The “Water Bottle tour” in Hollywood refers to a series of meetings that aspiring screenwriters or TV writers go through when pitching their ideas to movie and television studio executives. This process often involves visiting multiple studios or production companies in a relatively short amount of time, where writers present their scripts, ideas, or show concepts to decision-makers in the industry.
The term “Water Bottle tour” is a somewhat informal and tongue-in-cheek nickname that stems from the observation that, at each meeting, the writer is typically offered a bottle of water by a receptionist or assistant while waiting for their appointment. The term highlights the repetitive nature of these meetings and the hospitality extended to guests in the industry.
During these meetings, writers need to effectively pitch and sell their ideas to executives who are looking for the next big hit. It is essential for writers to be well-prepared, confident, and adaptable when presenting their work, as the feedback and interest from executives can vary greatly. Successfully navigating the “Water Bottle tour” can lead to a script being optioned, purchased, or even green-lit for production, potentially launching a writer’s career in the entertainment industry.
A typical meeting for a pitch may be structured as follows:
- Greetings and introductions: When you first enter the room, the executive(s) and other attendees will greet you and exchange pleasantries. This is the time for everyone to introduce themselves and get acquainted.
- Small talk: Before diving into the actual pitch, executives often engage in small talk as a way to break the ice and build rapport. This informal conversation allows both parties to feel more comfortable and establish a connection. Executives like to engage in small talk at the beginning because it helps them get a sense of the writer’s personality and communication style, which can be an important factor when considering potential collaborations.
- The Pitch: Once the small talk is over, it’s time to present your idea. This is when you’ll share your concept, storyline, and characters, as well as any visual aids or supplemental materials you’ve prepared. Or it could be that Executives want to pitch their projects to you. Make you listen with an open mind.
- Questions and feedback: After the pitch, the executive(s) will likely have questions or comments. They may ask for more details, challenge certain aspects of your idea, or provide suggestions for improvement. Be prepared to answer questions, discuss your idea further, and demonstrate your flexibility and openness to feedback.
- Wrap-up and next steps: Towards the end of the meeting, the executive(s) will discuss potential next steps, if any. Try to keep this short and don’t linger in the room for too long.
Plan your transportation: Los Angeles is known for its sprawling layout and heavy traffic. Research the best routes between studios and consider using a reliable GPS navigation app to avoid getting lost or delayed. Factor in extra time for potential traffic jams, and consider using ridesharing services, public transportation, or even renting a car to ensure punctuality and a stress-free experience while navigating the city. If you don’t live in L.A. chances are you are cramming multiple meetings into one or two days. Plan ahead.
Dress appropriately: First impressions matter. Dress professionally and comfortably for your meetings. However, if you are a writer, don’t be the best dressed person in the room. The reason for this is that overly formal attire might make you come across as trying too hard or being out of touch with the more casual nature of the creative industry.
Embrace your inner Larry David: Channel the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” star by prioritizing restroom breaks after each meeting. With all those water bottles, your bladder will inevitably reach capacity. Just like Larry David, don’t shy away from the essentials – make time for a quick bathroom visit before heading to your next pitch.
Research your audience: Understand the interests and preferences of the executives you are meeting. Tailor your pitch to highlight elements that align with their production goals or history. Hollywood executives are an eclectic bunch, so don’t be surprised if you encounter some unusual requests. For instance, you might meet an executive famous for asking writers to pitch ideas where the main star is a paperclip. When preparing for a pitch meeting, it’s helpful to determine whether the executives you’ll be meeting with lean more toward creativity or practicality. Some might be open to wild and crazy ideas, while others may be looking for a project that fits a specific niche or fills a development gap in their slate.
Unearth hidden passions: When entering an executive’s office, keep your eyes peeled for clues that might reveal their personal interests or passions. These can be invaluable conversation starters during chit chat or small talk, helping to build rapport and put everyone at ease. For example, I once found myself pitching in an office adorned with musical instruments. Seizing the opportunity, I mentioned my own love for music, and soon we were engaged in an animated discussion about our favorite bands and instruments. This shared connection helped to break the ice and set a positive tone for the rest of the meeting.
Make it a two-way street: When practicing your pitch, focus on keeping it conversational and engaging. Rehearse your presentation multiple times, ensuring clarity, enthusiasm, and timing are spot on. The key is to make the executive feel like they’re part of the creative process, fostering a sense of ownership in the idea. If they feel like the concept is partially theirs, they’ll be more invested in its success, and you’ll be one step closer to turning your pitch into a reality.
Showcase your unique voice: In a sea of pitches, it’s crucial to make executives believe that only you can bring your idea to life. When practicing your pitch, emphasize the distinct elements of your writing style and personal experiences that make your take on the story unparalleled. By showcasing your unique voice and demonstrating your deep connection to the material, you’ll leave them convinced that you’re the only writer capable of turning your captivating pitch into a successful project.
Be flexible: Be open to feedback and prepared to answer questions or make adjustments to your pitch based on the executive’s input. It’s not all about you: As passionate as you may be about your pitch, remember that the meeting isn’t just about you and your brilliant idea. Executives are considering numerous factors, such as the marketability of the project, budget, audience demographics, and how it fits into their current lineup. Be mindful of their perspective, and try to address their concerns and goals during your pitch. Demonstrating that you understand the bigger picture will not only make your pitch more compelling but also show that you’re a team player who’s ready to collaborate and adapt as needed.
Avoid the interrupting fiasco: Here’s a lesson from personal experience – don’t interrupt executives during a pitch meeting! I once made the grave mistake of cutting off an executive mid-sentence, and let’s just say, it didn’t go over well. My eagerness to address their concerns backfired, turning the atmosphere icy and ultimately derailing the meeting
Mind your mealtime manners: If your pitch meeting happens to be over breakfast, lunch, or dinner, keep a few dining etiquette tips in mind. First, don’t order anything too heavy or messy – you don’t want to be distracted by an unruly plate when you’re trying to impress. Second, it’s best to avoid getting intoxicated during the meeting, no matter how tempting that glass of wine might be. Save the celebration for after you’ve successfully sealed the deal. And hey, if it’s a dinner meeting, chances are you’re being courted – congratulations!
The secret safe word strategy: If you’re pitching with a partner or group, it’s a good idea to establish a secret safe word beforehand. This can serve as a subtle signal to alert each other when one of you is going off track, not reading the room, or needs to change tack. By using this discreet code word, you can help each other stay focused and maintain a cohesive pitch without causing awkwardness or drawing unnecessary attention.
Here are a few safe word examples that can be subtly incorporated into your pitch conversation without raising suspicion:
- “Anecdote”: You could say, “This reminds me of an interesting anecdote…” as a signal for your partner to adjust their approach.
- “Clarification”: Use this word when asking your partner a question, like, “Can you provide some clarification on that point?” to indicate they should change their current direction.
- “Synergy”: Casually mention, “I think there’s great synergy between these ideas,” signaling your partner to reevaluate their current approach.
- “Pivot”: You might say, “This would be a good time to pivot to another aspect of our pitch,” as a cue for your partner to shift gears.
- “Kumquat”: Bring up an unrelated (and humorous) topic by saying something like, “Our idea has the potential to be as unique and memorable as a kumquat in a fruit salad.”
Follow up: After each meeting, send a thank-you email to the executives you met, expressing your gratitude for their time and reinforcing your enthusiasm for your project. Don’t leave this to your manager or your agent if you a have one or both.