If you want to pitch a movie, you need to know how to respect the other person’s time. Many newbie filmmakers think that if only they can get a movie executive or potential investor to listen to their idea fleshed out in its entirety, then said executive or investor will jump on board. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The 5-second pitch. Also known as the “elevator pitch.” This is all the time you have to pitch a movie. Unless you’ve been called into an executive’s office and he or she asks for details, then the hopes of seeing your movie on the big screen lives or dies in how well you handle those first ten seconds. Go over this allotted time even by a few seconds can make the person in charge tune out both you and your idea.
Comparing existing movies. One way to master the 5-second pitch is by comparing existing movies. This means that you take two movies that are very different from one another and pair them together in an attempt to describe what your movie is about. In this way, you’re telling the executive/investor that your movie will be fashioned in the mold of two movies that have been hits with the public, and yet can offer something new. For instance, if your movie is about a stoner who learns his father is a serial killer, you would phrase your pitch like this: “My movie, Family Dysfunction, is Dazed and Confused meets Halloween.” Two totally opposite films mesh to create a brand new one. Choose the right two movies and you’re guaranteed to get the other person’s attention.
The 10-second pitch. If you become a master on how to pitch a movie with the 5-second pitch, then the executive may ask for more details. You don’t have much time here, either, so you need to refine your story’s central idea into one sentence. There is no room for bargaining here; it’s either one brief sentence or risk losing your audience. For the above example, Intervention, you might say, “Family Dysfunction is about a drug-dealing stoner who finds evidence that his father is a notorious serial killer.” That’s it. Pitch a movie with a sentence comprised of more than 15 or so words and you stretch the attention span of your audience too thin, not to mention give yourself too much room to add unnecessary information. Movie execs want a clear, concise logline that gives them the gist of the movie in one breath, nothing more.
The 30-second pitch. If you pitch a movie first with the 5-second pitch followed by the 10-second pitch, and they ask you to tell them more, congratulations! You can now spill the beans on the rest of your movie. This isn’t a time to relax, however. You can’t just start talking extemporaneously and babble. Even your 30-second pitch must be as tightly controlled as the first two, otherwise you open the door to either boring or confusing your audience.
Focus on main sequences. There’s no better way to successfully pitch a movie at this stage than by focusing on the main sequences in your movie. This means outlining the conflict in your story, how that conflict escalates, and how it escalates further. That’s a maximum of four sentences, which makes one full paragraph. This is all you need and it is all movie execs want. Using Intervention again, you might say this: “Family Dysfunction features a drug dealer who must find a way to stop his father from killing innocent people. The conflict escalates when the father targets both the stoner’s mother and his love interest. The conflict escalates further when the father successfully frames his son for their murders.” This should be enough to pique the executive’s interest and get him or her asking questions.
Title. The title is significant because it will show you’ve put some thought into how your film will be marketed. The important thing to remember, however, is that studios are apt to change the title to whatever they see fit, so don’t stress about it more than necessary. Something catchy that tells the nature of the film will do.