The guaranteed way to get your screenplay or novel read – Michael Hauge
In New Zealand we often think of creating a pitch if we’re meeting the New Zealand Film Commission or a funding body, but the fact is that we need to pitch all the time. To friends, colleagues, potential actors and crew members, and we never know who is going to be excited about our idea and want to get onboard and help out. So it’s really important to have your pitch down so you can pull it out when you need it. Selling your story in 60 seconds is really helpful in focusing your pitch on the elements that will sell your story, and though some of it is geared towards the Hollywood scene it can easily be adapted. I’ll run through a few of the points that I felt were particularly important. If they seem at all confusing here, they are, of course, fully explained in the book.
The 8 R’s of Pitching (specifically for a pitch meeting)
- Review your story to determine its most powerful elements.
- Write – script your pitch
- Rehearse (in front of people. I like the idea of pitching to strangers in coffee shops)
- Research – select specific buyers (or funders, or sponsors…)
- Rapport – establish a personal relationship as soon as you meet or contact the buyer
- Reveal the most emotionally involving information about yourself and your project
- Request – for them to read your script
- Respond – to their questions
An important step is to identify the 10 Key Components of your Story
1. Who is your HERO
2. Why will the audience EMPHATHIZE with them
- Are we Sympathetic for his cause?
- Is the hero in jeopardy? Likable? Funny? Powerful?
- Is the hero trying to win something? Stop something happening? Escape from something or retrieve something?
- You want the ‘buyer’ to think there’s no way this hero can possibly win
- What’s the hero’s inner journey?
- Are there Political or social issues
3. What’s the SETUP? What happens before the hero’s journey to set the scene?
4. What’s the OPPORTUNITY that arises/inciting event
5. What’s the hero’s OUTER MOTIVATION? The obvious reason he wants to achieve this goal.
6. What’s the CONFLICT (antagonist, reason he can’t achieve his goals…)
7. Hero’s CHARACTER ARC
8. What are the deeper issues? (eg. Hidden reasons he needs to achieve goals.)
9. What are the successful ANECEDENTS? Other films in this genre that have been successful.
10. And really importantly, why are you passionate about this story?
Designing your Pitch
Now work out which of the above elements are the most important in your story and design your pitch around them.
Always include Hero, Outer Motivation, Conflict and Passion.
You must make it clear what/who we are rooting for. You need a sense of who the protagonist is and what drives the story forward.
Since your primary goal is to elicit emotion, describing the major conflict – inner or outer – is critical.
Most desires are pretty familiar, love, stopping evil, getting rich.. but the obstacles are much more likely to be unique to your story.
One idea for beginning a pitch particularly appealed to me because it gets you talking about your passion for the project.
“I think the best way to tell you about my story is to tell you how I came up with this idea…”
Tell them what excited you enough to write it.
Another good tip to remember is what he refers to as the power of “What if…”
“It’s often been rumoured that The Graduate was based on a real famil in Pasadena. Well, what if a young woman discovered her mother and grandmother were the real life Elaine and Mrs. Robinson?”
Dropping in Antecedents
“Let me tell you how I came up with this idea. I’ve always been a huge fan of movies about that moment when a while passes into adolescence or adulthood – especially ‘odyssey’ stories like Stand By Me or adult/child relationship stories like About a Boy. Now when I was a kid, my father and I…”
The 60 second pitch
- Biggest mistake is to try to tell the whole story (you just want to catch their attention at this stage, and leave them wanting more)
- Remember the goal of every movie is to elicit emotion, so provide potential buyers with a positive emotional experience and convince them that the movie will create an even stronger emotional experience for the audience
- 60 second pitch is much like a commercial, it doesn’t try to show every scene or character or plot element, you just select elements that excite
I think one of the most important things during a pitch, especially for kiwis who sometimes hide their emotions, is to show how excited you are about it. Excitement is contagious and people will want to be part of your project more if they think you absolutely LOVE the idea and feel you’ll make it whether they are onboard or not.
The strength of your script is obviously important, but I think being able to sell it is equally so. This book will definitely help you out.