Pitch Perfect – The Art of Pitching Your Screenplay

Photo courtesy of scriptmag.com

By Brock Cooper (doddleNEWS)

The key to getting your screenplay on the silver or small screen is making sure the right people see it. Agents and studios receive hundreds, if not thousands, of scripts and only a small handful actually get read. The writers that do know the art of pitching.

Pitching a story, whether in person or in email, is the single most important aspect of selling your screenplay. Your story could be amazing and written beautifully, but if you can’t pitch it correctly, no one is going to know about it.

Types of Pitch

There are two basic types of pitching that you will do. For those lucky enough to live in the Los Angeles area, they might actually get in person pitches through either personal meetings or a pitch fest. A pitch fest is an event where writers come and have a set amount of time, usually around 5-10 minutes, to pitch their script. Think of it like speed dating, but with producers.

The other type is through an email. Emailed pitches give you the opportunity really refine your pitch and deliver it exactly how you want it. The downside is you’re not guaranteed they are going to read it. The person could be having a bad day or just not in the mood, and your perfect pitch could hit the trash can before it’s even opened.

Ideally, you’re getting an in-person meeting, but luckily the concepts for both are very similar.

Research, Research, Research

If you are pitching directly to someone either by email or in-person, it’s important that you research who they and exactly what kind of movies they tend to choose. Trying to pitch a science fiction story to someone known for romcoms probably isn’t going to work. Every minute is precious and every meeting important, so don’t waste their time if you know they likely aren’t going to bite. If you’re at a pitch fest, then you can cater your pitch to each individual based on their tastes. For example, if you know a producer likes romance or a strong female lead, then you can play up those aspects in your pitch. Knowledge is power.

The Teaser

Alright, here’s the part that everyone wanted to see. How do I pitch? A pitch is made of two distinct sections: the teaser and the story pitch.

The Teaser: This is the bare bones two or three sentence summation of the story. Details the main characters, genre and primary core story. The last sentence is designed to make them want more. For example, in the quiet neighborhood of Elm Street, Freddy Krueger, a demonic killer with a bladed glove, stalks the children of the people who killed him. In their dreams.

Your outline shows that it’s a horror movie, your main character is a supernatural killer with a bladed glove that is seeking revenge against the children of the people that killed him. Oh, but he’s not just killing them, he’s doing it in their dreams. It leaves the producer wanting to know more about this movie.

The Story Pitch

Ok, so you hooked him. He’s decided to either listen to you a little longer, or continue to read the email. It’s time to move on to the meat and potatoes: the story pitch. This is where the bulk of your pitch fest time will be used.

You have about 5-10 minutes to outline your story and characters. Don’t mention how much you think it will cost. Don’t mention its marketability. Don’t tell them who would be the perfect actress for your main protagonist. You need to sell your story above all else.

If you’re writing it, don’t go over more than a page. Anything more and they won’t bother reading it. They are notorious for having short attention spans, so your story outline has to be exciting and designed to have them hanging off your every word.

Preparing for the pitch

The most important aspect of preparing for your story pitch is practice. If you know people that have pitched successfully before, then ask if they can look over or listen to your pitch. Practice with friends and in front of the mirror until you have it memorized and perfect. You’re only going to get one chance, so make sure you’re prepared.

If your pitch is successful, then the producer will ask you for a treatment or even to see your screenplay.