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Pitching Tips

BASICS OF A GOOD PITCH

1. The Pitch

a. What is a film pitch, exactly?  What are the elements?

b. What is the purpose of the film pitch?

c. Do you have to be an established writer to pitch an idea?

d. How do I get my film pitch heard?

2. Writing the Film Pitch

a. What should it include?

b. How long should it be?

c. How much of my story should I give away? What if I have a surprise ending?

d. Creating Intrigue. "Cliff Hangers"

3. Pitch Formats (Video/Written/Spoken)

a. What format can the film pitch be in? Video? Written? Spoken?

b. What is the best way to produce a video pitch? Should I hire actors?

c. Video Requirements and Formats

d. Is a video pitch the same thing as a trailer or preview? What's the difference?

e. Spoken Pitches and "Elevator Pitches"

f. Written Pitches

g. Loglines, Treatments, Synopses

 

 

1. The Pitch

a. What is a film pitch, exactly? What are the elements?

A film pitch is a basically your sales pitch for a film, tv show or other creative project.  Depending on whom you are pitching to and what the purpose of the film pitch is, your pitch may be longer or shorter.  A film pitch can range from a one sentence description of your project to a longer telling that should include the main elements of the story, the basic premise, plot points, the main characters, time period, setting and locations.

 

MovieHatch Competitions: The film pitch is what you’re uploading to our competitions. It’s your idea, your brainchild that will get your foot in the running for a tv or film production deal with MovieHatch Productions.

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b. What is the purpose of the film pitch?

To sell your idea or to create interest in the idea.  Usually only established writers can sell a film pitch without writing the script.  But if you’re not an established writer you may need to pitch your idea to make someone interested in reading your script.  Often if you’re a more novice writer and you get a meeting with someone in a position to buy your idea or make your movie they’ll ask what you’re working on.  If you can interest them in your project in a couple quick sentences they might be interested in reading your script.  If your film pitch is long or boring or jumbled, they may quickly lose interest.  There are an infinite amount of ideas out there (even if many are indecipherable from each other) and the executives with the power to get things done hear them all the time, so the quicker and easier it is to explain your project, the more likely you’ll be able to continue to get consideration.  That said, DON’T do something just to be remembered by like wearing a monkey suit because your movie is about monkeys.  You’ll be remembered as a clown more likely than anyone retaining what your idea is actually about.  There are caveats to that rule though – but you tread a thin line so be careful.

1.    AMERICAN PIE was sold under the name UNTITLED TEENAGE SEX COMEDY THAT CAN BE MADE FOR UNDER 10 MILLION DOLLARS WHICH READERS WILL MOST LIKELY HATE BUT WE THINK YOU WILL LOVE.  That’s not the pitch, but the point is the same.  The title is funny and irreverent, as is the project.


c. Do you have to be an established writer to pitch an idea?

No.  Anyone can pitch an idea.  However, established producers, studios and networks usually will only take pitches from established writers.  It is usually in your best interest to write your script, but be prepared to pitch it succinctly when you take meetings.

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d. How do I get my film pitch heard?

i.    If you’re an established writer (someone who has sold a script before) your agent or manager should be able to set you up with the appropriate buyers who’d be in a position to buy your pitch.
ii.    If you’re not an established writer you should write your script instead of a pitch.  However, once you’ve written your script, it is good to have a succinct pitch of it so that you can get people interested in reading the script.  In many cases the only way someone will read your script is if you can excite them with a quick pitch.

 

MovieHatch Competitions: The competition will allow you to do just that.  You’ll be able to upload your pitch and make it sound as interesting as possible so that it will be highly rated.  If it’s highly rated your script will get read by the producers who are the judges of the competition.

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2. Writing the Film Pitch

a. What should it include?

i.    Include the vital parts of your story and just a bit more that make it stand out.  A film pitch should include all the important story beats.  It should be familiar enough that the person hearing the pitch gets it, but original enough that it doesn’t sound like other movies that have already been made.  For instance if your idea is a romantic comedy that takes place in NY City, that is a very familiar idea and we immediately have an idea of what the movie is.  And then make it original (the guy and girl met sharing a ride to NY right after college and really didn’t like each other.  And then they kept running into each other over the years and eventually became friends and eventually realized they were meant for other – obviously that was WHEN HARRY MET SALLY). 

Think of it as a summary of your idea, but also make sure to include anything that will heighten the idea ,like funny moments, or unique aspects of the story.  You want the pitch to keep your listener interested, so tell your story, but don’t include extraneous points.  In order to really illustrate a character it can be good to use an actor’s name or a character from another film if that’s an accurate description. 

For instance maybe your character is a Ferris Bueller type.  If you say Ferris Bueller type it’s quick and easy and everyone knows what you mean.  Much more lengthy and open to interpretation if you say slacker high school kid who is bright, charming and cunning.

 

MovieHatch Competitions: When you make your MovieHatch pitch, try your best to stick to these principles. Short, clear, entertaining and easy to imagine the possibilities blooming from it. Whether you’re standing in front of a camera or you’ve staged an elaborate short film, your MovieHatch pitch has to capture the viewer’s imagination and make them want that idea to explode onto the screen. Think “trailers” like the ones you see in the cinema. The written synopsis will cover much of the same material plus a touch more.

b. How long should it be?

This depends on who you’re pitching and what the purpose of your pitch is, but a general rule is the shorter the better.  If you can boil it down to a few sentences then that’s always great. Think about WEDDING CRASHERS.  You can actually pitch that idea with just those two words.  Most pitches aren’t that easy, but if you can tell your idea in one sentence, then just think about how to expand it from there to fill out your story.  You may also be asked questions so when pitching your idea you should have it fully fleshed out in your head (even if you haven’[t written it yet) so you can answer any questions about the story.  From the pitch you may wind up writing outlines or treatments, which can be anywhere from a few paragraphs to many pages long.

 

MovieHatch Competitions: The MovieHatch pitch includes video and synopsis components. They should also be short, but clear. I know we’re starting to sound like a nagging teacher, but stick to the short and sweet principle and it should make your pitch all the more enticing. Trust us, no one likes to listen to someone blab on and on about anything. You want to leave people asking for more, not wishing they heard less.

c. How much of my story should I give away? What if I have a surprise ending?

If you’re pitching an idea you want someone to buy, you should be pitching them the entire story.  If you have a surprise ending that needs to be in there.  Can you imagine if someone pitched USUAL SUSPECTS and didn’t include the twist at the end?

 

MovieHatch Competitions: For the competition you want to include anything you think will help you get a high rating.  Your pitch might benefit from presenting the entire idea, secret ending and all.  However, if you reach the finals, your script will be read, so you don’t need to worry about including everything in the pitch in this case, just what you think will get people excited.  Think of this pitch more like a movie trailer that you’re trying to entice people to want to know what happens in your movie. 

d. Creating Intrigue, “Cliff Hangers”

We’ve all heard the cliché cliff hangers; “…and hilarity ensues,” “...then mayhem erupts,” “…and the rest is history.” Listeners are numb to them now. Avoid cliches. It’s ok if you don’t have an ending just yet and thus have nothing finite to book-end the pitch. Nonetheless, you should flesh out the basic skeleton of your pitch well before you pitch to anyone. If you’re thinking of writing a pitch with a cliff hanger ending, consider why you’re using a cliff hanger. Is it necessary? Perhaps giving the entire story might help you sell the project. If you insist on cliff hangers think of the best parts of your pitch/story and include them while leaving out that last twist/surprise.

 

MovieHatch Competitions: When you create your MovieHatch Pitch think of the audience: a bunch of people on the web with really short attention spans. They want to be entertained, like, yesterday. When you’re writing for such an audience you’re in a battle against time. They’re only going to give you so much and then it’s off to the next website or video. Whatever you say to them it’s got to be good and fast. You’ve got one shot to impress each viewer, so make it count and give them all you’ve got.

3. Pitch Formats (Video/Written/Spoken)

a. What format can the film pitch be in? Video? Written? Spoken?

The pitch can be done in any format including live, in-person and spoken, sent via email, snail mail or over the phone.  Often times, people pitching have several ideas that they throw out to the producer or production company in one meeting or in one document.  It’s often a good idea to have your pitch written so whoever hears the pitch can go back to it and read it later (this is called a “leave behind”).  The last thing we want is for the producer to forget, or worse, misinterpret your idea and reject it on that basis

 

MovieHatch Competitions: The MovieHatch competition is all online and the video is the first thing they see so it’s really got to hook your fickle viewer. You don’t have to have explosions and flying ninjas, per se, but if you’re going to take a more visually toned-down approach to your pitch then the content of your pitch should be pretty amazing, meaning, your idea has to rock. You can stand in front of the camera and speak your pitch, which is fine, but keep in mind that viewers will often just go to the pitch that looks exciting from the get go. You’re fighting the flighty tastes of the internet video viewer as well as others who are submitting video pitches. Make yours stand out!

b. What is the best way to produce a video pitch? Should I hire actors?

There really is no best way to produce a video pitch, but the main rules still apply; it’s got to be short and easily-imaginable, with a hook.  While the video pitch isn’t live, it’s also not on paper, so you get the chance to put your face on it, literally.  Hiring actors might work well for you, but you can go real straight-forward and stand in front of a camera and talk out your pitch.  You can also create a short film representing the major story points You can also go really abstract and create an animation, moving text or some other funkiness. Just remember to keep it short, direct and juicy. So, in the end, you don’t have to hire actors. If you think your salesmanship and movie idea are both spot on then maybe you might want to just put the camera on your face and talk it out to the lens. It’s your call, so long as you stick to the tried-and-true principles of pitching.

 

MovieHatch Competitions: Hire actors if your pitch calls for it. For our competitions, just do whatever you need to get your presentation perfect. Some people might want to do a short film, while others might want to sit in a chair and talk out their pitch. It’s your call.

c. Video Requirements and Formats

So you’re pitching your film or tv show idea on video. Good choice. You get to put your personal touch on it by putting a face to the idea (if you’re showing your face) and you also have all the control of making sure your pitch sounds exactly how you want. Now, let’s make sure you do it right.

Big Question: What computer format should you use? Windows or Mac?

Either is fine.  Many professional video editors use Mac-based video editing programs, thus they typically produce Mac-based QuickTime videos with the “.mov” extension.  But if you aren’t a professional video editor or don’t use Macs at all, it’s fine.  Many people use Windows based editing programs such as Windows Movie Maker and their stuff looks great.  Both formats are welcomed by the MovieHatch Pitch Competiton.  Just note that submitting a pitch in high definition (HD) might not be worth it.  It takes a lot of time to convert HD videos into a format that will ultimately go online and the benefit is minimal... for now.  Keep in mind that people are going to watch your pitch on their computer screen, not in a movie theater, so it’s nice but they don’t really need that super fine level of definition. 

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d. Is a video pitch the same thing as a trailer or preview? What’s the difference?

No, video pitches aren’t the same thing as trailers and previews.  Trailers and previews are terms that are often used interchangeably but refer to the same thing.  Trailers and previews are just advertising “commercials” that consist of various clips of the film edited together and meant to entice the viewer into watching the completed film.  Video pitches are usually a piece of video that sells the idea of a film, so it’s generally done well before any film footage is shot. It might contain sample footage, showing what a scene from the film might look like, but that’s rare.

 

MovieHatch Competitions: We recommend making a trailer as your pitch. Think about it: someone sees your enticing trailer and after 30 seconds it’s over. They ask, “When’s the movie coming out?” This is precisely what our competitions are all about. Let people decide that they want to see your movie and vote to get it made.

e. Spoken Pitches and “Elevator pitches”

Spoken pitches are preferably done in person and in a scheduled meeting (as opposed to over the phone).  The good thing about pitching in a meeting is that the listener (usually a producer or studio executive) has set aside time for you and is prepared to hear you out.  This is the traditional pitch meeting arrangement.  Many times however, you’ll be forced to recite your pitch on the phone (to get the meeting in the first place!) or on the spur of the moment when someone asks about it.  We have all heard stories about the struggling screenwriter meeting a big-name director or studio executive by chance in the elevator and giving a winning pitch right then and there and they end up making movie history.  Keep in mind, doing this successfully is extremely rare and most of these guys don’t want to hear unsolicited pitches, so tread lightly. 

 

MovieHatch Competitions: With regard to the MovieHatch competition, you’re submitting a pre-recorded video so the “live” element isn’t there. This puts you in a better position because you have complete control over the process. You shoot it, you edit it, it’s your baby. You can make it sound and look exactly how you want. Unlike a live pitch, you can actually take back a slip of the tongue and any other imperfections that make your pitch anything less than powerful.

f. Written Pitches

There’s no set standard but depending on whether your pitch is solicited or unsolicited, your written pitch can be very short or a bit longer.  Solicited pitches are invited by the reader and unsolicited pitches are uninvited by the reader and are basically volunteered by you.  For solicited pitches keep in mind who’s reading it.  The more influential the person is the less time they have.  If you’re writing it to a more junior level person who may be very hungry for new projects, you might want to make sure your pitch has all the necessary details to tell your story (just like your verbal pitch would be).  Start off with a logline (1-2 sentences) and a short treatment (1 to 10 pages), unless they ask for more.  For unsolicited pitches, think very short.  They aren’t asking for your pitch and you’re trying to hook them in, after all.  Give your logline and maybe a few more sentences.  If they’re interested they’ll ask you for more and you should be prepared to send them a longer treatment or script right away.

 

MovieHatch Competitions: In the MovieHatch competitions we give you – and strongly encourage – the use of two mediums – video and written word. We limit the written synopsis to 2,000 characters because our voters aren’t interested in reading a novel online. Give them a taste with video and reinforce it with the synopsis. MovieHatch gives you multiple ways to sell your idea.

g. Loglines, Treatments, Synopses

i.    Logline: A one-line description of your project that’ll hook a prospective reader/watcher.

Some samples:
a.    WEDDING CRASHERS – Two guys crash weddings to score chicks.
b.    THE PRINCESS BRIDE – An adult fairytale where a servant and one true love of the soon to be princess must prove his love and save his lady through fire swamps, the pit of despair, cliffs of insanity, Spanish swordsman, giants, a six-fingered man and of course Prince Humperdink.
c.    THE SIXTH SENSE – A psychiatrist must help a little boy who believes he can talk with the dead.
d.    JURASSIC PARK – Dinosaurs are cloned to populate a theme park, but a major security breakdown releases the dinosaurs.

ii.    Synopsis: A detailed description of the story and its plot points and sub plots.  A synopsis should include the main and supporting characters’ names and perhaps a short description of them.  This can be two paragraphs to a full page.  Very rarely is it more than two pages.

iii.    Treatment: A treatment is essentially a longer version of a synopsis.  A treatment should cover all your important story points.  It should be loosely narrative, show and tell the story, dramatic, straightforward in tone, not all details, broad strokes, hook, primary characters, most dramatic scenes, turning points-twists.  Can be from 1 to 20 pages, depending on what the development exec wants.