Pitch perfect: when you have only 20 seconds to sell your screenplay

Pitching is an art form. In short, it is selling a product or idea. It’s an important skill you will need to possess if you want to succeed in the screenwriting world.

You write screenplays and you have just finished your latest project. But what would you do if Zack Snyder were to walk into your office? The same goes if you were to present your screenplay to a producer. How do you describe your story?

Keep it short, stupid

Explaining your story in a concise and informative way is a crucial factor in selling it.

By this, we mean explaining the who, what, why and, crucially, the conflict or thing that stands in his or her way. And all this needs to be imparted in about 20 seconds.

Imagine you saw a film last night. If a colleague asks you about it the next day, you might say, for example: it’s about a man who comes back from the future to protect a woman. And he’s up against another man, disguised as robot, who has also come back in time to kill her. The woman’s unborn son is going to save the human race in a world ruled by machines.

Less is more

Imagine a great hamburger, the cheese and trimmings are a lovely accompaniment. But the main point (apologies to vegetarians in advance) is the beef. So stick to the essentials and never, ever try to tell the whole story.

Tease, don’t please

Twist and subplots can come later. Avoid hyperbole, vows to leave them laughing in the aisles or promises that your chef-d’oeuvre is going to change the world. It is always better to leave the punters wanting more. Teasing rather than pleasing should be your motto.

Stick to the formula

Who? This is your protagonist/s

Does what? What are they doing?

Why? This could be a hook

What’s the conflict? Is there an obstacle?


10-second rule

If the buyer comes back with a question give a short and punchy answer. All answers should be limited to 10 seconds.

Everton Gayle


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