Art of the Pitch: Why It's Such An Important Tool for Filmmakers

Time and time again I meet writers and filmmakers who tell me they have a new project. When I ask them to tell me about their project I get mood and atmosphere. I get sputtering and hesitation. Before you know it I’ve lost interest. They don’t understand the art of the pitch.

The reality is this: Movies start with a verbal pitch. Here’s what happens to me. When I get a new idea for a story, or blog post, or an event at Raindance – I pitch it to my team. When I can’t get the words out right they lose interest. And then I get frustrated because they didn’t get it.

Has this happened to you? Why don’t people listen to a pitch? It’s never because the idea is bad. It’s always because the way you pitch it is wrong.

The first step in understanding the Art of the Pitch is to learn about the different types of pitches.

1. The Elevator Pitch

Often you will have an impromptu meeting and will need to quickly, in a sentence or two explain who the main characters are, and what it is they want and how they achieve or fail to achieve their goals.

Masters of the art of the pitch understand that their brief moment needs to be structured like this:

it’s the story about or its a comedy-horror about…

  • and then describe the main character. don’t say the characters name, because we won’t know who ‘Keith’ is. But we can visualise ‘ a story about a singing bus conductor’ for example


  • the next trick is to describe what the main character wants and to make it specific. To describe a story where the main character wants to sell their screenplay is too general. We all want to sell our screenplay. rather define the main goal of the character so the outcome can be measured. with s/he achieves or fails to achieve their goal. Possibly: This is the story about a singing bus conductor who must sell his screenplay by noon tomorrow or else dire consequences will befall them. Now we can measure a point in time when the main character achieves or fails.

But, or circumstances arise,

  • There will be many reasons why your main character fails to achieve their goal. just pick the main one

Give us the outcome

  • Don’t be loose on this. Tell us. Remember this pitch isn’t going on the front of the national news, it’s only going to someone in the industry who can make your film or publish your book. Tell us the ending.

It’s basically the elevator Pitch expanded to 2 minutes that contestants in our Live!Ammunition! Pitching competition  use when pitching to financiers, producers and distributors.

2. The expanded pitch

Professionals who have perfected the art of the pitch will be able to summarise their story (as above) Then they’ll be able to go into a much more detailed verbal outline of their story. Often you will be interrupted and asked for details. This pitch could go on for ten or twenty minutes. You’ll need to be very comfortable with your story too. Avoid reading from notes. It will make it seem that you don’t really know your story.

3. The Treatment

Treatments are sometimes asked for. A treatment is a written summary of your story written as prose. Treatments I’ve seen vary from ten to fifty pages, depending on the project.

Fade Out

Years ago I met a filmmaker who had totally mastered the art of the pitch. As a filmmaker, he made short films that were seen millions of times. Later on, as an acquisition executive, he listened to thousands of pitches. Later in life, he turned to publishing and created the world’s finest collection of filmmaking books – several hundred in total.

No one I know has listened to more pitches, nor offers better advice than Michael Wiese. He has developed a knack for working with screenwriters and filmmakers to find their story. And it’s a strange thing I have noticed. When a writer or filmmaker perfects their pitch it helps them with their stories.

Michael makes rare appearances at Raindance. we call it Pitch Clinic. Miss it at your peril, for at Pitch clinic you will certainly perfect the Art of the Pitch.



Photo Credit David Martinez / BIFA 2018

Few people know more filmmakers and screenwriters than Elliot Grove. Elliot is the founder of Raindance Film Festival (1993) and the British Independent Film Awards (1998). He has produced over 700 hundred short films and five feature films: the multi-award-winning The Living and the Dead (2006), Deadly Virtues (2013), AMBER (2017), Love is Thicker Than Water (2018) and the SWSX Grand Jury Prize winner Alice (2019). He teaches screenwriting and producing in the UK, Europe, Asia and America.

Raindance BREXiT trailer 2019

Elliot has written three books which have become industry standards: Raindance Writers’ Lab: Write + Sell the Hot Screenplay, now in its second edition, Raindance Producers’ Lab: Lo-To-No Budget Filmmaking and Beginning Filmmaking: 100 Easy Steps from Script to Screen (Professional Media Practice).

In 2009 he was awarded a PhD for services to film education.

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