The Art of the Pitch



A little background: Recently I took part on something called “The Hollywood Field Trip” which is run by Andrew Zinnes (20yr industry veteran) and Genevieve Jolliffe (director of Urban Ghost Story and author of various filmmaking books).

The purpose of the trip is to give people outside of the USA an insight into the Hollywood machine, how it works and to meet some of it’s denizens. You arrive in LA, do a day’s worth of refinement on your pitches and then it’s a whistle stop tour of some very major Hollywood players. These change from trip to trip but the one I went on … well let’s just say I met this guy.

All in all some pretty impressive stuff. Well worth the cash and they’re working on tie ins to other stuff for future field trips.

So where does the pitching come in?

Simple, you’ll be doing it at LEAST four times per day on this trip and from the name dropping I did earlier you’d better have it all together. Anyone remember the hash tag #AGYST? Well there will be plenty of #SGYST and #FGYST going on. You will be meeting some very experienced and knowledgable people and the last thing you want is to look like a complete amateur.  Gen and Z will readily tell you that these people are looking for confident prepared and decent people as they’re looking for people they can work with.

If you come off as a complete dick, well you’re just wasting everyone’s time. That’s the producers/agents/managers time. That’s everyone on the Field Trip’s time. Everyone. Cannot make this clear enough.

So you’d better be prepared right?

Ok so there are two pitches you’ll be giving and unfortunately you won’t know which one people will want until you get there. Ever heard of the “Elevator Pitch” or the “Logline Pitch”? Let me explain both.

1) The “Elevator Pitch”

Basic concept: You are in an elevator with someone who’s looking for a project. You start at the ground floor and you have until the elevator gets to the fifteenth floor to pitch the entire project.

In that time you have to do the following things:

a) Quick introduction to yourself. Name, occupation.
e.g. “Hi, i’m (your name) and i’m a (profession/professions)”.

b) State your intent.
e.g. “I’ve a (genre) feature/tv …”

c) Establish a commonality. This will continue from the previous section.
e.g “… which is like (name of film/tv show).”

d) Establish the protagonist. You will need to give good descriptive information. They’re looking for tone here.
e.g. “It’s about (name), who’s a (age range) (occupation) working in a (workplace)”.

e) Quickly explain the major points of your project’s three act structure.

I can’t help you with that, apart from to suggest that you use the terms “Act 1”, “Act 2” and so on to help describe the basic plot of the film. Give details but don’t go overboard: This is the point where you are trying to hook their attention. You want them coming back to you for more detail BUT don’t leave out so much detail they think nothing happens. It’s a balancing act, and a tricky one.

Let’s move onto …

2) The “Logline Pitch”

For those who don’t know what a logline is, it’s a 1-2 sentence summation of your project. I highly suggest you read this first.

A really good example from that page is this:
“A young man and woman from different social classes fall in love aboard an ill-fated voyage at sea”.

Recognise it? That’s James Cameron’s “Titanic”.

The daunting part about the logline pitch is there’s a belief that the shorter the pitch, the greater the potential profit the film will make. Whether that’s true or not is a different article. What it does mean is you have to condense that story of yours down AND make it snappy. Again the point here is to hook the person you’re pitching to in.

Frankly speaking it’s all really about salesmanship and that’s hardly surprising when you consider that the entire movie industry is based on sales and marketing. If you know someone in sales, you could try asking them. In my case, my business partner is a professional salesman.

Practice makes perfect. Cannot stress this enough. We all started on Day 1 as fairly nervous, slightly stuttery pitchers. By the last day we were all pretty confident of our pitches, they flowed, took less than five minutes and provoked good questions.

However NONE of this is going to help if you are NOT ready. You had better have your s**t together. I can’t stress that highly enough. You can polish your pitch as much as you like, but if what you’re pitching is s**t then there’s a phrase about polishing that springs to mind.

To be fair this also applies if you’re doing a self made indie project too.

Good luck out there!

Check out Richard Purves other Film Courage article here “Conventionally Funding the Unconventional” and “Your Film is Not That Special” here.



Richard Purves (@n0nsensefactory)

Richard was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the late 1970′s. He was first taken to see Disney’s Peter Pan at age four and was transfixed with the wonder of the big screen, so much so that went to the cinema as often as he could in his teenage years.

From there he had a brief career in I.T. and decided to do something more creatively fulfilling. As a result, he graduated from Newcastle College’s HND Media programme in 2002 and has been proud to be part of various short films in varying crew positions. These include Richard Reay’s “Roulette,“ Chris Jones’ “Gone Fishing,” and others. He recently made his Executive Producer debut on David Proud’s “The One That Got Away”, which is due for completion in July 2013.

In 2007 he felt ready to co-write and direct his debut short film “Mayfly“. He self funded the film through three years of working as a contract I.T. engineer. This paid off and the film had it’s World Premiere at the Burbank International Film Festival as well as win a Gold Award at the 2009 Houston WorldFest.