Every aspiring filmmaker and writer dreams of making it — whether it’s moving to LA, making million-dollar movie deals, meeting big industry names, winning major awards, etc. Oftentimes, what comes between the artist and their dream is a simple movie pitch.
You never know when opportunity knocks on your door, and when it does, you want to make sure you’re prepared.
Pitching in the film industry essentially involves a writer or filmmaker persuading buyers — such as studio execs, producers, investors, etc — to purchase their idea or screenplay. The verbal persuasion that is film pitching comes in many forms. The two common forms being the elevator pitch and the 20-minute pitch.
We’ll go into further detail about this in just a moment. But before we jump into that, it’s important that you understand what investors, producers, and execs are looking for in new movie ideas. This can greatly increase your chances of getting your story or idea heard.
Once you’ve conjured up a stellar movie idea or screenplay, you should prepare to pitch it to industry professionals. Pitching can be viewed as an art, and you must master this art before any potential opportunities arise.
In this post, we’ll go over some helpful tips writers and filmmakers can use to sharpen their movie pitching skills and capabilities. Now, let’s go ahead and dive into it.
Preparation Is Key
Preparation is always the key to success. A solid movie pitch consists of explaining to your audiences what your story is as condensed and brief as possible while hooking and grabbing your audience’s attention.
Because pitching will typically require such a selective choice of words within a brief time window, you should take the time to prepare and rehearse what you will say to interested investors.
The worst thing you can do is show up to a pitch meeting without fully knowing your story or idea. Or, what many people struggle with, not knowing how to properly articulate your story to your audience.
Do Your Research
Researching specific investors before pitching takes place is a crucial part of preparation. The goal of researching potential investors is to see who may be best suited for your idea or script.
Many different investors, distributors, execs, etc, have different interests and branding that may not align with your story. So before you go reaching out to these entities, make sure to spend some time researching them.
Also, researching beforehand can help make a pitch go smoother. You’ll be more likely to spark up a conversation more organically — such as asking specific questions regarding that entity’s previous work.
You can also re-align your pitch so that it coincides with the interests of the potential investor, producer, or distributor.
The Elevator Pitch
The elevator pitch is a short form of pitching that is most common in the film industry. Its name refers to the amount of time it takes an elevator to reach its destination — which ranges from 30 seconds to two minutes typically.
We’re not saying movie pitching only takes place in elevators, as it can occur pretty much anywhere — film festivals, film screenings, pitch fests, writer’s conferences, meetings, stores, restaurants, parking lots, etc.
What we’re trying to say is that the window of opportunity is typically brief, and writers and filmmakers will need to present their ideas and scripts in a condensed way that’s able to intrigue someone of interest in very little time.
When doing an elevator pitch, avoid summarizing you’re entire script. Rambling on about minor details and character backgrounds will make your listeners lose interest.
Instead, you should try splitting up your elevator pitch into three sections:
- The hook: Your pitch opening that immediately grabs their attention.
- Extended logline: A few sentences that further explains your story’s characters and conflict.
- Conclusion: The way you conclude can be in a variety of different ways. You can either reveal what happens at the end or you can leave them in suspense and make them question what happens next.
Your goal when doing an elevator pitch should be to reveal the most important elements of your story while keeping your audience engaged and guessing. The beauty of elevator pitches is that they can leave your audience in suspense if you wish to do so. Oftentimes, this can generate more interest in your script or idea.
The 20-Minute Pitch
Another type of pitch you should prepare for is known as the 20-minute pitch, or pitch meeting. Unlike the elevator pitch, the 20-minute pitch generally occurs when an investor or executive calls you in for a meeting to further discuss your idea or script.
This type of pitch isn’t always limited to 20-minutes — it can range from anywhere between 10-30 minutes depending on your audience. However, we recommend that you stay within 10-15 minutes as adding on more time may take your audience out of it.
Professionals working in the film industry are very busy individuals. They will have other meetings, places to be, and more pitches to listen to, so it’s best to keep your movie pitch brief and to the point.
However, because you’ll have more time pitching your film during a pitch meeting, you have the opportunity to illustrate a better picture of your story to your audience. In No Film School’s article, “How to Pitch Your Film: A Step-By-Step Breakdown,” they say that according to panelists, there are a few materials every writer and filmmaker should bring to a pitch meeting. These include:
- Copy of the Script/IP content
- Show Bible or Deck (For TV, this includes character, episode, and season breakdown.)
- Lookbook (Creates the tone and feel. If it’s a drama, for example, the lookbook can help explain if it’s a gritty drama or an eerie drama. Here’s where you can include creative comps.)
- Bios of Producer & Other Key Crew
- Financing already in place
- Cast, if attached
- Director, if attached
- Contact Info
We explain why including the art department and production design in your film pitch could be very beneficial in your pitch in our previous post if you’d like to learn about this topic.
These are all very useful materials to include in your movie pitch presentation. Not only will you pitch your idea or script, but you will persuade your audience further by giving them more details on the film’s production.
The 20-minute pitch is similar to an elevator pitch as you will need to begin with a hook, continue with a more detailed logline and summary, and finish with a conclusion re-emphasizing the crucial elements and components of your story.
Create a Proof of Concept
Depending on the scale of your story concept and the resources available to you, creating a proof of concept can be a great way to get your story picked by investors, producers, and studio executives.
If done correctly, a proof of concept short film can show potential investors how your feature film will look and feel on screen. Many well-known films, like Whiplash and Lights Out, started as a proof of concept short film that later turned into features.
Click here to see more proof of concept short films that were later bought and adapted as feature films.
Find Movie Pitching Opportunities
As you may already know, the film industry is very competitive. Finding opportunities to pitch to the right people doesn’t happen so often.
This is where networking comes in. A large percentage of working in the film industry is meeting and connecting with people. For aspiring filmmakers, this can be daunting, especially if they live far from LA or NYC.
However, there’s plenty of places to network and find movie pitching opportunities if you’re eager enough to find them.
Try looking up film investment companies in areas near you if you’re interested in striking deals with larger companies capable of financing your film projects.
Like we mentioned before, pitching opportunities can arise at any moment, especially if you’re active in the film industry or have prior connections.
But if your keen on meeting new people to broaden your film network, check out your local film festivals, screenings, social events, pitch fests, etc. It also would help if you have an agent or manager as they can help open doors to pitch meetings with potential buyers.
Check out our previous blog on film networking if you’d like to learn more about networking in the film industry.
Movie pitching is a crucial aspect of the film industry that every aspiring writer and filmmaker should become familiar with. It’s a challenging task for many, especially if you view yourself as an introvert or shy.
However, pitching is a skill that can be obtained through practice and proper preparation. Even the most extroverted individuals can tank a pitch meeting if he or she fails to prepare. So don’t forget to practice, rehearse, and practice some more for both types of pitching scenarios.
Like we mentioned earlier, you never know when an opportunity comes knocking at the door.
Hopefully, the tips we’ve provided in this post have given you a better understanding of movie pitching and how to go about it properly.
Don’t forget to check out our very own pitching competition for the chance to win up to $10,000 in funding for your film.