NOW MAGAZINE, Thursday, August 30, 2007

Michale Raske
Co-presenter, Pitch Expo”

PITCH EXPO An opportunity to pitch your project to industry executives. Wednesday (September 5), 8:30 am at Days Inn (30 Carlton). $199.

How did Pitch Expo start?

It was founded by Kimberley Ann Sparks, a produced screenwriter who had attended pitchfests in Banff and Los Angeles and wondered why Toronto didn't have one. I used to run a weekly script-reading series, and she asked me to help get it started.

Who participates?

We have a director/producer team who already have a film in development through the Canadian Film Centre. The girls who made the YouTube video about the bride who cuts her hair off have a project they're pitching. And there are first-time screenwriters with a TV show, a movie or animated project they'd like to pitch.

What executives are attending?

We have representatives from a variety of production companies, broadcasters, distributors and agents, including Belladonna Productions, which made the Oscar-nominated Transamerica; BBC Films, which made Billy Elliot, Fast Food Nation and David Cronenberg's new film, Eastern Promises; HDNet Films, which made Steven Soderbergh's Bubble; and Copperheart Entertainment, whose Young People Fucking is in this year's Film Festival.

What's the most important thing to remember about pitching?

The main thing is building a relationship. You only have 10 minutes with each executive, so it's important to build on that brief face-to-face so they want to see you outside the pitch.

Sounds like speed dating.

It's exactly like speed dating. The most important thing after introducing yourself is not to waste time. Start the pitch. Keep it short, maybe one or two lines of description, be really passionate about it and then let the conversation flow from there. The most important part is getting to hear what they think, and if they don't like your pitch, don't get defensive -- just have another pitch ready to give them.

So will you be out celebrity-spotting at TIFF?

My daughter does that and I get the reports from her. But if Viggo Mortensen is in town I might have to line up outside a theatre.


Pitch Expo Toronto on Breakfast Television!

Kimberley Ann Sparks, founder of Pitch Expo Toronto, appeared on Breakfast Television on Monday, August 27th to talk about the event and offer some valuable pitching tips.


Media coverage of 2006’s inaugural event:

TORONTO STAR, Thursday, September 7, 2006

“A room full of opportunity”

First Pitch Expo attracts more than 70 writers

Studio executives listen to each idea for just 10 minutes

By Bruce Demara, Entertainment Reporter

Here’s the pitch: you’ve got 10 minutes to sell your script idea, face to face with a TV or film executive who could give you your big break. Now go.

That’s the idea behind the first Toronto Pitch Expo, held yesterday in advance of the Toronto International Film Festival, which begins today.

Co-organizers Kim Sparks and Michaele Raske said similar events are common at other film festivals and, of course, in Hollywood, so why not here?

“You have all these wonderful (studio) executives coming in from all over the country, all over the world, plus all the ones we already have here in Toronto, all converging in one spot. So we thought, they’re always receptive to great ideas, they’re always looking for that next great thing,” Sparks said.

“Often it’s really hard for the person who’s just starting out or who has done just a few things to get access to people (in the industry). So it’s like bringing the people who have the ideas to the people who want the ideas,” she added.

“That’s a room full of opportunity,” Raske said, pointing to the large conference room in the downtown Holiday Inn filled with tables, each with an aspiring screenwriter on one side and an entertainment executive on the other. “We’re not re-inventing the wheel here. This is happening in other centres.

“We just couldn’t understand why there wasn’t one in Toronto; it’s such a great film centre,” she added.

“One pitcher already came out and said, ‘I think I’ve sold my movie.’ He’s had three meetings and every single (executive) asked to read the script,” Sparks said.

The more than 70 participants, each of whom paid about $200 to attend, are given brief pitching workshops and then allowed to meet with each of the 19 executives in attendance throughout the day.

The time allotment is 10 minutes “to the second,” with a 30-second warning bell to give the presenter a chance to wrap up.

Aron Dunn, development manager for Portfolio Entertainment, which produces the popular Carl Squared kids show, said the pitch expo is “a great concept.”

“We’re all busy people, but ideas are the lifeblood of our business.

“For people with not a lot of experience or connections or pedigree to…get face time with the decision-makers is a wonderful opportunity,” Dunn said.

Jason Daley of Ottawa made the drive to Toronto with a briefcase full of scripts and script ideas from members of his writing group, plus a few projects of his own.

For his efforts, he has been offered a coveted “follow-up meeting,” he said.

“You get immediate opportunity that would otherwise take months. You get immediate feedback. I use a lot of…enthusiasm to help sell a project. So you win people over with a face-to-face, enthusiastic, right-on-the-mark type of pitch,” Daley said.

“I found in Ottawa, there are really not as many opportunities to really get in front of the people that really make the project happen,” Daley said, adding he is considering organizing a similar event there in advance of the Canadian Film and Television Producers Association annual meeting.

Grace Bogaert, who has written 14 feature scripts, said events like this are preferable to trying to get a meeting or even a phone call from a studio executive.

“It also gets you geared up, it gets you organized…it focuses you. Otherwise, I would just prefer to sit down and spend my day writing.

“But at some point, you’ve got to get out there and market. So this is a great venue for that,” Bogaert said.

“I have 20 people a day calling me. I don’t have any trouble (hearing from people). It’s tough to connect with people who have good ideas,” said Lesley Grant, head of drama development for Barna-Alper Productions, Canada’s leading independent production company.

Grant said she was impressed with the caliber of proposals pitched yesterday, though she was understandably mum on the specifics.

Raske said the event already has some interested studio executives committed to attending next year.

METRO NEWS Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Workology Section

“Calling all producers, writers”

While most people in the film industry have their attention on the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival, some have made room in their busy schedules for the first Toronto-based Pitch Expo.

Industry professionals from companies like Epitome Pictures (Degrassi: The Next Generation, Instant Star), Barna-Alper Productions (Da Vinci’s City Hall, G-Spot), and The Family Channel (Lizzie McGuire) will be on hand to listen to pitches from aspiring writers and directors.

Written pitches will also be taken from companies like Belladonna Productions (Transamerica), Big Beach Films (Little Miss Sunshine), and Anagram Pictures (Missing In America).

“The event is really for people from all over. It’s for anyone who has a great idea and wants it to be heard,” says Michale Raske, co-presenter of the Pitch Expo who has been in the entertainment industry for more than 10 years.

The idea for the Pitch Expo came about from Kimberley Ann Sparks, a screenwriter, who attended similar events in other cities. “At one of them, I was able to meet 20 different buyers, who it otherwise would have taken me months to connect with,” she says.

The style of the event is somewhat like speed dating: Each participant has five minutes to meet and pitch their idea one-on-one to an industry executive before moving on to the next one.

“You really have to just get right into your pitch,” says Raske. “If the exec likes what they hear, both parties can agree to get in touch later.”

The Pitch Expo takes place tomorrow from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Holiday Inn (370 King St. W.) and costs $199. For more information, visit


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