Screenwriting : Stars in a pitch by Billy Dominick

Billy Dominick

Stars in a pitch

Do you mention who could portray your characters in a pitch session? If so, how do you go about it?

Cherie Grant


David Levy

No. But you can relate your character to another character or say something like "a Scarlett Johansen type"

Dawn Johnston

Sometimes they'll ask who you see as portraying the main characters, so you should have actors in mind, but I wouldn't offer that information unless asked.

Stacy Gentile

You are a writer not a casting director.

Erick Mertz

I've always been told, as well as seen it play out, that the best pitches are conversations. Once the producer/agent/manager starts asking questions, all bets are off, really. I wouldn't lead with that description of my character but if we're really into my guy, I don't mind saying that Paul Rudd should play him, for example.

Regina Lee

Like Joey said, it can be a very useful, effective shortcut to say, "he's a huge Teddy Bear, think Michael Clarke Duncan." Or, "she's a weapons expert, think a female Q from James Bond." Or, "think Ben Affleck in ARGO." It helps people "get" the character with economy of words. You're not giving a casting paradigm. That said, if you're pitching Drew Barrymore's production company for Drew to produce/direct/star, then you handle it differently. EDIT FOR CLARITY: Describing lead roles and secondary roles (i.e. for character actors) would be handled differently too.

Regina Lee

@Erick, in my experience, feature pitches can be somewhat more conversational, but TV pitches are pretty much all business and pretty rehearsed. That's based on experience pitching and/or selling to over a dozen different film/TV buyers from Fox to HBO. Sorry, don't mean to sound like a narcissist, just want to demonstrate that I'm speaking from experience in the pressure cooker. In fact, believe it or not, certain TV studios have handed out pitch instructions!

Billy Dominick

Thanks for everyone's comments. @Joey. I wonder what would the people do that mention Jennifer Lawrence & Ryan Gosling if an executive asked them why that person? I think anyone pitching should be prepared to discuss why a particular star would choose to participate in their movie. If asked about who would star in mine, I would mention Selena Gomez as one of the leads for a few reasons: (1) Talent in acting and dancing. (2) I believe the hardest dance in my movie is the tango which she already performed in "Another Cinderella Story" (3) Even though it's a love story there is plenty of action and this could be a vehicle for her to expand even further into the action market. She already did "The Getaway" with Ethan Hawke. One thing that the responses reminded me of is that I need to describe the characters better in my pitches. Here is where I'm at now in their descriptions. I was just calling them "a wealthy ballerina" and "igniting daughter" unfolds in Atlanta, GA and revolves around LAURA, a wealthy ballerina, and MARIA, the N.O.S. igniting daughter of poor immigrants. Laura, 18 and a conservative schoolgirl with eyes full of innocence and a mischievous smile seems to be the opposite of Maria, 18 with deep eyes hiding secrets with a broken core shielded by a hard but cheerful exterior draped in sweet and sexy attire. Does this sound visual enough?

Regina Lee

Pivoting off Joey's great advice: Yes, be sure there are enough buyers who would be open to a movie starring your prototype, in this case Selena Gomez. It's one thing to say "think John Doe" when economically describing a secondary character, and it's another thing entirely to say "think Selena Gomez" as a potential star (carrying the movie, the person on your movie poster, the person on your TV marketing and promotional campaign, etc.). Depending on the situation, you might be highlighting a short cast list or a potentially problematic cast list for the lead role. Thus far, for example, Selena is marketable for certain buyers, not a value-add at every buyer. She works in an ensemble, but can she carry a movie designed as a "star vehicle" for her? Which buyers have confidence in allowing her to carry a movie as its star? Rhetorical. Whereas, Jennifer Lawrence and Ryan Gosling are value-adds for every buyer, and therefore, like Joey said, overused as a pitch prototype. That said, if you have a script with a teenage cast, you may have to just embrace it, be sure your concept is marketable on its own merits, and hope there is a suitable buyer (e.g. as the next STEP UP?).

LindaAnn Loschiavo

Billy: I have interviewed ballet dancers for over 20 years and none of them are wealthy -- unless they snag a wealthy spouse (as Maria Tallchief did). Aside from that, Joey's advice is spot on.

Billy Dominick

@LindaAnn: She's a wealthy ballerina because she's also a mafia princess hence her family has money. How's this for a less wordy description: The story unfolds in Atlanta, GA and revolves around LAURA, a wealthy ballerina, and MARIA, a poor N.O.S. igniting racer. Laura, 18 and a conservative schoolgirl with innocent eyes and a mischievous smile seems to be the opposite of Maria, 18 with deep eyes and a hard exterior encased in sexiness. Also, would this work as fatherly descriptions since they are the ones that cause all of the trouble: Laura’s cold faced and regal father joins with Maria’s proud and energetic chef of a dad to rein in their daughters by enlisting a mafia enforcer an a stripper that was Maria’s best friend. @Regina: Bankable people: sometimes they are the most unlikely. I remember reading about Natalie Portman being part of the cast of "Your Highness" with most of the actors weren't sure how they could pull off such a blue comedy with such a classic actress but it happened. If asked, I would have mentioned Chloe Grace Moretz to play opposite of Selena since Chloe has already held her own as the lead in a movie "Carrie"

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

Last week, one of my colleagues made a pitch to Tyler Perry Studios. He specifically requested that I suggest talent for all the major parts. I normally don't do it but whatever the client wants. The Executive VP of TPS did request to read the script. So I guess it didn't hurt.

Billy Dominick

@Phillip. I have to agree with you completely it is all about what the client wants. I do have to concur with Joey that it is always good to have someone in mind if the executive asks.

Fleurette M Van Gulden

Can a pitch be presented other than the writer?

Regina Lee

@Fleurette, can you please be more specific? Are you asking whether a writer must be involved in a pitch when a financier acquires a new project? The word "pitch" has multiple usages. For example, as a producer, I might pitch my project idea to a lit agent in hopes he will let me pitch it to his writer client, so I can try to get that writer attached to the project. The most common usage of "pitch" might be a writer pitching to a financier for a writing assignment or to sell a new project to that financier. Another example is a storyboard artist pitching his storyboard to a director. What's the heart of your question?

Regina Lee

@Fleurette, here's an instance in which a group of producers pitched a series idea to Fox 21 tv studio and sold their idea to the studio. If you look, a couple sentences down, it says, "They are out to writers right now." That means the producers pitched their idea to the studio, and the studio bought it without a writer attached. Now they go find a writer together. Relatively speaking, this is rare, but it does happen. If you can please explain the heart of your question, I'll try to address it.

William Martell

I usually don't mention actors, because I want to focus on the characters themselves (and time is limited). If the exec on the other side of the desk asks, I may give them some actors who are the "type" (also to show that the character is not limited to one star who may be booked for the next five years, or some actor who can no longer open a movie).

Fleurette M Van Gulden

Regina your responses answered all and more. I couldn't pay for this. you're the Queen here as your name suitably implies. Thanks, Sincerly.

Regina Lee

@Fleurette, ha! I'm actually not great at answering message board questions, because I often have trouble figuring out what the heart of the question is. And then I spin out into 5 different directions trying to answer from multiple angles. I should rely on my gut and be much more focused in my replies.

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