How to pitch a movie – a lesson from school

It is the mid of 2nd semester, my 2nd year of Screenwriting BFA at York, and I just had my first movie pitch. The screenplay is often a mix of emotions, experiences, and layers for the characters and writer. It is easy to pitch a logline – what happens in the movie – it takes work to answer all the essential questions in 2 minutes. I worked on this pitch for some time; it was at least two to three weeks. The script I pitched I wrote in 1st semester and rewrote during the break. I wrote/rewrote it in Screenwriting fundamentals (FA/CMA 2121), an excellent class with prof Veninger, where we also learned how to pitch.

The process was quite interesting, and the pitch was the “last part.” Before that, we polished our loglines and put them online, and then we – screenwriting majors – got calls from 2nd-year production students who wanted to know more about scripts, and, eventually, direct our movies. Notice that they choose who to contact based on the logline only. In class, we were often told that people who read scripts use loglines to decide are they want to read at all. Needless to say, loglines are extremely important, and I will write about them more.

Layers, subplots, and deadly details

Like in the screenplays, there are many layers in pitches. We talked a lot about the circle of trust, as you give the script to someone who translates it to the big screen. And you don’t have control over it anymore. We discuss the importance of our story and why we want to tell it, the structures of the pitch, the pace, what to emphasize, and small important details.

Each of us pitched the film to the consortium of screenwriting professors (with many students in the audience; it was on Zoom). The process was exhausting as I am not a big fan of presentations; my idea of public speaking is don’t do it 🙂 However, pitches are a crucial part of screenwriting, so I do what I must. Interestingly, I did many pitches for different clients in my work for creative agencies, mainly on Zoom. The key is, I learned, to be prepared and know your topic. So, that is what I do, and that is what I did for this pitch. I practiced during walks to school and daycare, lane swims in YMCA, and subway rides. I learned my structure and main points and went from there. Before that, I had the first draft – got feedback from professor Veninger, and wrote the second draft. I also had two practice presentations in class, one on Zoom and the other in person. All of that helped me to be the best I could be on the day of the presentation.

The green-lit screenplays will be filmed until the end of the semester, but the crucial part here is our learnings. This exercise prepares us for the real world of pitching our movies.

One of the green-lit movies was mine.