Screenwriting : What Makes a Good Pitch? by Hank Biro

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Hank Biro

What Makes a Good Pitch?

Is it supposed to be one long synopsis revealing all major plot points? Or should explaining the character arcs be priority? Or should my personality be displayed throughout? Which is better? Written or spoken? I have in the past submitted a written pitch twice for the same script and it was one long synopsis (plus logline and format/genre/rating). Both times it scored an average of 3/5, and both readers passed on it.

Phillip 'Le Docteur de Script' Hardy

If you are more comfortable sharing your story on a verbal level, and present well, then doing a live pitch online or at an office meeting is probably your best bet.

Written pitches are good because they allow you to collect and organize your thoughts without a time constraint. In a written pitch, your logline and synopsis should typically not exceed two pages and should contain a succinct summary of the story identifying the main characters, obstacles, challenges, reversals, inciting incidents and always tell the reader how it ends. I also include a character arc paragraph at the end of my two-page pitch. Unless your doing something like the S32 live pitch, you may not have the option to get face time with the industry person and may only have the option of submitting a written pitch. For example, a person I'm working with usually takes my written pitches and sends his contacts an email with my logline and summary paragraph of my storyline.

As far as your personality? My advice is write a very tight journalistic synopsis of your story for a written pitch. But try to make the writing as colorful as possible with out overdoing it. In a live meeting, it pays to be a good listener and be flexible during the conversation. Just my 'umble opinion Mister Copperfield.

For more written pitch stuff, you can check out my S32 blog about submitting written pitches.

Stephen Floyd

The protagonist and their struggle should be the priority, and you should be able to sum them up in a compelling way in less than two minutes.

C. D-Broughton

I've written pitches and I've given them verbally - both as a writer and a producer - so I'll give you my humble opinion:

If you're producing the project, you need to be in the room! The internet is okay, but nothing beats being there in person, feeling each other out. You can get some banter going, do the ice-breaking thing of the weather or whatever and then get on with it. You have to know your project inside-out - have an answer for every question.

A written pitch is more to get someone to read a script or to get in a room/on Skype with you. Written pitches work but, if you're producing, their job is always to get to that face-to-face.

If you're a writer and all you want is for somebody to peruse your work, then a few lines detailing the genre, audience and format (i.e. TV series/feature), followed by logline and brief outline is enough - the reader should know inside of a couple of minutes what you're offering, so that he/she can gauge interest.

And, if you're only a writer, saying, "I don't know," when asked the project budget is totally acceptable, after all, that's not your job.

Dan MaxXx

you pitched to two companies/two readers. That's not enough intel. Pitch to hundreds.

Unknown writer Steven J Canals pitched "Pose" over 100x, before he connected with Ryan Murphy's company.

Dan Guardino

When I was trying to get my foot in the door I would call at least 10 producers a day five days a week. The more I did it the better I got.

Doug Nelson

A really strong pitch/script => a sale => a check.

Maxwell Highsmith

Kay Luke, I like that (sell your connection to the story, 1st and foremost). I love that! it takes all the nervousness out and tells your audience how deeply you're connected. The deeper the connection the easier is to write it. Am I in the house on that?

Craig D Griffiths

You have to love your script. If you don’t, they won’t. Humans can sense it, a billion years of evolution makes us great bull shit detectors.

You have to know it well. Explain it to everyone. You’ll get questions you never expected.

You have to practice it.

Starting an answer with aaaagh is bad.

Learn how to use “yes and”. The great improv tool. So when they ask a question or hint a direction you can go “yes and ....” steer them

Dayna Noffke

Dan Guardino The big question for me is less aimed to how to pitch than getting in the door! (Or on the phone!)

But I agree with everyone else that you have to love your script and be personally invested. That's what's gotten me into the doors that I have found my way to!

Max Adams

I think the term "pitch" needs more definition there. So does "submitted." See, in industry terms, usually a pitch is a verbal pitch -- it can be a studio pitch, or an "elevator" pitch, but it's a verbal delivery. And, in industry terms, "submitted" means you sent your script to a professional entity, usually, for professional consideration. Sometimes it also means "submitted" to a competition, basically sending written material in anywhere means "sent in for consideration." But I'm not clear on how "pitch" and "score" correlate there because, nobody scores pitches. Nobody holds up cards or anything. They hear it and say yes or no or maybe. So, maybe more strongly define what you mean by "pitch" there and why it's a written pitch (which can happen with pitch decks and such but still usually a producer or studio exec doesn't sent you back a score, hmm) and what the context is there.

Dan Guardino

Dayna. I understand. I haven't pitched in years so I guess I couldn't tell anyone how to pitch today.

Robert Russo

I had a Hollywood director tell me that you have 15 seconds to hook someone, then if they care to hear anything else, maybe another 60-90 seconds.

So he said start off with something like your log line and then a comp. So "story about xyz and its just like the matrix and edge of tomorrow" And if you see they are still interested then you go into a very character oriented synopsis of whats happening. No one cares too much about plot points, its character and emotion that's valuable.

Dan MaxXx

Max Adams Here on Stage 32 website and other pay to pitch websites, we get score cards on Skype meetings/written paper pitches. I think for legal purposes, the pitches are considered 'educational' and most of us here are unrepresented/new to the business.

William Martell

At the end of the day, what makes a good pitch is an amazing idea at the heart of your story. A week ago I was at a Holiday party talking to a fellow screenwriter who wrote a couple of Marvel movies about pitching, and I said that my best pitching experience was getting a deal after just saying the title. That title was the high concept in 2 words. They heard it, loved the idea, and we had a deal. So focus on what makes your script unique and universal. What makes it the one in a million. What makes it similar to a bunch of hit movies, yet different. Unless you are pitching on an OWA (assignment) (or you are a big gun) you are just trying to get them to read the script. The way to get them to read the script is with an amazing concept.

Dan MaxXx

Supposedly, this was the opening pitch to HBO Execs for a Pope series:

"It's about a Young Pope. He f—ks."

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