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5 Key Elements of a Successful Screenplay Pitch

When selling a screenplay, the pitch is arguably the most vital part of the process. A well-crafted pitch can benefit in-person meetings, festivals, zoom calls, and more. However, when and if to present your written pitch ultimately lies with you and your intention.


In this article, we’ll discuss the critical elements of a screenplay pitch, including a logline, concept, references, setting, characters, and tone. We’ll also discuss what a screenplay pitch is. By the end, you’ll know how to nail your pitch and increase your chances of getting a deal done (post strike, of course).

Photo credit: Pulse College


What is a Screenplay Pitch?


A movie pitch is a concise synopsis encompassing various elements of a potential movie, such as its plot, setting, characters, and themes. Screenwriters utilize movie pitches to pitch their ideas in the hopes of turning them into films. It’s essential to refine and practice both types of movie pitches, which are listed below.


Elevator Pitch


Crafting an elevator pitch requires condensing your main idea into a brief presentation that can be delivered in the time it takes for a typical elevator ride. Ideally, this should be between 20 to 30 seconds. The perfect elevator pitch should contain a hook, an extended logline, comparisons to other films, and a strong conclusion that leaves your audience craving more.


Standard Pitch


When it comes to a standard pitch, it typically lasts between 20 to 30 minutes, and it involves the use of pitch decks or other visual aids alongside an extended version of the elevator movie pitch. Standard pitches are lengthier and usually have a higher chance of getting a deal done.


5 Key Elements to Consider - What to Know


1. Logline


Your logline is your one-sentence elevator pitch, serving as the catapult for your TV or film concept. It encompasses your story's core conflict, plot, and emotional core, drawing your audience in and leaving them eager to experience the narrative. Crafting a compelling logline is essential, as it can make your pitch so compelling that you may leave the meeting with an offer.


2. Concept and References


Comparing iconic movies or TV shows can effectively communicate your idea, as it concisely provides clarity. By making references, you can help your audience better understand your story and its potential appeal, even quickly. Try to think of some movies or television shows similar to yours. A good way is to say something to the effect of “a cross between this and this.”


3. Setting


Specify the setting of your story, whether it takes place in the 1950s, the Vietnam War, a school in the 1990s, the revolutionary war, or a fantastical animated world from your head. Make deliberate and significant choices when selecting your story's setting to ensure maximum dramatic impact.


4. Characters


The key to driving your story forward lies in your cast of characters. Each character's choices and actions are irreversibly propelled by their motivations. While it's essential to provide vital statistics such as age, gender, and financial situation, the defining traits of your characters should be their fatal flaws, addictions, and aspirations.


Focus on crafting a single, concise paragraph to vividly portray the critical characteristics of your main characters, those who drive the story. Crafting a polished character description is a challenging process that may take multiple drafts to perfect, so be patient and persistent.


5. Tone


Is your film a comedy, horror, or drama? What is it? Outline the tone to the best of your ability. To identify valuable comparisons, delve into the narrative beneath the surface of your story. Ensure that at least one of your comparisons is aligned with your film's underlying themes and tone.


What Makes a Good Pitch?


When considering your film idea, it's essential to determine whether it’s a low or high concept. Low-concept films, emphasizing nuanced components such as character development, dialogue, or style, can be challenging to pitch.


Conversely, high-concept films are simpler to pitch since they feature efficiently communicable premises. To create a compelling pitch, it's crucial to highlight the specific conceptual elements of your film idea.


Your pitch should provide a concise overview of your film's premise, genre, and comparisons without focusing on your background as the writer. Avoid excessive use of elaborate language and present the film concept using key elements such as the story, conflicts, and characters.


Furthermore, rather than detailing plot points, summarize the narrative's central ideas, stakes, and themes. Keep it simple so you don’t confuse the executive, manager, agent, or studio you’re pitching to.


Lastly, as discussed, screenwriters who hope to transform their written ideas into films pitch their screenplays to movie producers. However, securing an agent is essential for reaching the pitching stage, as few studios and producers accept unsolicited submissions. Therefore, seeking representation is essential to increase the likelihood of your pitch being heard.

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