The pitch – the first time you tell someone your idea; this is a verbal presentation, often made to a complete stranger or a panel of strangers.
Make your story appealing! – for example, detective stories the same old basic plots: murder, robbery, blackmail, assault… – the difference between them is only the character. This is what makes a detective film idea stand out.
The best short films can compete with Hollywood productions at any level, including script, budget, etc.
The pitch should engage, but not give the whole story. Classic: adding …. at the end.
Even if we have already written a complete screenplay, it is much better to stick to the pitch and only mention the screenplay if anyone is interested in the pitch at all. Otherwise – we might look desperate and/or out of touch.
Try to think about what your movie idea is about and then encompass the idea into only a few short statements.
The pitch should be no longer than a minute, even for a feature film. This should be a condensed, focused version of what the film really is about. After this, if interest shown, it can be elaborated for much longer (but in a dialogue with the producer). Pitching can save a lot of time – why elaborate and spend time on an idea no one would like – it could be better to focus on something that has more chances to be made.
A good idea is, if the producers are interested, to get them involved in a conversation, ask about comments and ideas and take notes. First, they could have good ideas that could help improve the script. Second, even if we don’t decide to use any of these ideas, that the producers have got the impression they are involved, which helps us sell the story and convince them.
When pitching: we should not insist too much and strive for the producers’ attention – they know what’s currently in production and what they want.
On theft of ideas: even if you find out your idea was used without your conscent, you can’t sue the producers – they may have a similar script in production, or claim this is the case.
If you are comissioned to write a film (you sign a contract) – do the best you can – most of the times, it says so in the contract as well; you don’t get paid for rewriting the script.
We were presented two short clips – a producer and a writer talking about pitching.
The Writer’s perspective:
– ‘You are performing the whole movie’
– your initial vision will be changed; but in the beginning you feel satisfied because it’s your movie.
The Producer’s perspective:
The ability to pitch has to do with making your dream their (the producers’) dream;
1. Keep it short and sweet. – they don’t have a whole day;
* the elevator pitch – if you can’t do it, you don’t know your project well enough.
2. Focus on the story.
3. Do your homework – research who you are pitching to; don’t pitch a family film to a horror film producer.
4. Belief, passion; be authentic.
We then watched a short film called ‘Pilgrim’. Its pitch was:
A stranger in an unknown land braves many dangers as he strives to fulfill his function.
The actual film was about a fridge in the desert, desparate for electricity. It was an animated film, with no dialogue. As we could see, even though the pitch doesn’t suggest what the film is actually about, it was based on this pitch.
Another pitch we were shown was one of Clifton Stewart’s film ‘The Mild Buch’:
Three men, unknown to each other, try to rob the same bank at the same time.
The film was actually made based on this pitch and was screened in various media and festivals. Clifton Stewart was pitching for a board he wasn’t in good relationship with; but still, they asked him ‘What have you been up to?’, he pitched his idea and later it was made.
About writing: In contrast to the USA, where a lot of writing happens in teams, here in the UK writing is predominantly ‘a solitary activity’. In the USA, often the team that has written the story is credited as ‘executive producers’.
The pitch / the tagline:
The pitch sells the initial idea to the producers.
The tagline sells the film to the audience.
There are around 50 000 scripts being written every year in the US and around 12 000 in the UK. From these, only 100-200 films are actually made in the UK.
A bit about scriptwriting:
1 page of script is usually equal to 1 minute on screen => for our 2-3 minute short films, we need to have 2-3 pages of script; for a 90 minute feature, people need 90 pages of scriptwriting.
On film ideas:
Having no dialogue can be good; no characters – why not?