Perfecting the Pitch

Pitching is hard.

It’s the moment when you have to step out of your creative self and sell your project. It’s one of the hardest parts of the writing process. It’s emotional and feels like it’s going against the grain of your hard work.

Like you, I am a screenwriter, with my own projects in various stages of development. I am also a writing coach and story consultant. I get it.

Recently I was tasked with the challenge of finding new material for development. An open pitch quickly yielded hundreds of stories. The sheer volume meant that sorting had to be quick and immediate. That process revealed key elements necessary for a pitch to be noticed. Perhaps some can help you.

1. You have ONE opportunity to make a first impression

Take the time to craft your pitch. A well-written pitch is more likely to be noticed than one that is thrown together. Keep it succinct, easy to read, and clear.

2. Loglines matter

A good logline captures the essence of the character, story, journey, obstacles and what makes it fresh. It is generally one, maybe two, sentences long and is a concise, memorable statement about your project so that rereading it serves as a reminder of your story. If your logline doesn’t capture the story, your script will be overlooked.

3. Include a short summary of your story

Tell a brief version of the story and provide a sense of tone, as well as visual and emotional experience. Compel me to want to read your script. Many summaries are muddy and overcomplicated. Too many ideas at once will remove you from consideration. Again, succinct is good.

4. Pitch to the call

Read through the call carefully and address what it is asking for. We were looking for female-driven stories (among other things), not stories with mostly men and one supporting female. If you compare yours to other successful shows and movies make it clear what makes yours different. Explain why it is timely. You are asking people to invest in your project, so be sure to explain why they should.

5. Pick your best project(s)

Resist the inclination to send a link to a website listing all of your work with a note that says, “Here! Take your pick!” If you send a strong pitch to begin with, you are more likely to get the question, “What else do you have?” and be able to pitch more. Sending long lists of irrelevant projects will make a reader glaze over and move on.

6. Don’t send your script until and unless asked for it

Most readers will not read your script without a signed release form that indemnifies him or her. It is your responsibility to obtain copyrights and to protect your story. It is also your responsibility to know that, at any point in time, there will be numerous stories written that closely resemble yours. If you are anxious about sharing your story, don’t. Also, please don’t email over and over to say that you are too nervous to share it.

7. Sign off with grace, send it, and have a cup of tea

As a reader, my preference is to send a quick note to each writer to thank him or her for sending something my way, but that doesn’t always happen. Most of the time, you will hear nothing back. It doesn’t mean that you are through as a writer, just that you need to have a cup of tea, keep writing and polishing your stories. Great writers mature with experience. And you never know when your story might pop up in someone’s mind.

After all… this is Hollywood!

A strong pitch might not be recognized right away for any number of reasons. Suddenly, years later, someone remembers having read a pitch way back when that gets dug up from the dungeons. People who have written for years, had projects optioned or been successful in the past are suddenly forgotten, until that one story becomes an overnight success.

When you pitch, you are sowing a seed for that future success. Until then, you get to live in the world of your story telling it the way that you want it to be told. Let that be a pretty great deal in itself.

Annika Hylmö