Sunday, June 10, 2012

The pitch by Azedin El Ouafi

About the example for pitches: the basic point is that you should tell your idea / story in half a page. Your story should be written in an understandable way. Also, there has to be a clear and simple storyline with an interesting character in it. It is always good to accompany your story with some pictures.

The first thing you must remember when writing your pitch is that it is a sales tool. The job of the pitch is to get someone else to request (and hopefully) read your script. This makes it very different from an advertising campaign for an existing movie. In other words, a pitch is not a tagline or a tease.

A pitch is a compressed retelling of the story of your script. The trick is in how you do the compressing so that the most enticing elements of your story are transmitted to the reader.

My favorite approach to this task is something I call the "Once upon a time" method. Here's how it works:

1) Imagine you had to recreate your script as a bedtime story. Start with "Once upon a time" and go from there. Don't worry about creating a beat-by-beat repeat of script. Focus on telling the story. This first draft will likely be a little long. Usually, my first draft of this exercise runs 1-3 pages. Keep in mind that you are writing a bedtime story so keeping it short and sweet is part of the goal.

2) Once I have my first draft I go back through it and see if there are any elements I could cut out completely without losing the central plot. Every good script has subplots and neat character bits but this is not what sells your script. It is a great central story that people want to read. The rest is gravy. Be brave and don't worry about leaving parts out - stick to the headlines and big ideas that make your script stand out in the crowd.

3) At this point I usually like to actually record myself reading my existing pitch aloud. Listening back to my own voice reading the pitch is incredibly telling. I can immediately pick out poor grammar, sloppy phrases and run-on thoughts. I can also easily begin playing with the words so that they scan more cleanly. There is nothing more upsetting than reading what could be a cool pitch only to find the writer struggles to convey the ideas in a strong and vibrant voice.

4) My next step is to rewrite based on what I have learned in step 3 then I repeat step 3 (and step 4) until I can listen back to my own pitch without cringing or spacing out or losing interest.

5) Whatever I have after this process is what I consider my first working draft of a pitch. Now, I take that pitch and I read it (or recite it from memory) to anyone who will listen. I'm not talking about industry professionals but friends and relatives. If they don't find my pitch intriguing there is no way that a professional reader is going to be impressed. Trust those close to you and ask them for feedback. These are your eventual audience should you script get made so it makes sense to hear what they have to say.

6) At this point, I should have something pretty darn close to my final summary. This should be a one-paragraph document and no longer. A short summary should be somewhere between 3-6 sentences, no more.

7) Now comes the logline. This is simply your short summary compressed one more time resulting in a single sentence that tells the reader the key elements of your story. This is NOT a tagline or a tease - it must convey real information
about your script and it must be specific. There is no value in a logline that could apply to a half-dozen movies. Again, this is a real editing process. Your first draft might be two or more sentences but you must cut it back to one.