Screenwriting

Takin’ It to the Streets: Pitch Your Movie Face to Face

Pitching your movie

Photo by: blhphotography

What if you could show your movie before you even made it? If you could describe what it was going to be to the people who might see it? Would it make you more nervous and tend to compromise, trimming off a snip here and snip there, until your movie offends no-one but pleases no-one either? Or would it make it leaner, fitter and more ready to face the world?

Pitching your movie before you start is a great way to find out if it really is ripe to start shooting or maybe needs more time to evolve.

This works for any kind of project, from abstract art-house movies, to documentaries, horror shorts or modern Westerns. The process is the same: you go out into a busy street or mall, stop people and pitch your movie to them. You ask for honest feedback. They give it, and it tends to be quality feedback. These people watch films, they know what they like and they’ll tell you honestly whether your movie has legs or not. They’ll say whether the story makes sense, what character works well and what part of the plot you could lose.

And you find that each time you pitch your movie it gets more tight and neat. After a few pitches your idea is as clear and simple as it is going to get, a process that can save hours of indecision during shooting and editing as you refine the idea more and more.

Pitch your movie:

  • Prepare a short pitch that is snappy enough to grab people as they get around shopping or on lunch. Smile, be upfront, no need to dress up – you’re a creative, so play to type. You’re not selling anything, you’re just an up-and-coming filmmaker who has an idea, and you’d like to know whether this person would watch it.
  • Ask a wide range of people – that’s crucial. All age, sizes and brands of possible audience members.
  • Take a notebook and act business-like – after all you don’t want people thinking you’re out to convert them to a cult.
  • Once you have their attention, spill your film’s contents for them in no more than 30 – 60 seconds. Watch their reaction.
  • Ask them what they think, does it make sense and would they watch it?
  • Write down their comments. If they are talkative, ask them more about themselves like what their favorite movie is, what they do for a living.

This brings you onto the second reason why pitching is useful – to meet your audience for the first time. You need to connect with your ideal viewer, your core audience, but also with the surprisingly varied people you didn’t know would also go for your movie. These people are the ones who propel it to big numbers in online hits. For example, your ‘mumblecore’ drama idea gets the thumbs up from the old store owner who says he loves James Stewart as well as the students in the park. Now you know who your audience is and you can carry on reaching these people as you shoot, edit and get the movie seen.

Excerpted from Stand Out Shorts by Russell Evans © 2010 Elsevier Publishing All Rights Reserved

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