of JAWS IN SPACE? If you haven’ already got a ticket, use my special discount code: SOFLUID-16X to get a £23 discount!

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