The 5 Fundamentals to Master Before Writing & Pitching Your Movie or TV Script
Thanks to streaming studios like Netflix, indie filmmakers and screenwriters have broad opportunities as the demand for dramatic TV series & Movies has never been bigger. If you’re writing a script or plotting production while investing time, heartache, and headaches- These five fundamentals are the roots required for any TV or movie pitch to be successful.
By Scott Manville
Producer | Founder, IndiePitch.tv
|“The volume, quality, and global reach of drama series today is unequaled in history. The biggest talents are being attracted to TV and that is driving the quality.”|
Now is an era of opportunity in television if you’re a screenwriter or filmmaker pitching to find a home for your binge-worthy series or indie film. Studios and Networks are no longer the gatekeepers, and that falls right in line with the the spirit of IndiePitch.tv and the reason we created our platform for pitching and scouting.
When production companies can set up deals with streaming outlets like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Studios or any of the premium cable networks- the opportunity for producers, filmmakers and screenwriters to see their work actually get made and released is now a reality.
At IndiePitch.tv we’ve seen a consistent increase in volume of TV scripts, movie ideas, and films being pitched and scouted by our producers, largely because production companies today no longer face the past challenges of pursuing a theatrical release to generate money, but even more so because of the huge appetite for dramatic entertainment. It’s a storyteller’s market.
Endeavor Agency’s Lorenzo De Maio was at Cannes for Canneseries and trumpeted our state of programming, saying, “The volume, quality, and global reach of drama is unequaled in history. The biggest talents are being attracted to TV and that is driving the quality”. Film and “TV” are becoming one and the same.”
In the end, outside of financial flow and structure, movies are just moving pictures on any size rectangular screen for viewing…not to mention- Netflix has a much broader audience reach, while allowing for a more diverse spectrum of stories being acquired from filmmakers and screenwriters.
But first, to get there, your movie pitch must meet a litmus test for key elements that all successful projects have.
When Pitching a Script or Film, Master These 5 Fundamentals:
1. Title and Logline are Critical:
|“While being in love with a personal project can deliver inspiration, remember that love is blind, and it doesn’t necessarily close deals.”|
Producers and executives are selling to the public a story. Audiences are only interested in dedicating time to watching a movie if they’re interested in the basic idea of the story.
Titles: A title should hit at the heart of the story and theme, and not be so ambiguous that it doesn’t give us a powerful hint at what the film or series is about. Often the title speaks to the main character’s plight.
Loglines: They aren’t taglines. They aren’t teases. They’re the two sentence summary that tells the very specific and unique premise and plight of the story and main character. While that paints the picture of what the story is, the writing style of a logline needs to be clever and roll off the tongue easily. There’s a cadence when reading, and often words and phrases chosen can be cumbersoem. Think, clear, clever, and quick.
An extremely talented screenwriter may be able to write a screenplay that wins writing contests, but it doesn’t mean that the idea and story for that screenplay is right for broad distribution, or worthy of investment as a piece of business. Check out our article on Creating Loglines for deeper understanding of this vital craft. The logline and idea hold the heart of any potential for your project.
It takes a lot of ideas pitched and scouted to find those screenplays that go the distance through development, sale, production, marketing, distribution and ultimate business success. While being in love with a personal project can deliver inspiration, remember that love is blind, and it doesn’t necessarily close deals. Start with discovering or developing core concepts and stories that tap into subjects the general public hasn’t seen yet, and would be compelled to see by hearing the title and logline.
2. The Success of Your 120 Page Screenplay is Dependent On 1 Page:
|“…they’ll continue reading further into the script, and they will have a mindset for solution instead of dismissal…”|
Producers don’t read a hundred and twenty pages to find out if they like a project. They know by reading your Logline, and one page of your treatment. While a film treatment may be 10 or 20 pages, if the story can’t be outlined in one page of broad, compelling story beats, then it would be hard to market as a film. People want to know what the product is quickly, especially for television.
Another great reason to have a tight pitch written that works, is because when a Producer reading the short pitch is captivated by it, they’ll want the screenplay to work- they’ll continue reading further into the script, and they will have a mindset for solution instead of dismissal. Storytelling is an art form, but to do business, the story will only sell if it captures the minds and hearts of readers quickly. Read our popular article “How To Pitch Scripted TV Shows & Pilot Scripts” for a deeper look at creating and writing pitch treatments for a dramatic series.
3. The Clever and Compelling Concept Needs Complicated Characters! (say that five times fast):
|“Find the flaw in the hero. It’s their personal flaw that causes them to stumble on way to redemption or conquering their plight.”|
In life, nothing is absolute, and if it is, it’s boring to watch. Audiencesiwant to witness the complicated struggle humans have within themselves and with the world they’re in. Find the flaw in the hero. It’s their personal flaw that causes them to stumble on way to redemption or conquering their plight.
In contrast, find some element of direct or indirection redemption in your antagonist. Even if on a surface level, it can serve as a device that is very human in the way a sociopath must be likable to take advantage of his prey.
Most importantly, exploit the conflict in relationships. Oil and vinegar may repel one another simply because of their individual components, but when tossed together they make quite a tasty pairing. In the same way, you want characters that are forced to rely on one another because of the circumstances that bind them together.
4. Be Authentic & Specific:
|“Take us into worlds we’ve never imagined, or worlds we thought we knew. Surprise us. Surprise yourself!”|
One of the greatest things about selling TV series or movie ideas and films in today’s streaming studio universe is that they are not beholden to advertisers. It is literally “a la carte programming” for any subject for anyone. Those outlets need projects delivered by our production companies, fueling the expanded activity we’re seeing at the TVWritersVault.com, ultimately delivering new programs to niche audiences on a broad scale. It’s your opportunity to stamp your own passport and sell a pitch or screenplay that is 100% authentic. Just like a professional will stand out in their industry by “specializing” in a niche product, your subject and story being pitched should commit 100% to it’s own voice. Take us into worlds we’ve never imagined, or worlds we thought we knew. Surprise us. Surprise yourself!
5. Think Like A Producer:
|“Your script deserves a great representative, and it’s not a literary agent. It’s you!”|
Just like the best producers have a keen creative sense, often creating winning wrinkles in a story, or tweaking a concept in a way that unleashes its entertainment value, a successful screenwriter or filmmaker must have a keen business sense. It’s not enough to be a wordsmith. Focus on stories and concepts that have relevance to our current social conscience. Identify its packaging potential by suggesting creative casting (casting an up-and-coming star, or casting against type). Only invest time in a project that is easily digestible for the executive listening when you’re pitching.
Your script deserves a great representative, and it’s not a literary agent. It’s you! When you think like a producer and piece together the elements that will capture the attention of executives who first read or hear the pitch, then the script and film will be able to live out it’s life potential.
So you can see, again, this goes right back to the core idea of your script’s story. This is why producers work on many projects to find one that goes the distance. You must find the balance between being an artist obsessed with your own passion project, and a businessman who must make a sale. And finding success with a sale brings you more future opportunity as your network expands.