So you have written a movie, and it’s a great movie.
There are explosions, quipping dinosaurs, a teenage girl who is beautiful (but not offensively so), a chosen one, a meet cute in a cereal cafe, talking pugs, pirates and a finale so grand it doubles up as both a romantic chase sequence, where your hero has to stop that girl getting on the plane and leaving forever, and action chase sequence, where the hero has to stop that girl getting on the plane and leaving forever because she is also a bomb.
Now you have to convince someone with money to take two years or more out of their life to make it. You have to pitch it to the big boys. The producers. The directors. The financiers. The keepers of the pearly celluloid gates.
I know, I know, you’re a writer. You don’t like more than six people looking at you at once, and you live on a diet of single tears and Bergman. You consider yourself more Kauffman then Weinstein, and you only started writing in the first place so you could be paid to avoid people, other than the ones your stare at in coffee shops.
Well woman up, because pitching is the only way to convince someone with money and power to buy and make your movie. You could also go with blackmail, hypnotism or inception but that’s so much more effort.
But How do I Pitch?
Firstly, take down that tent. And put away that baseball.
Secondly, there are different kinds of pitches. You may get a meeting with a big shot and have the chance to explain your movie, but you may also be wandering down Rodeo Dreamway drive and see a Weinstein eating a fro-yo on a park bench. Opportunities are everywhere, especially if you live in LA, so you must always be prepared.
But lets firstly imagine you do have a meeting in place. How do you even begin?
Easy. With a picnic basket. Lay out your spread onto the executives table (do not speak until it has all be properly arranged, keep them guessing) and make sure you have a variety of meats, cheeses, vegetarian options and amphetamines on offer. This leaves the execs undistracted by their hungry tummies or their on/off drug addictions. Then, wordlessly walk around the room and offer everyone seven kisses on the cheek. Now they know how sophisticated you are.
Hollywood film people have very short attention spans, so a lengthy and boring pitch about character development, thematic resonance and subtext will leave them falling asleep in their cup of Joe. Go straight for the gullet and reveal your twist ending right from the top. Since all the best films either end with a kiss, a shootout, or an invasion of killer spider demon bees, make sure you’re film does too.
Don’t have a twist? No problem, offer them the opportunity to suggest one. Have the traditional three options on hand (she’s a man, he’s a ghost, the aliens are allergic to water and can’t open doors) and then throw in some wild cards. Everyone is a honey badger. Dogs can look up. Quinoa is actually gross.
Then go back to the start of the film. Most films traditionally start with “it was a dark and stormy night,” and since Hollywood people are very visual, it would be good to put on a performance of sorts, perhaps getting into costume to re-enact some of the key scenes of the film. Also, make sure to take regular breaks and ensure the Hollywood people’s sugar levels are kept up by offering them some of flapjack bites or amphetamine drugs from your picnic spread.
At the end try and round up with something confusing that sounds intelligent and universally appealing, like “but aren’t we all a little bit too warm?” before citing examples of films that did well at the box office and mashing them up with movies that less people saw, but which were “critical successes.” For example, “It’s like The Lego Movie meets Blue is the Warmest Colour. It’s like American Sniper meets The Grand Budapest Hotel. It’s like Boyhood meets Antichrist.”
By now, they will be salivating with joy and all the imagined money they will reap, so try and leave them on a cliffhanger. Launch yourself out of a nearby window and fly away on your jetpack.
If you don’t have a set meeting, then you have to find an opportunity outside a boardroom to let an exec know about your film. This is the aforementioned opportunity pitch. For the opportunity pitch it is best to prepare for all occasions/lengths of time/scenarios, but I have laid out a few possibilities below.
The Elevator Pitch.
This is the imaged pitch you would give to a famous exec if you happen to be sharing the same elevator. This is unlikely to happen unless you are a bellboy or hang out around elevators in Cannes, on a film lot, or at the Chateau Marmont. Make sure you do all these things, and regularly.
The Elevator Pitch, should traditionally last between 30 seconds and 2 minutes, as who knows what floor they are getting off at. Film execs are lazy, so it could be just a one floor job, but since they are also rich, they might be getting off at the penthouse. However, you want to be prepared for all scenarios.
As in your meeting pitch, make sure you have enough time to enact one key scene in your film, doing all the voices and using a bag of props to make them feel the emotional weight. Also, when enacting the key scene do not give any context. You don’t want to ruin the element of surprise. Simply hand them a bag of popcorn and ask them to watch.
You also need The Stuck in a Elevator Pitch – this should traditionally last between 30 minutes and 5 hours.
The Escalator Pitch – a 25 second pitch in case you happen to be stuck behind a film exec on the escalator. This should involve reach around props or puppets, as they are likely to be facing away from you. Put two puppets on a stick, and resting the stick on their shoulders, use the puppets to explain the concept of your film. The puppet should look like someone authoritative who they trust, so either go for Obama or Kermit the Frog.
The Alternate Escalator Pitch in case they are going one way and you are going another. This should last roughly 5 seconds, and can be happily re-purposed for the Passing them on the Street and Shouting at them from your Car Window pitch, or the Jumping out of Rhythm with them on a Bouncy castle and/or Trampoline pitch.
The Stuck in a Belly of a Whale pitch. Pesky whales are always turning up uninvited, especially at Cannes where they happen to eat boats full of celebrities. You need to prepare a pitch in case you and George Clooney are sharing the rib bone of a whale.
The Working at a Hollywood Function pitch. Film writers are traditionally poor to start, and often have to take demeaning jobs whilst waiting to hit the big time, like typing, cleaning toilets, doing the accounts for money laundering firms or being a doctor, therefore it’s always valuable to turn your poverty into opportunity and get a job within the catering industry. Make sure you are a fancy waiter at Hollywood parties, and sabotage all other waiters canapes to start, so Gwyneth and Downey Jnr are always flocking to you for nibbles.
Have your set of props and costumes nearby, and as the famous actor reaches for that canape drop the platter on the floor and begin your pitch. To ensure they don’t get away before the pitch is done, you may want to consider gluing yourself to the celebrity with pritt stick. Also, make sure you have your jet pack on hand in case it all goes wrong.
And there you have it. Your simple and easy guide to getting your film made. If you find these methods don’t work, then try getting your script to Samuel L Jackson, he mostly says yes to everything, or offering Quentin Tarantino an acting part in it.