An example of a film pitch

Keith Thomas
Nov 10, 2017 · 5 min read
Peyman Naderi

Here’s an example of a film pitch I wrote a few years ago. I deployed it “in the room” at several production companies and got decent responses — though no takers.

I post it here as a sample of what a “two-pager” pitch can look like. It should read as though it were being told aloud — conversational, hooky.

This is for a horror-thriller, the kind they don’t really make anymore. For the most part, the “mid-list” genre film market has dried up in Hollywood — genre (horror, sci fi, thriller) films costing between $20–60 million to make are simply unsaleable unless they’re tied to a successful existing IP (intellectual property like a book, graphic novel, or video game). Even then, the market has given the few that sneak through quite a rough time. Perhaps that will change but in the meantime…

If you’re going to be pitching film genre projects that are “original” (not adapted from existing IP) then aim low — under $5 million is best.


HELLION

Story: K. Thomas

Genre: Thriller/Horror/Romance

New York City. Friday night. The fifteenth floor of a Park Avenue West apartment occupied by a single tenant: The luxurious Mrs. Ava Pendleton, heir to a pharmaceutical fortune. The broad oak doors open to opulence. A butler appears, rigid. He bows, then invites inside a young woman. She’s a hipster with an asymmetrical haircut, a hand knit purse slung across her chest. On the purse: Agrinning skull and a cross.

This is Sabine von Manheim.

The butler leads Sabine down darkened hallways, lined by portraits and busts, to a mahogany door. Just beyond the door: The sound of wailing. Inhuman noises more guttural animal grunts that human speech. The butler steps back, afraid. Shaking. Sabine reaches into her bag and pulls out an ornate crucifix in which is embedded a glass vial filled with an amber liquid. Then she nods to the butler and opens the door and steps inside the room where we find –

— a scene of incredible horror! Ava Pendleton strapped to a bed, her hair a frenzy of writhing tendrils, her mouth a maw of razors. The old woman curses, spits, tears at the leather straps that bind her. Sabine calmly approaches the woman, begins to chant prayers.

Suddenly, the old woman breaks free, raking the walls with her talons, spitting flames! Her eyes spinning in her head, she jerks in stop motion, a marionette from Hell. Then, just before the monstrous hag dives, Sabine darts, fast as a fly, and brings the cross down on the old woman’s forehead — it blazes there, bright and blue like a distant star.

The possessed bitty collapses, her features no longer distorted. She is at peace, curled like an infant on the hardwood floor. Sabine collects her fee and leaves, stepping out into the night, lighting up a smoke, texting a friend, and walking down the street to catch a taxi.

Welcome to the world of Sabine von Manheim: 21st century girl and 12th generation freelance exorcist. In her father’s house in Rhinebeck is a library lined with portraits of the Manheim legacy: August von Manheim, 1893, championed as the King’s exorcist and swept Bavarian clean of demons and devil; Leopold von Manheim, 1934, sent by the Vatican into the depths of Papua New Guinea to exorcise possessed tribes; and Sabine’s father, the estimable Bernhard von Manheim, slayer of over 200 notable minor devils.

Outside of the exorcisms and family visits/training, Sabine leads a fairly average, urban life. She lives in a rent controlled West Village apartment, works at a knitting shop, and has a small circle of very close friends. There’s Tabitha, the recently married snark who works in finance; Rachel, the amateur designer unlucky in love; and Sonya, the shy, bookstore clerk.

Despite a healthy social involving the usual bar hopping, Vietnamese food, book readings, Italian flicks from the ’60s, and knitting, Sabine hasn’t been in love in years. While there is another exorcist named Gideon Livingston who is both strikingly handsome, very skilled in Nazarene “kung fu,” and head over heels for Sabine, she only has eyes for Amos Kutner.

Amos is mid-30s, tall, thin, sports a neatly trimmed beard, and wears chunky-frame glasses. Yeah, that guy. He lives in Brooklyn, works as a copy-editor, and slays shedim — demons. Amos is the Jewish equivalent of Sabine, traveling around the world to remove and destroy malevolent Jewish spirits and demons. He has battled Golems in Prague and witches in Buenos Aires. The descendant of a long line of warrior Rabbis, Amos is very serious about his work. Reflective and calm, it’s his near encyclopedic insight that Sabine is most fascinated by. Doesn’t hurt that he’s handsome to boot.

Problem is: they’ve really never shared more than a passing conversation. Amos keeps to his own world and when their paths do cross, he almost seems more interested in discussing the latest techniques in demon removal and devil extraction.

Sabine’s life changes dramatically when her father dies in an uncanny accident. At the funeral she is surprised to see people — in particular three women — that she has never met. She is even more surprised at their behavior: Talking to her father’s body, places amulets on his eyes, taking blood from his fingertips...

After the funeral Sabine is asked to meet with a representative from the Vatican who informs her that, shockingly, her father was involved in several nefarious schemes decades earlier — one involving the theft of a holy relic, the Sword of Bathsheba. It turns out that her father’s co-conspirators were double-crossed; Sabine’s father took the sword and hid it. And these people, still vengeful, still powerful, will stop at nothing to get it back.

Including diabolical murder.

They aren’t alone: the Vatican wants the Sword as well.

Sabine goes to Gideon for help but quickly learns he’s a double agent — working for her father’s killers under the guise of Vatican approval.

With no one to trust and her friends possessed or, worse, vanished, Sabine turns to Amos. Falling in love while racing to find the Sword and battling every demon and minor devil in Manhattan, Sabine and Amos find themselves trapped in an ancient metaphysical conspiracy and the only way to get out is literally though Hell.

My name is Keith Thomas. It’s one of many names I’ve used as a writer, screenwriter, and filmmaker. If you like what you’ve read here, I have a novel, The Clarity, coming out in Feb. 2018. If you visit my website — Night Platform — you can learn more about my work.

NIGHT PLATFORM

Forgotten stories, hidden ideas, and mysterious beginnings by Keith Thomas.

Keith Thomas

Written by

I am a novelist, filmmaker, and inveterate collector of all things brooding and mysterious.

NIGHT PLATFORM

Forgotten stories, hidden ideas, and mysterious beginnings by Keith Thomas.

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