Gerald Hanks Filmography

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Screenwriting Advice: Writing vs. Pitching

One of the most useful online screenwriting resources I've found is the aptly-named ScreenwritingU.

This site offers numerous free webinars and conference calls that provide some basic tools for beginning writers.

Of course, they use these free webinars as an opportunity to sell their online classes, but you may find their methods valuable enough to fork over a pretty penny for those classes.

One of the free webinars they offered was titled "8 Steps to Selling Screenplays".

The key takeaway from this session may sound obvious, but it's also startling in the fact that so many writers miss this point.

The primary goal a screenwriter should have in mind is to find ways to make their script "marketable".

"Marketable" doesn't mean "a copycat of every hit movie of the last ten years".

"Marketable" means a high concept with roles that will attract A-list actors and sell tickets.

How do you create roles that Oscar-winning actors will want to play?

You create strong roles by applying the VOTE Method.

Since the VOTE Method is based on the training actors undergo to grasp their roles, it's also highly useful for writers looking to craft substantial roles.

When you create strong roles, talented, well-known actors will want to attach themselves to your project so that they can play those roles.

When they attach themselves to the project, it becomes much easier to sell and get made.

Here's another takeaway from the webinar:

Before you write your script, prepare your pitch.

I can already hear you asking:

"But how can I prepare my pitch before I even start my script?"

When you develop your pitch, including the logline, you focus your story on the essentials.

A strong pitch will help you refine your story and give you a clear destination between FADE IN and FADE OUT.

"But what makes a 'strong pitch'?"

According to SU, the pitch has less to do with the story than you might think.

The elements the webinar listed in a pitch include:
  • Credibility. If you're trying to get someone to pay you thousands of dollars for a script, and spend millions more making it into a movie, then you have to show them that you know what you're doing.
    Examples of credibility can include experience as a writer, placement in contests, or expertise in the script's subject matter.
  • Genre. You're more likely to sell a comedy script, a drama script, or a thriller script than you are one script that tries to combine all three. Most producers, especially the smaller producers willing to work with rookie writers, focus on a specific genre.
    If you can deliver a script that fits their expectations for the genre, while crafting a unique story within those expectations, then you're ahead of the pack.
  • Title. Many writers avoid giving their scripts a title until the end. That's like waiting to name your baby until he or she graduates high school.
    Movies are a visual medium, and so is movie marketing. You have to imagine what that title will look like on a poster, in a trailer, or on a website. You can change it during the writing process, but you should at least come up with a working title for the pitch.
  • High concept. Most rookie writers don't understand what "high concept" means. The dictionary definition of "high concept" is "a simple and often striking idea or premise, as of a story or film, that lends itself to easy promotion and marketing".
    This is where your logline comes in. By following the VOTE Method formula for your logline, you can communicate your story's high concept quickly and clearly.
  • Short story summary. Many writers who get this far in the pitch process often blow their chances by over-talking. They spend too much time explaining all the details of the story, most of which don't matter and turn off the listener.
    You can summarize the character's journey by indicating the crucial story points, such as the inciting incident, the Act II turning point, the midpoint, the Act III turning point, and the climax. As the old show-biz saying goes, "Always leave them wanting more." 
As much as it may go against the introverted nature of most writers, your skills at selling your scripts have to match or exceed your skills at writing them.

When you learn to pitch your script and practice your pitch with whoever will listen, you'll develop more confidence in your story, which will also make you a better writer.

ScreenwritingU offers free webinars on a wide range of subjects. The SU email newsletter provides details on upcoming classes.


Some writers may feel hesitant to work on their projects during these stressful times.

On the contrary, now is the perfect time to develop that idea, hone that script, and work on that pitch.

When this crisis gets resolved, content providers will be looking for new voices, new projects, and new stories.

During this crisis, Story Into Screenplay is offering several tools that can help writers develop their skills and refine their ideas.
  • Feedback report on the first ten pages of your feature or TV pilot from an experienced screenplay contest judge for US$10.
  • One hour of online or phone consultation with an experienced professional screenwriter FREE (US residents only).
  • The introductory chapter of "How To Use The VOTE Method": FREE (coming soon)
Whether you want to learn how to write your own script, or if you want to hire an experienced screenwriter to craft your story into a marketable project, Story Into Screenplay can help.

For more information, contact Story Into Screenplay by using the form on this page, by email at storyintoscreenplayblog[at]gmail[dot]com, or by sending a direct message through the Story Into Screenplay Facebook page.

No comments:

Post a Comment