HOW TO PITCH EFFECTIVELY

Screenwriting guru Michael Hague has boiled down all of the current principles, examples and pitching templates and presented his insights in the book, “Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds”. Here is his abbreviated advice edited from an article posted on scriptmag.com: 

1) NEVER TRY TO TELL THE WHOLE STORY
This is by far the biggest mistake any writer or filmmaker can make. 

You’ve got 60 seconds to pitch your story. If you try to include every important detail of your screenplay, or if you get mired in vivid descriptions of the opening, the characters or the set pieces, you’ll run out of time before your prospective buyer has a clear picture of the potential of your project. So instead of trying to weave a tale in 60 seconds, you want to….

2) FOCUS ON REVEALING THE ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF YOUR STORY

•    Who is your HERO or protagonist?

•    What is that character’s EVERYDAY LIFE at the beginning of the film?

•    Why will we feel EMPATHY towards your hero?

•    What OPPORTUNITY is presented to that hero at the 10% point that will get the story going?

•    Into what NEW SITUATION does that opportunity take your hero?

•    What specific visible goal or OUTER MOTIVATION are we rooting for your hero to accomplish by the end of the movie?

•    What CONFLICT will the hero face that makes achieving that goal seem impossible?

•    What are two ANTECEDENTS to your screenplay – recent, successful films with the same genre, tone, and potential market as yours? 

3) REVEAL HOW YOU CAME UP WITH THE IDEA
Don’t lead with your title or log-line. Titles are close to meaningless, and usually confusing when a buyer knows very little about the story. 

Similarly, log lines might convey some of the story, but they will have a much greater impact later in the pitch (see below). Instead, open your pitch by saying where you first got the idea for your story. It might grow out of a personal experience, or it might be based on a true story, or a novel for which you have the rights, or some article you read that stimulated your creativity. It might even come from other movies – taken a favourite genre and then coming up with a unique twist or element that we haven’t seen before.

So, you might begin by saying something like, “I have always been a huge fan of romantic thrillers, and I started wondering, ‘What if…?’” Or, “I was recently able to acquire the rights to a novel that scared the crap out of me.” Or, “You may not be aware of this, but I recently read that….” And then you segue from that initial idea to the key elements of your story listed above. Opening in this way draws the buyer into your story with the same element that got you excited about it.

4) LEAVE THE PANEL IN SUSPENSE

Don’t reveal the outcome of your screenplay in the pitch. Complete your presentation by either summarizing the conflict or by revealing whatever major setback occurs at the end of Act 2. This can often be done when you… 

5) FINISH YOUR DESCRIPTION WITH THE TITLE AND LOGLINE

Here is where these elements of your pitch can be most powerful – after your buyer knows the essence of your story. 

So, when you complete the description that includes those key elements in item #2, follow with the title, and then a single sentence that summarizes it all: 

“So basically, my screenplay WHERE’S MY KID? is about a single parent who must rescue her daughter, not realizing that the kidnapper is actually the FBI agent who’s leading the investigation.”

Notice that we don’t know from the logline whether she will succeed – the pitch leaves the buyer wanting more. But if the buyer then asks how the movie ends, don’t be coy – tell them.

6) ANSWER QUESTIONS IN 10 SECONDS

For many writers, this is the hardest part of the pitch. They have carefully prepared, well-rehearsed, 60-second presentations, and then they respond to simple questions with long, meandering responses – usually in an unconscious attempt to tell the entire story (see #1 above). 

So, listen to exactly what your buyer wants to know about your script, and then answer just that question in no more than 10 seconds. If you haven’t told the buyer everything he/she wants to know, they’ll ask another question.

So, get cracking! We want to see YOU in October pitching your blockbuster hit!
And remember: HAVE FUN WITH IT! 

Jordan Morris