Pitching a film? Here’s how you prepare

For the past 2 days, I’ve been immersed in film and film culture by attending the St Petersburg Sunscreen Film Festival. At the festival, I took part in what’s called a “pitchfest”, or a way for people to pitch to a bunch of studios at once.

By “took part”, I mean, “sat back and watched others pitch.”

Yeah.

But given that this was an open pitchfest–that is, everyone got a chance to watch everyone else’s pitch for educational purposes–my sitting back yielded one great result: I got a chance to pay close attention to the questions asked. What follows are the questions you MUST have answers for before you consider pitching your project. They’re presented here in order of appearance, not importance. 

Questions asked during pitches

  1. What’s the title? Genre? Log line (2-5 short sentences.)  YOUR PITCH MUST BE SHORT. Elevator pitch. Think elevator ride from floor 1 to floor 2. (Examples: “If one family doesn’t kill them, the other one will.”–The Sopranos).
  2. Who is your audience?
  3. What’s the marketing angle/what kind of tie ins can we include with this? (Books, toys, etc.)
  4. Suggestion: Bring advertisement business cards for your project. Include a relevant, striking visual, as well as an elevator pitch at the back of the card.
  5. Who do you see as the leads, what actors? When you wrote it, who did you have in mind?
  6. For shows, how developed is the show? Have you developed a show bible yet?
  7. Remember the difference between a log line and a synopsis.
  8. If you have a concept you’re presenting, try this formula: [______] meets [________] which equals [__________]. (Example: The Little Mermaid meets King Midas meets/leads to Brave.
  9. Having a script fully done means you have a good package to deliver. THEY LIKE THIS. (With apologies to Steve Kaire.)
  10. Be really good about the explanation: what’s the hook? What’s the main question each character represents?
  11. DON’T CONFUSE THE LISTENER.
  12. Pique their imagination. Don’t tell them what they’ll read in the script. Give them the concepts and let their imaginations fly.
  13. PRACTICE. PRACTICE. PRACTICE. PRACTICE. PRACTICE. Get critical feedback. Give the pitch at least 500 times to yoursf and your friends before telling it to someone.
  14. Get ALL the questions anyone could possibly ask–even the crazy, stupid ones–and find an appropriate answer.
  15. If asked for a budget, you’ll be asked to justify it. Be ready to present this.
  16. Be sure to tell them what you’re looking for: “Here’s what I need.” Do you have a production crew and just need money? Are you looking to sell a high concept? Are you looking to sell a script or TV show? Are you looking for a production partner?
  17. Here’s the budget you quoted. How is it spent?
  18. Remember: if the story is good enoigh, you’ll get a great actor to do it for scale.
  19. Again, remember to tell them WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR.
  20. For TV: Where do you see this shown?

As I said, I wasn’t anywhere near ready for this. The most I could comfortably pitch would be a high concept, which I wasn’t about to do in a public forum. But next time this comes around, you can bet I’ll be ready–and that I’ll make a sale. Will you?

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