If you do a little research, practically everyone offering advice on creating successful movie pitches will have the same little collection of advice. Generally, the purpose of a movie pitch is to communicate clearly and effectively to your audience exactly what they’d be getting out of the film. This is done through simplifying the concept down to a sentence or two; something you can deliver in 30 seconds, a short and sweet summary right off the bat so they know the bones of your project. On top of this, the various sources I went to stressed that trying to deliver every small nuance of your project is only going to confuse your audience and muddle their idea of your vision; you need to leave those details for later discussion and just focus during the pitch on giving them a crystal clear image of what you’re trying to achieve. This can be achieved by nailing down exactly what genre your film is, and by offering comparisons to existing stories.
Script Magazine offered some more specific tips; their article on making a great pitch suggested opening the pitch with how you came up with the idea, and finishing it with the buyer in suspense, followed by a short summary and asking a question. They suggest that it’s vitally important to leave your audience wanting to know more about the story, most effectively by holding back the ending of the screenplay. Then summarising your story again will keep it fresh in their minds. Afterwards you can engage them in a discussion on whether they’re interested by ending with a question such as, ‘Do you have any questions about my script, or would you like a copy?” If they do want to know more, these questions can act as a natural opening for them to request more information and possibly get involved in your project further.
Observing the pitches of my classmates, I thought that the pitch of Emily Keating was the most successful by far. Not only did she have a fun concept, but she summed it up so succinctly right from the get-go. There were no doubts in any of our minds as to what her film would be like if we chose to make it. Particularly effective parts of her pitch included her ‘Tinder Profile’-style character bios; not only did presenting them this way gel with the millennial style of her film (Millennial humour, millennial characters, millennial audience), but the clear layout let everyone know who the characters were at a glance. It made them real, looking at these profiles constructed as if actual people had made them. It fit with the plot of her film too, as two of the characters were supposed to meet through Tinder as the inciting incident of the film.
Another successful choice by Emily was to include example movies (e.g. inspired by the humour of ‘Clue’) and let the class know how she came up with the idea (the thought of ‘ride-or-die’ female friendships, and if she’d help a friend hide a body. Apparently, yes). Overall her pitch reflected her film perfectly; it was succinct, fun and millennial, and on top of presenting her film well, her confidence and good humour during the pitch helped present herself as competent and funny. As the pitch was not only about choosing stories, but also about the directors and writers connected to them, this gave us even more faith in the potential success of her film.
After observing successful classmate pitches and researching pitching tips and tricks, I know where I went wrong with my pitch. My pitch was aesthetically pleasing and presented in a confident enough way, but I confused my audience with all the details. I didn’t start with a clear outline; instead I went into the complexities of the characters and the plot. The buyers would have had a clear image of the aesthetic style of my film and the main themes driving it, but they had no idea what was actually going on onscreen. When I present this story again, this is not a mistake I’ll make next time; next time, I’ll start with the bones of the project. I’ll start with a summary no more than a couple sentences long, then the inspiration, then go more into the meat of the film while still keeping it concise and simple enough that the audience can decide whether or not they want to know more. Overall this pitching experience in class has been a valuable learning experience, and I’m grateful to have these mistakes behind me in film school so I can avoid them in the future.
See the links below for professional filmmakers’ advice on successfully pitching your film: