Getting your movie idea made starts with one thing: a great pitch! Read this article to see how you can write a great pitch in 2021!
By Ryan Uytdewilligen
You have a great movie idea. Perhaps you’ve even written your first screenplay. Getting your movie idea on screen can be a beastly journey. Crafting a scripted masterwork is only half the battle. Winning over busy producers is a whole other ball game that requires persistence, focus, and a winning pitch package.
Your pitch is the key to success. Whether you have a golden movie idea in your head or a fully written script, presenting a pitch package to the people who can make that dream a reality is a must for aspiring filmmakers.
It’s arguably the hardest step, but there are smart ways to go about it.
01. HAVE A GREAT MOVIE IDEA
Everyone wants to know the most integral component to creating a compelling pitch. What’s the most important aspect that’ll get your idea off the slush pile and through the producer’s door?
According to producer, InFocus instructor, and Red Storm productions founder Erik Paulsson, it’s the script. With over twenty years experience, Paulsson explains that “if you have a great movie idea that’s well executed, someone will be interested.”
Perhaps the inaugural lesson here is make sure the script is in as good of shape as it can be before you send it out. Give it to fresh eyes that are willing it give you honest feedback. Share it with collaborators you trust and want to work with. Dot every I, cross every T, and of course, have a really awesome, original, totally brilliant idea. Easy, right?
02. ASSEMBLE A GREAT TEAM
The next component to getting your film made according to Paulsson is surrounding yourself with a great team of people. By attending festivals, workshops, film school classes, and getting on small film sets, you start to meet people who have visions and aspirations that will align with your own. In the independent film world, young aspiring filmmakers can start out with cheap shorts and build up experience. This all adds clout when you are presenting and idea to a producer.
If you are an active filmmaker, it can be easy to make these connections. As a writer, it’s up to you to get yourself out there, attend networking events and make the right connections.
“Having people who you trust and have built a working relationship with is important, because along with the content, you are selling a team of people to work on it as well.”
03. QUERY LETTERS
So what should you include in your pitch package? What do producers want to see that will get their attention?
Some filmmakers have sent their entire script in hopes of hooking readers and letting the work speak for itself. According to most producers, this is a big no no! No one has time to read your script unless they’re interested. No one has time to wade through lengthy messages trying to decree why they’re the specific person for this project. A simply stated query that covers the genre, tone, log line, and basic goal for the project is all you need to get a producers attention.
As the famous quote goes, “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink.” Either someone will connect with the idea or not.
Don’t forget to include a little about yourself too. Contact info is immensely important but so is a small showcasing of credits you’ve been a part of. With any luck, you’ll be invited into the office and requested to give a detailed pitch on who you are and what your project is all about.
04. PREP AND PRACTICE YOUR PITCH
So you’ve come up with a great movie idea, you may have written the script, you’ve built a team and that query letter landed you in a producer’s office. Great work!
Make sure to bring a One Sheet that plots out the specifics of your movie idea can help articulate what you may struggle to say. Include brief budgetary estimates (certainly not a full breakdown), and include the team assembled with brief bios and credits. This helps clarify all of the major questions the producer may have.
As far as your own voice goes, practice before you pitch! Say the plot out loud to yourself and other trusted people who are willing to listen. Come up with answers to questions that may be asked such as potential talent, shooting schedules, locations, and most importantly, why you want to make it.
Of course getting to this moment is no walk in the park. Paulsson suggests an eight hour work day to allow persistence. He says there will be “lots of road blocks. Not putting all of your eggs in one basket will help. Have other ideas ready to pitch or work on multiple projects at the same time. They all tend to move forward at different paces.”
05. START SMALL
We know, gigantic superhero sci-fi epics is a dream for many. However, starting with a small movie idea and taking baby steps will help ensure a smoother start.
Querying through IMDB or networking and film events are great places to get your foot in the door. Have a low budget, manageable idea in mind. Hone it until the originality and passion radiates off every page.
You may not know this, but many of today’s biggest filmmakers started with simple, low budget films. Oren Peli, the mastermind behind Paranormal Activity is a prime example. His script was so low budget, he shot the entire film at his house with a home video camera. Paranormal Activity ended up becoming one of the most successful franchises of all time.
Having patience is certainly an attribute that will help when pitching around ideas to producers. Confidence in yourself and your idea will instill interest in those who hold the key to your filmmaking future.