Screenwriting

And Here’s the Pitch…

Three Steps to Pitching and Selling Your Screenplay

 

In the parlance of Hollywood, pitching is the art of verbally selling your screenplay or story. 

Pitching is usually done in person, a.k.a. “in the room,” although nowadays it also happens via phone and Skype.  In this article, we will focus on pitching in the room, but the ideas discussed here carry over to other settings. 

Below are three things to “know” as you try to sell your story. 

Photo by Brian Gurrola

1) KNOW YOU ARE HOT

Show business thrives on enthusiasm, so if you are going to pitch, be confident, friendly, and excited to be there!  Your exhilaration will be contagious.

Sure, you are walking into someone’s office hoping to sell a story, but remember they are voting on YOU as much as they are your ideas.

A producer or executive may hear a dozen pitches in a week, and hundreds in a year.  While they are evaluating the merits of your story, they are also wondering, “Do I want to talk to this person for the next year (or more) while this project is being developed?” 

As they say, be a good date.  Be confident, but not cocky.  Make a connection.  Before you pitch, try a little chitchat.  Smile and enjoy the presentation.  And always listen.  

Finally, remember that the people you are pitching to may not buy your script, but might want to hire you for another project.  You are building a relationship for years to come, so be good in the room!

2) KNOW YOUR STORY

Your confidence will be reflected in how well you know your story.  You have to know your tale inside and out, because producers ask the darndest things!

Usually, you first want to give the title of your project, the genre, and a logline.  If you had written “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” you might say something like:

“The movie I want to tell you about today is called ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark.’ It’s an action-adventure film about a world-renowned archaeologist named Indiana Jones, who is trying to locate the ancient ark that held the original Ten Commandments…”

You get the idea.  Be sure to give a beginning, middle, and end to your project, and include the character names as you go.

Practice – practice – practice your pitch!  Rehearse it in the mirror, in the car, in front of your cat, and I recommend recording yourself, so you know what you sound and look like, and if your story makes sense. 

And if you make a mistake, keep going.  Chances are no one noticed.

3) KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE

Do some research on whom are pitching and what they might be in the market to buy. 

This cannot be overstated.  You wouldn’t stroll into IBM and try and sell them golf clubs (unless you like weird stares). 

In the same way, you don’t want to walk into the offices of the Lifetime Channel with a pitch for “Lethal Weapon 7.”  Do your homework and know whom you are pitching and what they make.

Keep in mind that the person you are pitching is asking themselves various questions, such as:

    – What is the audience for this project?

    – Who could we cast in the roles? 

    – How much will this cost?

You will improve your chances for sales if you have thought about the answers to these questions.

That’s it for now!  Good luck pitching your ideas and remember to have fun in the room! 

Send me your pitching stories and adventures to: rfernandez@cdm.depaul.edu

Related posts:

13 Comments
   ollie said on February 8, 2012 at 10:44 pm

good point on audience i had a fox pitch only to find out they weren’t buying romcoms then. know who you’re talking to

   Craig said on February 9, 2012 at 12:33 am

You’re right. Attitude is so important, Ron. If you’re not enjoying it, then you know your audience of execs isn’t either. When it comes to show business, many people emphasize the ‘business’ side. But we also have to put on a good show at all times–even in the pitch!

   Tery said on February 9, 2012 at 1:11 am

Great points well made! Pitching is hard and these three steps help to make it less complicated.

   Kyle J said on February 11, 2012 at 6:35 pm

Love the artile, great layout of the right way to go about doing this. I always love an article that has a sense of humor too, and I think that same sense of humor has been the ticket that’s carried you through your pitches and career!

   Viktorija said on February 11, 2012 at 7:30 pm

Nicely written article! I love the fact that, as you are talking about the energy and enthusiasm that’s so critically needed during pitching, it is also present within the article! I can feel it as i read it!

   Adinamis said on February 12, 2012 at 12:43 am

I really agree on the first point. The people you’re pitching to start judging you the moment you walk in the door. If you don’t act like you like your pitch, why should your audience like it? Probably an obvious point but I think it’s good to speak at a good pace too. Sometimes it’s easy (at least for me) to get ahead of myself because I’m forgetting that even though I know my story, the audience does not needs an explanation about things that are clear in my head.

   Adinamis said on February 12, 2012 at 12:53 am

Being calm about pitching is important too. If you’re not calm, this could happen:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xu_6hdGZ6gU

   Richard said on February 12, 2012 at 10:54 pm

I appreciate the point of having confidence but not being overconfident. You are selling yourself as much as your screenplay, that might easily be overlooked to some of us less seasoned in the pitch. It balances well with the “know your audience” section and having enough enthusiasm to suggest actors for roles, or estimate cost, and demographics. This shows you’re not just a chimp with a typewriter but have a sense of business awareness, too. Very insightful article.

   Hannnah said on February 13, 2012 at 6:59 pm

This will be good information to have when and if I ever have a script to present to a company. I think I will have to take the tip to record myself practicing what I should say, because I get nervous talking to people I’ve never met before.

   Ryan said on February 14, 2012 at 9:22 am

The third section I think really works because not many people would think about things like, “Who could be cast for the roles?” and “How much will it cost?” when thinking about their pitch. Knowing your script inside and out is definitely key in order for you to know these things, so I do like that you mention that and the idea of continually working on the pitch.

   Jerome said on February 14, 2012 at 10:55 am

This is a good basic tutorial on teaching a person how to sell their screenplay to a company. I like the part where you discuss what someone should say when delivering a sales pitch using the Raiders of the Lost Ark example. I also thought it was nice stating what companies are thinking when someone is trying to sale a screenplay to them. This also comes in handy when writing a screenplay because it helps the author to learn what movie companies are looking for these days.

   Alec said on February 14, 2012 at 6:50 pm

I think you should include something about how your trying to sell your story. How practicing your story and your pitch is great and all but you have to remember that the people your trying to sell it to are trying to make money as well.

   Kyle W said on February 17, 2012 at 6:45 pm

This actually works with more than just show business. No matter what you end up doing in life selling your ideas and yourself is always important. I don’t plan to go into show business at all but I do plan on using all three of those ideas throughout the course of my college and professional career.

Tell us what you think!
*

Latest Tweets

Stay Informed

Click here to register with Focal Press to receive updates.


about MasteringFilm

MasteringFilm, powered by bestselling Routledge authors and industry experts, features tips, advice, articles, video tutorials, interviews, and other resources for aspiring and current filmmakers. No matter what your filmmaking interest is, including directing, screenwriting, postproduction, cinematography, producing, or the film business, MasteringFilm has you covered. You’ll learn from professionals at the forefront of filmmaking, allowing you to take your skills to the next level.