As this pitch discussion is long, I have broken it into two parts. Part 1 gives you the elements of the pitch, kinds of pitches, types of pitches, and pitches do’s and don’ts. Part 2 gives you pitching mistakes, improving your pitch chances, the differences of pitching to an agent or a producer, and last words about pitching.
A pitch is a spoken summation of a script with emphasis on the main characters, the conflict, and the genre. However, for you to sit in front of that production person, agent, or manager and spill out your story takes temerity and courage. What are the elements of the pitch? What are the types of pitches? What are the kinds of pitches? What are the do’s and don’ts? What are the most common mistakes that pitchers make? What can you do to improve your pitch and success rate? Remember, your success is based on that check cashing and the camera rolling. Everything else is just practice.
Elements of the Pitch
The pitch is made of the genre, the premise, and the scope of the story. That simple. How you put those three elements together is up to you. The depth of the information is based on how long you have to pitch.
Kinds of Pitches
There are basically two kinds of pitches - the so-called ‘Elevator’ Pitch and the Long Pitch. Each has its strengths and weaknesses.
The ‘Elevator’ Pitch - Short – 1 – 3 minutes
Be enthusiastic. You have three sentences to hook the listener. Just give the listener the essentials - the premise, the genre, and the scope of the script.
The Long Pitch - 5 to no more than 10 minutes
More detail about the story arc and character arc, particularly that of the main character. Establish your story line and then continue with the structural dynamics of the story; the beginning, middle and end. Generally discuss the various plot points. Tell your story in a way the listener can "see" the story. Tell the listener the end. Embrace the question and answer (Q&A) period. Perhaps the listener will suggest another ending. Deal with it. Since most of us talk at 80 – 100 words per minute, you should figure on no less than 400 words to no more than 1000 words. And yes, you must memorize the pitch.
Types of Pitches
1. Middle of the Story - When you start your pitch put the listener in the middle of the story.
Example: You’re living your dream. You always wanted to be a rock star, and now you are. You step out of your private jet and start walking down the steps to thousands of fans snapping your photo… but then you hear a shot and your bodyguard falls down, and everyone starts screaming and running. And you realize that…and this is the situation that you walk into as you… And so forth. By placing your pitch audience in the middle of the story, it pulls them into the world of your story.
2. Setting and Mood - Open with the setting and create the mood
Example: It’s 1942. WWII is well underway. Hundreds of Europeans fleeing from the Germans want to go to America. But to do so, they must go to Casablanca to get their exit visas. The hottest spot in all of Casablanca is Rick’s Cafe, operated by Rick Blaine, an American expatriate. Rick’s Cafe is a happening night club where people often cross paths with old friends who are coming and going. Here, we are drawn into the setting and that keeps us attentive.
3. Provocative Questions - Ask a provocative question.
Example: What would you do if someone who was extremely attractive offered you one million dollars for one night with your new spouse?
Pitching Do’s and Don’ts
· Prepare – create interest and retain interest
· Memorize the pitch - 5 to no more than 10 minutes
· Engage the listener - tell them a story - Start with the logline and then run through the rest of story hitting the emotional high points – the hero, his goal, the conflict, what is at stack, emotional turning points, and conclusion (Yes, give them the ending.).
· If they agree to consider the script, stop talking
· Be at ease, confident, and friendly
· Remember – smile!
· Try to sell them on how clever or smart you are
· Be competitive or combative or vain
· Boast or brag
· Swear or lose your temper
· Look for things, fumble and mumble and forget
· Allow any awkward pauses
· Don’t act desperate
11. Love of Words
To be a successful writer, you must love words. You must write at least three pages or 1000 words a day every day about anything. You must understand not only the structure of fiction, but the words that make up that structure and how to use those words more effectively. Write about anything. Write about your life. Write poetry. Write finely crafted vignettes. It does not matter. You bring the content.
Read dictionaries. Read Thesaurus. Learn how to use words. But, above all write every day.
Why are you reading this? Go write!
John still practices screenwriting in King County, WA along with a small rat dog, a mortgage, and a great view of the valley.