When it comes time to market and sell your screenplay, you will need to learn to pitch your screenplay — both on paper and out loud. Some writers would rather put a spoon in their eye than pitch, but nevertheless, at some point you will need to pitch. One of the most difficult parts for many screenwriters is knowing how to open the story.
Here are three possible ways to open your pitch for your screenplay:
1. Put them in the middle of the scene when you start your pitch.
Start out with, “So there you are …” and describe the situation your character is in. For example:
“So there you are. You’re living your dream. You always wanted to be a rock star, and now you are. You step out of your private jet and start walking down the steps to thousands of fans snapping your photo… but then you hear a shot and your bodyguard falls down, and everyone starts screaming and running. And you realize that…”
You finish that sentence and when you get to the end of that setup, then you can introduce your character and say something like: “…and this is the situation that Jimmy Dellasandro walks into as he…” Then you go into the rest of the pitch.
By placing your pitch audience in the middle of the story, it pulls them into the world of your story.
2. Open your pitch with the setting and create the mood.
“It’s 1942. WWII is well underway. Hundreds of Europeans fleeing from the Germans want to go to America. But to do so, they must go to Casablanca to get their exit visas. The hottest spot in all of Casablanca is Rick’s Cafe, operated by Rick Blaine, an American expatriate. Rick’s Cafe is a happening night club where people often cross paths with old friends who are coming and going…”
Here, we are drawn into the setting and that keeps us attentive.
3. Ask a provocative question.
“What would you do if someone who was extremely attractive offered you one million dollars for one night with your new spouse?”
This, of course, is the premise of the film “Indecent Proposal” with Demi Moore and Robert Redford. The question itself engages the mind and draws you in. Whether you are married or not, you are asking yourself what you would do!
The whole purpose of the pitch is to get the reader or the person to whom you’re pitching your screenplay to request a copy of your script and read it. It is crucial that you draw them in from the beginning, keep them interested, and tell only as little as you have to to get them salivating to read it!
Even if you are not finished with your script, you can start thinking about how you will pitch it. Oftentimes as you work on your pitch, it can also reveal things that are missing in the story.
Many times, when a screenwriter has sent me their synopsis, which I pull from to write the pitch in their query letter, I have noticed a hole in their story. Sometimes they just didn’t include it in the synopsis, but more often than not, it is actually a hole in the screenplay itself. Start working on your pitch early to help you get your story focused and to potentially expose any holes that still remain.
Once you finish your screenplay and have it polished, you can market your screenplay through query letter mailings to agents and producers. You can also attend pitchfests and go to events where you meet executives in person and get an opportunity to pitch. Either way, you will need to have a pitch for your screenplay, start with a great opening. Establishing your credibility is another important part of the pitch.
If your pitching skills or your pitch is not as strong as you think it should be, consider a pitch coaching session with Melody Jackson (see contact info tab above). The sooner you start practicing your pitch, the better.