The two-minute elevator pitch is an integral part of Hollywood folklore, and it goes like this: when you have a movie you need to get made, you must have a two minute pitch ready and you must be prepared to deliver it at the drop of a hat. Because, living in Hollywood, one day you might just find yourself in an elevator with an executive or a studio head who – because he’s in an elevator with you and can’t get out until it reaches his floor – is essentially trapped with you. Trapped in the elevator with you, the studio head will have no choice but to hear your pitch, love it, shake your hand, and make you the next big Hollywood filmmaker before you’ve even reached your intended floor.

As we are all storytellers, we can plainly see – this is a fable of sorts. Surely it happened to someone at some point in some iteration, but frankly, elevator rides do not take a full two minutes and even if they did, this scenario is far-fetched. However, the core of what’s being expressed within this elevator fable is very true and it’s essential for every writer and director to understand and put into practice.

When you are working on a project that you want to get made, you must be willing and able to talk about it in a way that is brief, interesting, and compelling. Two minutes may not be a time constraint placed upon you by the world’s slowest elevator, but it sure is existent in people’s attention spans!

Whether you are seeking independent financiers to come up with your budget, pitching at studios to get a big Hollywood budget, or pitching to professors to get approval to begin your thesis film, you must have a compelling pitch prepared.

A pitch is like an appetizer and is meant to create an appetite for your film within those you’ve pitched to. You want to spark interest and you want them to want more – enough so that they’ll help you make the film. Don’t go into every little detail.

A good portion of what makes a pitch compelling is the ease and enthusiasm of the person pitching. Excitement is contagious. If you feel good about what you’re saying, people’s attention will be sparked. Remember, you only have two minutes, so use it to really paint an emotional and visual picture of the palette of your film. Describe the world; create a character people can automatically care about. Talk about the film like you’re describing someone or somewhere you know well.

In formulating a pitch, you might consider the following outline:

– Introduce the time and place of the film. “Hollywood – 1950’s”. Describe the place a little, paint a real picture – what does it feel like, what does it smell like, what’s going on there?
– Introduce a character. Give us something really human about him or her – really make him or her feel real.
– Describe the character’s plight. What is he or she up against? What is his or her journey going to be in this film?
– Describe what your film is about. Remember, what your film is about is not necessarily an outline of what happens in your film. It’s a description of the themes and goals of your film – what you’ll teach or communicate to your audience.
– Close with a hook – something to keep your audience wondering what might happen and wishing for more. A pitch that ends on intrigue is a perfect pitch.

Be prepared to talk about your script or project with pride and enthusiasm to anyone who will listen. You never know where opportunities lie!

By Lauren S. McGrail

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