Screenwriting : Pitching Course by Nikki April Lee

Nikki April Lee

Pitching Course

I tried pitching my screenplay to my coworker and he was confused AF about the story. I've never been any good at it but I'd like to get much better (specifically past the nerves). Is there any small online course or video I could watch that would be helpful with pitching?

Tony S.

There are ten various pitching topics in "Education" here.

Peter Roach

Common problem. We write 100 pages, yet we can't tell someone in a minute what the heck the movies is about Start with the logline. Expand it. If you need more than a minute yer rambling.

Taiwo Olayinka

Please any literature out there that teaches the nitty gritty of screenwriting.

Philip Mayes

Ask your coworker where you went wrong and how he/she thinks you could improve and work on that.

Callum McKay

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4HSqKrqkIk Hi Nikki, I did my first ever pitch recently and I found this video really useful for preparation. Also I found bullet pointing as many key moments from my acts from memory and then picking the most important moments was a good way of streamlining the essential points to include so as to condense the whole story into about 4 minutes

Maurice McGary

just start by looking at the screenplays that were successful and the ones that were no good check out simply scripts and go thru there lists. also read loglines and synopsis from members of st32.( check out mine . The screen play can be good but have a bad story. Just network. If your ever in chicago they have meet ups and you can just ask a member about there experiece. you can skype me Ive had issues but I can share what I learned. my email mauricemcgary@outlook.com

Pidge Jobst

Perhaps, look up: "How to create a log line." Your concise pitch may very well come out of this exploration.

Fiona Faith Ross

Film Courage on YouTube has lots of informative interviews with working screenwriters and industry professionals.

Danny Manus

@Nikki my 2 hour Webinar on Mastering the Short Pitch is available on my website for quite cheap. I have taught pitching at Austin Film Fest, Atlanta Film Fest, and dozens of other events and ive taken over 3600 pitches. I highly recommend it.

LaVosha Kern

I think all it comes down to is practice. You just have to force yourself to do it over and over again, and it becomes easier. I'm not very good at pitching in person myself.

Amanda Toney

Hey Nikki April Lee - here's a great intro course taught by the development executive from Panay Films (Wedding Crashers): https://www.stage32.com/webinars/The-Secret-To-Becoming-A-Pitching-Ace, I also brought in a writer from the CW to talk about all different scenarios where you would pitch: https://www.stage32.com/webinars/Pitching-Fundamentals-Tools-For-Every-P.... Be confident and concise and practice makes perfect!

Tony S.

Danny Manus It would be interesting to know the percentage of those 3,600 that lead to a request for a script, how many were purchased, produced. Thanks.

Roxanne Paukner

Nikki April Lee that's definitely hard, but maybe your audience matters too. I read my query letter to a writers' group, (none of them did screenplays), and they looked at me like I had three heads. Haha! Oh well. This pitch bootcamp might be helpful; it was for me. (Watching it was distracting. Something for me to learn there...) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmdptqMQna0

Shawn M Decker

Youtube.

Nikki April Lee

Rutger Oosterhoff I love Michael Hauge, he's my guardian angel. I wrote to him once about a complaint I had against one of my writing professors who said that there was no such thing as a screenwriting career. If you can write a script, you're a screenwriter. Period. I explained to him how hopeless that made me feel and his first sentence in his reply letter back to me was, "Well first off, your professor is an asshole." He's amazing! Thanks for the recommend.

I'm also loving these other videos everyone has suggested to me. It really helped a lot. I definitely want to check out these webinars and courses. Got everything saved on favorites. I don't want to miss a beat! <3

Joleene DesRosiers

I talk to myself all the time. For practice. I learned during a writing retreat at a festival once (and continue to learn), that it's best to start out with how the story relates to you so it becomes more of a conversation than a: "So a guy walks into a bar..."

For example, I wrote an original pilot about a television reporter who becomes a murderous vigilante. I used to be a reporter. No, I never killed anybody. Yes, I may have thought about it. Yes, it's a comedy.

Anywhoooo....I would start the pitch by saying: "I used to be a television reporter in the city of Syracuse, and I've seen my share of crimes. One thing I noticed was how we could get behind the camera and say anything we wanted...and the public believed us. So it sparked an idea....."

And then I would go into my story about 'Dawdy Pugg: Killer Reporter.' To avenge her daugher's death, she would slay the bad guys at night, and cover her own story, live on TV, the next day. Because she has the power of the media on her side, she could cover her tracks and twist the stories so throw authorities off her trail.

That generally sparks interest. The person on the other side of the conversation would ask a question, and I would answer, conversationally.

So talk to yourself as you walk around your house during the day. It will allow you to find several different ways to tell your story to someone so you know it inside and out...and can answer any questions that come your way.

Maurice McGary

I say again go thru a script site and look at scripts read loglines. I gave you an email so we could chat use it.

Anthony Tullio

If you haven’t already, try reading Blake Snyder’s Save The Cat. He definitely helped me with my loglines

Danny Manus

For those wondering, of the 3600 or so Pitches I have taken, I requested about 10% (lets say 350). Of the ones that were actually submitted (many never did), I'd say I liked about 10% of them (lets say 30). Of those, i optioned, developed or tried to sell 5-6. None were made. Though a few of those writers have gone on to become pro writers.

Shawn Speake

There are many formulas for loglines. I use: When the inciting incident happens, A FLAWED MAIN CHARACTER, your hero/anti-hero, MUST, objective, OR ELSE, the stakes.

SPECIFICALLY PAST THE NERVES...

Not knowing how to pitch and trying it for the first time can definitely destroy confidence. Pitching in front of people is a performance. If you feel it's your inability to be confident under the spotlight, I recommend sober karaoke. Getting drunk defeats the purpose - unless you pitch drunk:) Hope this helps

Rutger Oosterhoff

You have to ask yourself the question "What If"

"WHAT IF being a celebrity judge in a TV talent show is the highest goal in an already famous person’s life….and there is only ONE spot left in this GLORIOUS PANEL... and EACH SEPERATE SHOW there will be one person SELECTED FROM STAGE 32 SUBSCRIBERS to COMPLETE the jury panel... being the HEAD JURY."

https://www.stage32.com/profile/571720/scripts_screenplays

Dan Guardino

Pamela. When I was trying to sell my screenplays I sent out query letters and would get maybe 2 or 3 percent would ask to read my screenplay. When I called producers up I maybe 10 percent would request a screenplay. I kept a list of people that requested a script previously and after a while some remembered me and just told me to go ahead and send them my most recent screenplay. I optioned a screenplay to a producer that passed on 2 or 3 previous screenplays. That was years ago and today we are co-producing a screenplay I just finished writing last week. So I am not sure the pay to pitch would be worth it unless you think the person you are pitching to is for real and would be a match for your project. Obviously this is just my own option from my own personal experience.

Dan Guardino

Pamela. You are welcome and thanks.

Danny Manus

Pamela Bolinder - I tend to do most of my work/posting late at night, but I'm really not on here much or check it very much. I just happened to see your comment. Anyway, to clarify... Yes, MANY scripts that have been pitched to me and requested - were NEVER sent. Why? Because chances are the writers hadn't actually FINISHED the project when they pitched it, and by the time they did, it was 6 months later. OR they got scared and didn't really want to submit anything, they just wanted to see if they could do it. Many reasons, but I would easily say that 10-15% of scripts that get requested, are never submitted! On your second question, all options were FREE options. The production companies I was an exec at would never pay for an option for an unproduced, unrep'd, first time writer. They were usually 12-24 month options, during which we would develop the script with the writer, do more drafts, try to package them, try to sell them, etc. None sold. So, yes, the writer didn't make any money - but neither did WE! We didn't lose any money because nothing was purchased - but we lost all the hours and hours and hours of time we put into the development of the project. Producers at pitchfests (or pay to pitch sites) are not looking to PURCHASE anything .... 98% of the time they are looking for CHEAP/FREE projects from hungry writers willing to do work. The other 2% of the time, maybe you get a couple thousand dollars for an option. But I think you are confusing what an OPTION is with what a PURCHASE is. Two very very different things!

Jacob Buterbaugh

Pamela - My thing with what you're saying is that I don't really think an unrepped/ unproduced writer really has a whole hell of a lot of negotiating power when it comes to options. Why would someone pay for an option when the writer is unproduced, when the writer hasn't made anyone any money, and when the writer probably doesn't have too many (if any) other opportunities?

I'm not trying to be an ass here. But if you go in with that attitude (and I'm talking strictly about the business/money issue), they might just say, "Okay. Good luck with that," and move on without you. I guess, I'm just saying that when you've just gotten your foot in the door, I don't want you to talk your way right back out of it.

And don't forget that Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Towne, Ron Howard, Curtis Hanson, and numerous others worked for Roger Corman. I imagine the money was pretty bad! lol

Chad Stroman

I'll just echo what I've heard many, many times from others. This isn't my suggestion (it's a conglomeration of the same thing being said from all kinds of professional writers, agents, managers and producers), but it's something I intend to follow. Keep in mind, I've never sent in a query yet or pitched. Here's why.

Only query with the BEST representation of you and your script. As spec writers you are pitching yourself along with your script. You roll the dice pitching a logline and synopsis of something that's not completed. You increase the risk to yourself. How? If someone requests your script and you don't have it written, you are either (as Danny Manus said above) not going to have something to send. That is a stain on your name. You're going to have to rush to get a rough draft written and most likely it'll take at least a few days. Most likely unless lightning strikes or an almighty being sends a servant to write it for you, it's not going to be the best representation of you or your potential. That would be a stain.

Also, when querying, don't have an empty stable. ie. Don't bet all your money on one horse. If it comes up lame and you need to put it down, you're out of the race. To me that means have 3 completed AND polished screenplays. In fact if you are querying and pushing your latest and greatest one. be also revisiting your #2 and #3 and make sure they are up to snuff and really good too. If a person likes you and your writing but the screenplay you pitched isn't for them or they aren't interested in that, you WANT to make the list with them of NOT being a one-hit wonder. They may ask to see other stuff you've written. If you have nothing, then you're missing another opportunity to build yourself up in their eyes and another opportunity to sell the best you. You may have pitched project #1 but they may end up being interested in project #2 or #3. At worst if they request and read 2 or 3 of your projects and they are good, but not what they want to make, there's still the possibility that they like your writing, think you are competent and will be more open to submission #4 when it comes along OR they may even keep you in mind if some writing assignment gig comes along (if you want to pursue that avenue). Like maybe someone mentions to him they have a rewrite job or a producer that wants to develop a certain idea or maybe even a TV writing spot that needs to be filled and they are looking for a writer who is competent in this genre or that, etc. Is there someone they could think of that might be a fit? Hopefully it can be you.

So why haven't I queried or pitched my screenplays yet? Because they are not the absolute best they can be yet.

Don't pitch completed scripts (that is my recommendation). Pitch polished scripts and have back up for your pitches/queries with 2 or 3 other polished scripts. But also don't pitch 30 scripts you say are polished because it's a bad answer to give when they ask "How many of them have you sold or optioned". Having 30 completed scripts and not a single option or sale could send up red flags. ie. How many scripts does it take for a writer to produce something worth picking up?

I will continue to use my network of people to rewrite, polish, etc. my work until it's the best version of itself that it can be. Then I will pitch and query.

Chad Stroman

Willem Lodewijk Elzenga I'll rephrase your question in a way that kind of answers it from the buyer's perspective. "Why would I be interested in buying something that the person who created it doesn't care enough about it to put the effort and time into making it the best it can possibly be? That expects me to pay them for their broken work and then I have to spend money fixing it after I buy it? Oh look, there's a multitude of other screenplays over there that ARE polished that I can buy. That one is ready for me to seek attachments, seek financing, etc."

It's like buying a custom car that was never completed. "This car will be AWESOME once someone else pays me for it and then puts in an engine, paints it, etc. and puts some decent wheels on it. It can be yours without all that for $99,999.95! Step right up!"

EDIT: If you are planning on producing and directing it yourself, do whatever the heck you want. If you want Hollywood to invest in you, give them every reason to do so, not reasons to dismiss you.

Chad Stroman

Willem Lodewijk Elzenga I don't think Hollywood is full of people who don't understand art, although there are some who I am sure do not. It is full of people who have high standards for spec writing and thus far, speaking for myself only, the bar is high for them to consider and is made more so every day because due to technology, there is no excuse except laziness and an entitlement mentality, to keep someone from being able to master the craft, at the very least the basics of formatting and language. The cream rises to the top and the rocks sink.

I wish you all the luck and success in the world Willem Lodewijk Elzenga in whatever approach you take to your film making. I hope you find others with funds who also accept that approach and can help you achieve it.

For myself, I will continue to operate on the assumption that people are looking for the best on a professional level and that will lead me to put the best representation of myself out there for evaluation, especially if I have an expectation of someone exchanging $$$ for my work. I'm going to earn it with every word.

Chad Stroman

Willem Lodewijk Elzenga I'll echo Pamela Bolinder on that as well. Congrats and keep us informed of how that develops for you.

I also liked your Roadkill short from 2003. I am wondering if you changed your name however as I couldn't find you listed on the IMDB (it could also be incomplete of course) as I'd be interested in seeing more of your other work as well. Always learning. EDIT: Nvm I found you under the producer credit. Got it!

IMDB Roadkill

Chad Stroman

Willem Lodewijk Elzenga I found your showreel as well with your research/inspiration, etc. Keep on livin' the dream Willem and much continued wishes for success!

Sounds like fun!

Promofilm Willem Lodewijk Elzenga

Dan MaxXx

More ridiculousness. Folks with real-life experiences (danny M , Willem) are telling your their paths and the folks without jobs or any experience seem to know how Hollywood works.

Chad Stroman

Dan MaxXx I'm not sure if you comment is directed at me, but in the off chance that it is, what I posted isn't me posting my thoughts. It's literally me just summarizing and posting what working agents and managers repping working paid hollywood screenwriters said. I'm just reiterating it.

Listen for yourself:

Chris Cook

Scott Carr

The Scott Carr one may be the most interesting one to you Dan MaxXx based on the previous thread regarding him and your high regard for his being associated with "Miss Sloane".

I'm just reiterating what they said. However it's possible they could be wrong.

Chad Stroman

Dan's pic is Michael Jordan crying.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Vf3zRLlUR8

Dan Guardino

Willem. A spec screenplay is a screenwriter's calling card so that is why a spec screenplay needs to be polished.

Chad Stroman

Here's another interview that might be wrong regarding what to pitch/query.

John Zaozirny

I recommend starting at 7:25 of his claimed do's/don't do's, being professional, treating it like a profession and the people as professionals.

Its' the same thing the previous 2 podcasts said as well. Again, I am assuming that what they say is true. It very well may be completely wrong.

Dan MaxXx

Pamela Bolinder Jordan ruined my childhood. He killed my Knicks every year.

Chad Stroman

Dan MaxXx He killed Pam's Jazz in the finals...twice as well. ;)

Chad Stroman

Pamela Bolinder I didn't. B-Ball is more a bandwagon sport for me as far as fandom. Not enough time.

Chad Stroman

Pamela Bolinder As I've said before, you might lose an eye. ;)

Doug Nelson

Pamela sortta like the Maggie's Wedding episode on NE. I think we got 2 or 3 episodes with Lars, the dancing bear.

Dan Guardino

Willem. You are talking about producing a film and I am talking about screenwriters using their spec screenplays to break into the business. Two different things. This is the screenwriters lounge not the producers lounge. If an aspiring screenwriter has no real good connections or track record they must use their spec screenplays to try and break into the business. Their screenplays should be written as well as humanly possible to even have any real chance. If they have to hire someone to polish it, then maybe they should consider do that. Personally, I do have an editor that goes over all my screenplays when I am done because I don’t want to waste my time editing and she does a better job than I can do.

Pidge Jobst

Hollywood is about brevity. In fact, if you write a lengthy, well-informed, and what you believe to be a communicative query email to someone in the Industry, and they respond with a simplistic and irritating "I Got it," not even addressing your question, they are higher on the food chain than you, because, of course, they are too busy to write anything additional. LOL Your pitch should be the same-- shorter the better. Grab them in 6-words or less and you might just be an expert on pitching and an authority on your story, a confident professional that made it beyond the lure of verboseness; plus, you just were considerate about their time & made them want to hear more. More importantly, HOW you begin an effective pitch severely matters and tells more about your pitching prowess than any other pitch ingredient-- 9 out of 10 pitchers (even veterans) begin with "ITS ABOUT...." It's a telltale sign of someone whose not been pitching long or a lot. It might better begin with Length and Genre, as in-- "IT'S A ONE HOUR DRAMA, set in the Florida Everglades...about...

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