So you wanna be a screenwriter?
If you have woken up one morning with the inspiration to write for film and television, and have decided to forego film school, you are in for an adventure and you must be fully committed to a journey of learning, practice, and falling down more times than you get up.
There is this myth that if you have a good idea, and nine times out of ten accompanied by the belief if it originality that Hollywood will come knocking at your door and hand you a big check you can retire with. Unfortunately, I must ground you to the reality of selling your idea to Hollywood. Much like a desire to be a doctor, or lawyer or free lancer, you must sell your experience first. Your talent and personality come after you have proven yourself to know how to write and have gotten the accolades for your writing and have built your client base.
As a screenwriter, you have to compete with the ideas of many talented writers and thousands of screenplays already from established professionals and pitching yours to a producer or studio can be intimidating. Even the most confident writers can trip up on their pitch and ultimately ruin their chances of seeing their idea on the silver screen. Assuming you have studied the craft (taken classes, read multiple successfully produced screenplays, gotten coverage, and feedback from the top script doctors in Hollywood etc) and have a professional screenplay in standard format ready to take out, so that you make the best impression possible, it’s important to follow these steps when pitching your next screenplay.
Come up with a fantastic intro
The first two minutes of the pitch should be exciting and grab the Producer’s attention right off the bat. The intro should be the strongest part of your entire speech, so don’t bog down the listener with a detailed synopsis of the story in its entirety. Think simplicity and just include the main points and let your ideas shine.
Just because you know the story well and just because you created it, doesn’t mean you’re necessarily ready to speak to someone about it who will be deciding whether or not it’s a sound investment. You may have a killer screenplay, but if you aren’t ready to sell it, you’re going to fall flat with the buyer. Preparing means working on the delivery of your pitch and being ready for a myriad of questions that are sure to follow. Do let us know immediately the name of the screenplay, the genre, your experience as a writer or story behind your writer’s journey, and why do you feel there is an audience for it.
Once you feel like you’ve prepared adequately for the actual delivery of the speech, it’s time to practice it to anyone who will listen. Remember the most you will get “in the room” or over a conference or skype call with an executive is ten to fifteen minutes. Make the time you are given count. It’s best to practice with people who you aren’t completely comfortable with, such as acquaintances or co-workers. Invite a few people over for dinner and test out your pitch with your visitors. They are the people who are buying the tickets to the movies and download the films online. Ask them to be brutally honest. If they seem bored and uninspired by your pitch, it’s time to rework the delivery.
Be Clear when answering questions
After you’ve pitched your idea, be ready for any questions the buyer has for you. Listen carefully to each question and be able to respond with crisp, concise answers that are a minute or less, if possible. Try not to stray off topic with your answers. Ask also for any advice or feedback, it will make the producer or Studio executive feel appreciated for the time he or she has given you.
Don’t give up
If your idea is shot down by the buyer, it could be that your pitch just needs some more work, or the buyer isn’t interested in that sort of project at the time of the pitch. If your idea is dismissed, ask for clarification as to why and so that you can improve it moving forward. Also, its time may not have come yet so it is wise to have at least a couple of other completed screenplays ready to go. Always remember that Studios rejected some of the most beloved movies, even with well-known actors or directors on the board, so adjust your pitch and try again!