Several prominent script writers say that before even starting to write your script, you should create your log-line? What’s that? Just one or two sentences that describe your movie script. This is the first step in learning how to pitch a movie idea.
The initial query letter that a script writer normally send to an agent or film company is very short, normally just one page. It’s purpose is to hook the reader, whoever it is. It should be quite informal, but extremely well thought out, delivering all the important information about your screenplay.
Pitching A Movie Idea Is Just As Important As A Great Script!
The idea is explored further in the video below by Alan Ury, so I won’t duplicate it here, but I wanted to impress upon you that it is perhaps THE most important writing you will ever do! After all, if the reader doesn’t get past your pitch letter, the movie will not get made – period.
Professional screenplay writers say you should start with the log-line for your movie for a simple reason. It’s hard, very hard, to compress a 90 minute movie into a couple of lines.
It takes skill. It’s also said that, if you can’t do it, you don’t really know your movie well enough. Luckily, if you don’t want to do it, there are plenty of professionals out there who can craft you a stunning letter.
A great way to start is to head over to IMDb and do a little research. Choose any title you like or just browse, and read the movie descriptions. On-wards …
How To Pitch A Movie Idea – Advice From A Professional
Hi, I’m Alan Ury and I’m here to talk to you about the fine art and science of pitching a movie idea. Now what is a pitch? Well a pitch is a sales tool. It’s your verbal tool for convincing someone who’s in a position to move your project forward – agent, producer, studio executive – that this is the kind of project that they’re going to be interested.
In the pitch itself really is your movie and microcosm. What you are trying to do is to compress two hours into basically six minutes, but it’s going to keep the same proportions. It’s still going to be recognizable as the same script.
Now if you have written your script traditionally, you have a first act that’s about 25 to 30 pages that represents about 25% of your screenplay. You’ve got a long second act which is about 50 to 60 pages and 50% of your script. And a third act that is 25 to 30 pages, 25% of your script, so that makes a hundred percent.
Your pitch should do the same thing. Spend about 90 seconds on act one about three minutes on act 2. Act 2 being the place we all know where scripts go to die, and then another 90 seconds on Dec 30. You do not want to forget act 3.
Another way to look at the pitch is comparing it to the trailers that you see in movies. It’s the same thing. It’s a pitch. They are trying to pitch that movie to you in the audience, to get you to buy it. So what do they show you? They show you all the good stuff.
They show you all the action sequences. They show you all the conflict. They show you all of the spectacle. If it’s a comedy, they should they show you the big laughs. Sometimes you go out of a trailer and you say ‘can there be anything left in the movie. I think I’ve seen the whole thing.’
If they’ve done that in two and a half minutes, they’ve done a great job and you’ve got six minutes to do it. Put in all the good stuff because that’s what’s going to sell them. So when you are starting your pitch you’re going to sit down either in front of a live person or perhaps you’ll be videotaping your pitch. You want to look right into the camera, right into your eyes and you begin.
You begin with ‘hello, my name is and I have a … ‘. What is it? What is the genre of your film? Is it a romantic comedy? Is it a horror picture, thriller, science fiction, space opera? Whatever it is you want to tell them because you want to set expectations.
Nobody goes to a movie without knowing what kind of a movie it is and no studio executive is going to buy a picture without knowing the kind of movie it is either. Most producers in fact gravitate towards certain kinds of films.
If you’re going in to pitch Judd Apatow’s company, you’re going with a romantic comedy. They’ll probably listen to you because they produce romantic comedies. You go in with, you know Prometheus part two, and they’ll look at you blankly and thank you for coming and throw you out.
Because they don’t do big science fiction films. So state your genre. Set the expectations. Give your title. Hopefully, you have spent a lot of time thinking about the title. Titles are extremely important in movies.
Studios, they spend hundreds of thousands of that millions of dollars testing various titles because titles sell. Then the next thing you’re going to do is you’re going to say the logline. So I’ve got this picture this kind of picture. It’s name is … and it’s a story about …
Now a logline is basically one or two sentences. Some people say it is the TV Guide version. All you get is the little, the little descriptor. Now a good blog line is going to have three elements. The first element is a problem and a hero, and that problem is something that the hero cannot just walk away from without suffering severe consequences.
There have to be stakes. If they’re not stakes,s if there’s not something to win, if there’s not something to lose, then we don’t care.
Number two – you need a wild factor and that’s anything that is new unusual, unique to twist whatever it is that makes your script different from every other script that’s ever been made.
And every other script that’s going to be made and every other script that’s out there circulating in Hollywood right now. What is the ‘wow’ factor? Why do we go ‘wow I wish I thought of that‘. The third thing you need, and this is really, really important, you will find it in every successful movie out there from 1920 to today, and that is an element of irony.
There must be something inherent in the hero’s problem that is the antithesis of what that hero naturally stands for. Something that runs against some that runs against the grain that puts that person all automatically in the worst possible position.
For example if I’m in an auto accident, and I’m horribly disfigured, no one’s going to know the difference. That’s not much of a movie but if the world’s top fashion model is in a horrible auto accident, is permanently disfigured and now has to deal with living life, that’s interesting.
That’s ironic. If I get cancer, it’s terrible, that’s my problem. If the world’s top oncologist gets cancer, he’s a horrible patient, that’s a movie. It has to have irony. Now so what is the logline like? Well I’m going to use for an example the Avengers, which at the time of this recording has been out for a few weeks and has made something like a hundred trillion dollars worldwide.
So it’s going to be kind of a benchmark film that Hollywood is going to be trying to emulate for a long long time. So the logline for that is, it should be something like ‘a top-secret spy organization recruit six of the world’s greatest superheroes to fight an extra dimensional megalomaniac who has come to earth to enslave the entire planet. But before they can fight this extraterrestrial foe, they first have to learn to stop fighting each other’.
Simple right? Okay, so does it have those three elements? Does it have hero or heroes with a problem they can’t just walk away from? Yes, you’ve got six heroes and the problem is the extra-terrestrial megalomaniac who’s going to destroy the earth. So it’s not a problem they can just walk away from.
There are stakes; it’s the entire planet! Is there a ‘wow’ factor? Well yeah. I think you’ve got six superheroes. You’ve got a top-secret spy organization. You’ve got an extraterrestrial megalomaniac yet, so that’s pretty much a ‘wow’ factor, and then finally is there irony?
Yes, that’s in the last sentence ‘before they can fight the megalomaniac from outer space they have to learn to stop fighting each other’. They are their own worst enemies and that’s the irony of the story. If they all work together beautifully at the beginning, it would be over in half an hour.
All you’d have is Act three. The first two acts are about them not getting along and that’s the irony. So now you’re ready to tell your pitch. Now the important thing to remember when pitching is to tell your story, don’t explain your story. 90% of people who are doing this for the first time make the mistake of explaining step by step.
They why they wrote the story, what the meaning of the story is, what the theme of the story is, why the story is important and then they talk about the various characters. This character means this, this character means that, these are the relationships the character has.
That is not telling the story. Instead, think of your story like a fairy tale. A fairy tale you’re telling to a four-year-old child. How do you do that? Once upon a time in a far-off Kingdom, there existed a fairy princess who was trapped in a gigantic castle. Trapped there by an evil witch, Yatta Yatta Yatta Yatta, but you’re telling the story.
You’re setting a place and a time. Where does your story take place? What’s the first thing we see when the movie begins? Is it opening in Manhattan? Are you in a coffee shop in Rome? Are you in a spaceship, you know somewhere out in outer space?
When are you? Let us know. It’s very important have the character in motion already. The character should have a problem. The character is doing something. It could be something very minor, trying to get all of your kids to school on time, or it’s a guy getting ready for a big sales presentation.
Or it’s a guy training to meet the the greatest karate master of all time. Whatever – the character is trying to do something and the character already has a problem. That’s why we start to connect with that person. Then lead us to the beats of the first act, until you introduce the inciting incident.
Whatever it is that comes crashing down on the hero and changes that hero’s plans. Then the hero has to step back. As we evaluate the situation, start a whole new set of plans which then takes us into Act two. The problem has become much much larger.
How is the character feeling in these times? Is the character angry? Is the character frustrated? You know, is is a character in a murderous rage? What is going on in the character’s head. You just want to drop these in. You don’t want to dwell on it but weave that into the story.
Now act 2 as I said earlier is traditionally where screenplays go to die. What happens is, people have a great time setting out the act 1 but then they don’t follow through. They don’t know how to develop it, so try to think of it.
Your second act is actually two acts. The first quest and the second quest. Every movie you see usually follows the structure. So instead of 30 pages, 60 pages, 30 pages; it’s 30 pages ,30 pages, 30 pages and 30 pages. Everything is in quarters.
At the beginning of act 2 a new plan has been created due to the inciting incident and the change in that person’s life and now we follow that character as he or she is trying to reach that new goal. There is a series of setbacks. There are false starts. There are small triumphs.
There are great losses. You’ve got the antagonist at work. Never forget the antagonist. The villain is as important to the hero is any other character in the picture. And then by the midpoint of the story, page 60, the first quest is over. Either the hero has succeeded or the hero has failed.
If the hero has failed, the hero needs a whole new plan now because things are getting worse. If their hero has succeeded it doesn’t matter because they didn’t work. Anyway, he missed something. Something there. Is it the stakes have escalated far beyond what that person originally anticipated?
So now we have the second act. The second quest, and against the traditional structure is that here the character’s life completely falls apart. Until by the end of act 2 the character is in a position that is worse off than he or she was at the beginning of the story.
This is the the black moment. All is lost and then something happens. They learn something. Somebody steps forward. They get a new weapon. They get some new knowledge that allows them to strap on the gun belt and get ready to confront the bad guy, the antagonist in act.
Act 3 is what the movie is all about. This is what we’ve been building towards and it’s a big one. This is Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed battling it out. This is Luke and you know Luke Skywalker. It’s at the Death Star. This is sheriff Brody and the shark. This is the big battle and it goes on and it goes on.
There’s back and forth, up and down. It looks like the hero is down. The hero comes back. Something happens – ‘boom’ – it’s over. Either the hero survives, is triumphant or in some cases the hero loses, but hopefully there’s a moral victory, that at the end you say ‘okay’.
And how does the story end? What’s the last thing we see? It is their great last line. We’ve talked about those great last lines? Do you have one in your script? If you have one, that’s it, it’s over – curtain. Now a lot of people ask ‘should I give away the ending’?
There are some screenplay gurus who say ‘no’. You said this is the hook, to get the agent to read the script. I think it’s a really lousy idea. This is not a third grade book report you’re trying to picture, if you want to attend, you’ve got to read the book.
No, you want these people to make a hundred million dollar investment in your vision. You’ve got to give them every reason to say ‘yes’ and remove every possible reason for them to say ‘no’. Give them everything you’ve got and that includes the ending because that’s how the audience is going to remember your film.
You’re going to tell the greatest story out there and if the ending falls flat (and we’ve all seen those movies where the ending falls flat) it doesn’t matter how good everything else was. It stinks, so give them the end and give them a good ending. They will be very, very appreciative. They’ll be very, very happy. More info.