How To Pitch Your Film IdeaFriday, February 28, 2020
You've finally done it--you have your big idea...that big idea for a film that will blow everyone's socks off, change the world of film forever, and launch you into international fame and fortune.
There's only one problem--your film isn't made yet. In fact, it's not even written. For now, it's nothing more than an idea in your head, or a story written out on the back of a cocktail napkin.
How can you get someone to invest in your idea enough to finish your screenplay, and have it created into the masterpiece movie that you know it will be?
This is where you'll need to try to set a meeting with an investor, studio exec, or buyer and try to pitch them on your film idea.
The Art of the Pitch
What is a pitch? Simply put, "pitching" in film is telling your story idea to someone in order to get them to "see" your idea come to life and buy in to your film, for the purposes of raising money or getting a writing assignment to complete the script.
Seems easy enough...right?
Well despite being the creative epicenter of the filmmaking universe, writers and filmmakers are not always known for being able to deliver a clear and convincing pitch. It's one thing to create the film itself, but it's another to be put on the spot in a high tension pitch session in front of movie executives. And this is where many creative story ideas go to an early death because of a bad pitch.
If you do get the opportunity to meet up with a potential film buyer, one thing to keep in mind are the circumstances of your meeting. Have you been invited to a general meeting to talk about your film idea? Then pitch away. But more often than not, before you get that meeting, you may run into your film exec at a networking event, or run into them in the elevator. This is where discretion and tact come in to play--at a public event, it's likely that your buyer is doing some networking of their own, or just enjoying a night out. And it's likely that other people there will have script ideas of their own that they're trying to pitch. So unless you already have an established relationship with this person, that may not always be the best place to approach them with your pitch.
Instead, it's a good idea to follow what Writer/Producer Marc Scott Zicree calls the "Rule of 3":
1. If you see a potential buyer out at a networking event, but haven't met them yet, do NOT try to pitch them at this first event. Instead, introduce yourself to them at some point in the evening and let them know that you enjoy their work. Be specific--give a specific example from a film you've seen or script you've read and tell them (in a very honest and real way) why you liked it and how it affected you personally.
AND THAT'S IT. Don't try to pitch them. Don't try to set up a meeting with them. This initial contact should be just about establishing a real, human relationship with this person, and letting them know that you admire their work.
2. The next time you see them at an event, go say hi and remind them of how you met previously. Don't forget to bring up the specific example of their work that you discussed the first time you met, to solidify exactly who you are in their mind.
AND THAT'S IT. Still no pitching or trying to get a meeting. None of that until...
3. ...the third time you meet them. This is when you should bring up your story idea, if appropriate. Say hello and take a moment to reconnect with them...hopefully at this point you'll have established enough of a relationship that they know who you are, know that you admire their work, and that you're not a crazy person. NOW is when you can mention that you have a story idea that you think they'd be interested in, and ask if you can chat with them about it.
If they say yes, that's great! And if they say no, just leave it at that. Don't burn any bridges by acting like a jerk because they weren't interested in hearing your idea. Sometimes it's not about the idea itself at all, but about the timing, or something completely unrelated. They may be searching for some specific type of project that just doesn't jive with your story idea. But that doesn't mean that they won't be looking for something similar to your idea in the future. So even if you get a No now, be sure to keep up the relationship that you've established. You never know when it will come in handy down the road.
Watch the video to hear Zicree's explanation of the "Rule of 3"
The Pitch Itself
If you do get a meeting and are invited to talk about your story idea, make sure you do your homework ahead of time. One of the worst things that can happen is for a writer to go in to a pitch session, and they don't know their own story. So make sure that your pitch is well thought out, and PRACTICED, out loud, before you deliver it in person.
It's natural to be nervous when pitching your idea. And film buyers and execs understand that to some extent. But remember, you're there to sell them on your idea, so SELL THEM. You need to BELIEVE that your project is amazing, or nobody else will. Go in to the meeting with the idea that people are going to be excited about this project.
When scripting out your pitch, keep in mind that you don't need to spell out every beat, minor character, or plot point. You want to give them enough information to be drawn into the world of the story, and get an overall arc of the main characters and plotlines. In fact, it's OK to tease them a little bit--it's much better to leave people wanting more. Take them up through about half of your third act--don't get them the ending (unless they specifically have asked). Leave them NEEDING to know what happens at the end. That's how you get them excited.
Finally, end with the title and logline of your film. Why end with those, and not begin with them? Because they will be much more powerful after the person you're pitching to has some context first. And then follow up with a question: do you have any questions about the script, or would you like me to send you a copy? This is your own call to action.
After your pitch you may be asked some additional questions about the story or project, so be prepared to answer them succinctly. A couple questions that frequently get asked are how you came up with the idea, and why the story is important to you. Be prepared to answer those questions as genuinely as possible, so people can see that you are emotionally invested in this idea yourself.
Learning to pitch can be stressful, but it's definitely a skill that can be learned and improved the more that you do it. And keep in mind that you are way more likely to have your idea rejected than not...it's the nature of the business. Go into things with the mindset that even if this person isn't interested, there's going to be someone else that is--every time a door closes, a window opens.
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