10 Tips For Pitching Screenplays

By Paul Bryan


I really enjoyed the Live Ammo session. It was my first time at such an event and I came away thinking, 'there's nothing scary here'.

I made some notes that were basically 10 short bullets of learning that I took from the night to guide me when I do a pitch.

This was my take on it...

1) Be Brief

If it takes 2 minutes to say - you are most probably waffling. The best pitches were about a minute long.

2) Stick to Concept

Many pitchers are so in love with their ideas they feel compelled to spell out unnecessary detail such as character names, ages, traits and interests. Pitches should be at the concept level only.

3) Make use of Pigeon-Holes

The panel wanted a fast orientation on the project so that they can pigeon-hole it into one of several business propositions they can understand - so don't start by revealing the story. Tell them ... it's a low budget comedy for the indie market targeting the kind of audience who liked film XXXX. Don't start with ...Jonny is a 28 year old loner who meets an emotionally damaged go-go dancer...

4) Keep it Original

Most ideas are highly derivative of existing work at the plot and character level and so require exceptional execution to find interest from the panel - which is almost impossible to convey in a pitch unless you have an existing reputation in the business. Focus on original situations/settings and the moral pulse of the underlining story.

5) Careful of Real Life

Some pitchers present fascinating biographical stories of their own lives and think that this is enough to carry a movie project. Usually it isn't because the themes are not universal enough to engage with a wider audience. Scripts covering this kind of material should be inspired by real life rather than slavishly determined by it. The pitch should focus on the bigger themes and aspirations that will appeal to the viewer.

6) Steer Clear of 'Youth Market'

A high proportion of pitches have 'youth market' qualities focusing on the supernatural, monsters, and serial killers. While there is clearly a market for such material and many films of this genre are made,  this heavy focus does open opportunities for those with more real-life stories to stick out from the crowd.

7) Simple Names

Projects with complicated names lose the panel before they have even begun.

8) Stick to a Realistic Budget

Pitches requiring a large number of locations or special effects limit the likelihood of acceptance because they are essentially big budget propositions. Pitch at a production level more in keeping with your level of project experience.

9) Pitch One Idea

Don't present more than one movie idea unless you are asked to. It shows that your ideas are under-developed and that you are not serious about them.

10) Be Memorable

Make yourself memorable but not a freak. Think about what you wear. Make yourself look memorable physically.  Speak boldly but not over-theatrically. It helps when the judges are seeing many pitches in a short space of time. And talk to the panelists, not the crowd. Make eye contact with those that seem interested.

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About The Author


Paul attended Live!Ammunition! in Feb 2010, and sent us his great pitching tips!

Until the recession got him, Paul Bryan was the EMEA Channel Marketing Manager for Avid, the professional video editing gurus. Following a bolt of lightning and with the clock ticking on his thirties, he is now using this window of opportunity to re-launch himself on the world as a fiction and screen writer.  Paul can be contacted here

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10 Tips For Pitching Screenplays