“Art is making something out of nothing and selling it.” – Frank Zappa
If you want to live and work in the Hollywood creative community, pitching is a fact of life. At the very least you need to come up with a good answer when someone asks you, “So what’s it about?” The answer to that question is your pitch.
We recognize that for many readers, learning to pitch will sound less like a career goal and more like punishment, but having a process for building a pitch will make it much less painful. In our book The Hollywood Pitching Bible we teach many kinds of pitches, from 30 seconds to 15 minutes. But a logline or a 2-minute pitch are overwhelmingly the most common types of pitches you will be required to deliver, so it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with both. In our book we spend about 10 pages on how to craft a good logline, which should be an indication of how complex the task can be. In this article we will talk about the 7 elements of the 2-minute pitch.
In Hollywood, the 2-minute pitch has a very specific intention. Whereas a logline might be used in a cover letter or film festival catalog (or as an element of a longer pitch), a 2-minute pitch is more likely to be used in conversation, where the desired result will be something like getting your listener to read your script, view your completed film, or perhaps hear a longer – more complete – version of your pitch.
The following are the 7 elements you should include in your 2-minute pitch, and they are typically delivered more or less in this order:
1. Start your pitch by setting the stage for the listener
Talk about what inspired the idea and lead the listener to understand what is unique or cool about the idea and why it would make a great film. This is a personal connection to your material. In a two-minute pitch this must be brief – perhaps 30 seconds – so try to zero in on the specifics. “Let me tell you about an amazing experience I had and why it would make a great film…” (But of course it doesn’t have to be an autobiographical idea.)
2. Give the title
Try to choose a title that will help sell your idea in some way. A good title will also make it easier for your listener to remember your project.
3. Tell the genre, the tone, and the MPAA rating (if it’s a film)
“An R-rated buddy-comedy,” for example. You can also include the setting here, if it will be instantly recognizable to your listener (“Set during the 1992 Presidential campaign…”). If not a familiar setting, see #5 below.
4. Frame the concept for the listener
Give a logline that includes the hook of your concept, a sense of the character, and some sense of the drama. “A tough New York City Cop is accidently trapped when a group of terrorists take over an office building. He must save his wife and rescue the hostages, armed only with his wits.”
5. Establish an unfamiliar setting
If your story has an unfamiliar setting or rules (such as sci-fi, fantasy, or period setting) you may need to spend some time to establish this aspect. Keep it focused on the aspects most relevant to the story. “Middle-earth is a medieval world of magic, monsters, and an elf-like race called Hobbits.”
6. Summarize the main characters
Include a short thumbnail of their personalities and relationships so the listener can zero in on who they are. Pick the traits that are relevant to the concept and scenario! Be sure to establish what’s at stake for them. “Our hero, Andrew Neiman, is a dedicated drum student at the best music conservancy in the world. He’s obsessed with becoming the greatest jazz drummer of his generation and idolizes the school’s demanding band conductor, Terence Fletcher.”
7. Finish with a brief overview of how the story unfolds
The purpose here is to intrigue your listener with the dramatic possibilities of your story, not walk them through the entire story. You want to give the listener just enough so they will want to read your script to see where the story will go. If you’re pitching a film, in most cases you will take your listener through the story set-up in the first act, and then characterize the nature of the drama the main character(s) faces. For example, if you were pitching Gravity this means not just stopping when the shuttle is destroyed. Rather you want to add, “Stone and Kowalski come up with a brilliant but dangerous plan to use abandoned space stations to return to Earth!” This gives the listener a sense of the drama that will unfold over the course of the story.
To dig deeper into pitching, check out our book The Hollywood Pitching Bible, now available in print, ebook, and audiobook editions.