How to Pitch a Movie Idea and Sell Your Script With Style.

Using screenplay pitch examples and our step-by-step guide.

Featured In
by Script Reader Pro in How to Sell a Screenplay
March 14, 2019 52 comments
how to pitch a movie idea

How to pitch a movie idea and sell your script with style. 

You’ve learned how to write a screenplay. You’ve written a few Grade A spec scripts that have received ringing endorsements from script coverage services or acquaintances who work in the industry.

You’ve learned how to sell a screenplay and now, finally, the moment has arrived… A studio executive really likes your work and wants you to come in for a meeting. Or maybe you just ran into him at a party.

In either case, now’s the time to learn how to pitch a movie idea. And that’s what this post is all about.

Here’s what’s coming up:

What is a film pitch?

What happens in a meeting to pitch a script?

How to write a pitch for a movie

How to sell a movie idea: prepare, prepare, prepare

How to pitch a movie idea in a meeting

Following up on a film pitch

So, let’s dive on in. (Full disclosure: this post contains affiliate links, meaning if you purchase something via one of these links we get a small commission at no additional cost to you.)

Click to tweet this post. 

What is a film pitch?

A “film pitch,” “screenplay pitch,” or the phrase “to pitch a screenplay,” simply means verbally selling your script to someone in the industry who may be interested in it. These people are usually studio executives or producers.

The elevator pitch.

The most common form of screenplay pitch is the “elevator pitch”—so named as it should only take around sixty seconds to deliver. Ninety seconds is fine, but anything over and you’re probably going into too much detail.

You may be called upon to deliver one of these if you’re invited in for what’s called a “general meeting” to discuss your script. But you need to be ready to deliver one at the drop of a hat in case you run into an exec somewhere randomly like, say, an elevator.

The 20-minute pitch. 

These tend to occur more often in general meetings. A twenty-minute pitch involves getting into much more detail—laying out the story act by act, sequence by sequence.

You have much more time to describe characters, themes and specific scenes, but the general principle remains: stick to what’s essential for the listener to know.

In either case, a screenplay pitch is basically a sales pitch by telling the story in a brief but exciting way. Hopefully without sounding too aggressive or “salesy.”

Overall, the primary goal of a movie pitch is to get people excited about the concept, characters and story and working with you.

General vs. specific meetings.

A general meeting is usually it’s an informal chat about you and your projects. This is so the exec or producer can get an idea of the kind of writer you are, your writing “voice,” etc. and what you’re working on.

It’s the most common form of meeting and, in the main, what we’ll be discussing in this post.

On the other hand, you may be called in to pitch for a specific job, such a rewrite or a new project. These can get tricky because the game these days is that exec and producers will pull in a dozen writers and get a dozen different takes. Then pick the take they want and choose a writer, even if it wasn’t their take.

If you snag a one-on-one with an exec or producer about a specific project, it can help to leave a one-pager behind. Leaving a look book or pitch deck is also encouraged these days because the more you can add to your pitch package—the more you can make them see and feel your film—the better off you are.

Some scripts are easier to pitch than others. 

Movie ideas with a high concept are easier to pitch than ones with a low concept. A film like A Quiet Place, for example, would be much easier to pitch than, say, Roma.

Here’s the logline to A Quiet Place:

In a post-apocalyptic world, a family is forced to live in silence while hiding from monsters with ultra-sensitive hearing.

Just from this logline, it’s easy to visualize the poster, the trailer and the movie—all the juicy stuff execs and producers love to do.

This is because the conflict between protagonist and antagonist is clear, and it would also be easy to break down this plot down into an exciting sixty seconds.

On the other hand, here’s the logline to the 2019 Oscar winner, Roma:

A year in the life of a middle-class family’s maid in Mexico City in the early 1970s.

If, like Roma, your movie is a slow-burner that’s light on plot, you need to find another way to engage the listener and sell the script in its best light.

The best way to do this is by crafting a pitch that also focuses on what the movie’s about, rather than just what happens. This means spending more time on character, theme and maybe broader social/political issues than would be normal for a high concept movie.

You don’t want to just talk about Cleo’s journey of “love, loss and redemption” entirely, though, at the expense of plot. All theme with no context can lose the listener, so striking the right balance is essential when pitching low concept movie ideas.

Can you pitch a movie idea without a screenplay?

Despite what you may have heard, there isn’t a market for stand-alone movie ideas. You can’t sell a movie idea. You can’t copyright a movie idea. There’s no special place you can go to submit movie ideas.

Movie ideas are essentially worthless because anyone can come up with them. It’s the execution of an idea that matters.

Execs and producers looking for movie ideas are looking for the whole package: an idea, a script and a writer they can work with.

screenwriting mentorship

What happens in a meeting to pitch a script?

Here’s a rough guide on what to expect if you get invited in for a general meeting to give a screenplay pitch:

Waiting to be seen/drinking water (1-5 minutes). Some of the most nerve-racking moments any writer spends are in a production company waiting room. Try to stay calm, maybe by practicing some breathing routines.

 Hellos and small talk (1-5 minutes). First impressions mean a lot, so here’s where you try to immediately build rapport by being friendly and outgoing.

 The screenplay pitch (1-20 minutes). The most important part of the meeting, obviously.

 Q&As (5-20 minutes). Your chance to explain anything they didn’t understand, but also a chance for you to ask them a question or two.

 Wrap up (1-2 minutes). Time to finish that water, give a firm handshake and exit.

We’ll go into more detail soon on how to navigate a pitch meeting like a pro.

Drink water. Pitch script. Repeat. 

If your screenplay starts to generate some serious “heat” you may be asked in for a series of pitch meetings on what’s known as the “water bottle tour.”

On this tour of sorts, you’ll get to pitch your screenplay to a variety of different execs and drink 60 percent more water than you usually consume.

It’s an exciting time and quite possibly the beginning of your screenwriting career. It’s also the moment you realize that writing a Grade A screenplay was just the beginning.

Now you have to sell not only your work but yourself.

How to write a pitch for a movie. 

The key to crafting a great screenplay pitch—whether it’s an elevator pitch or a twenty-minute pitch—is to stick to only the most important beats in the story.

Approach the screenplay pitch as if you have one minute to tell a friend about your fantastic movie idea. Here are some general do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when learning how to write a film pitch:

How to pitch a movie idea: do’s. 

 Start the pitch by establishing the genre and maybe giving a brief introduction as to how you came up with the idea. This will help create context for the exec before you plunge into the main story.

 Stick to what’s important and lose everything else. What’s important is the struggle between protagonist and antagonist and the trauma you put them through. Not scene description. Not dialogue. Not minor characters. And definitely not the title.

 Spell out the most important beats: the inciting incident, call to action, big event, Act 1 turning point, etc. There isn’t really a hard and fast rule as to whether you should reveal the ending or not. Some writers like to leave them hanging. Others prefer to tell the whole story and both options are perfectly viable.

 Exploit genre. If you’re having a hard time making a comedy sound funny, or a horror sound nerve-shredding, there might be a problem with the script rather than the pitch.

How to pitch a movie idea: don’ts. 

Don’t overrun your allocated time. You run the risk of boring the audience if you go over the one or twenty minutes you’ve been asked to sell your screenplay in.

 Don’t compare your screenplay to existing movies. Saying “think La La Land meets Memento” isn’t particularly helpful. It also makes your project sound derivative rather than fresh and original. On the other hand, some writers do this to good effect, so this one isn’t set in stone.

 Don’t mention specific actors. Your tastes might not jive with the exec’s so it’s best not to mention who you’d love to see in the film. If asked, mention a few possibilities but make it clear you don’t really mind. You’re open and easy-going.

Screenplay pitch examples. 

One of the best ways to learn how to pitch a movie idea is to watch other writers do it.

Here are three very different screenplay pitch examples by three different writers. Pay particular attention to how engaging they are, and how they condense the story down to its most important beats.

Run a search online to find more great movie pitches and learn from the best.

How to sell a movie idea: prepare, prepare, prepare. 

Some writers overly prepare for their script pitch and it ends up coming off slightly robotic. Most, however, under-prepare. Here’s how best to strike the right balance when preparing for a screenplay pitch.

Who are you pitching your script idea to?

It’s amazing how many writers go into meetings without knowing anything about the company or studio they’re pitching to.

Find out what they’ve produced and who their key players are. Have an answer as to why you think your script would be a great fit for them.

Practice your screenplay pitch. 

Practice your pitch to get the sixty-second (or twenty-minute) timing down pat. Say it to yourself in front of a mirror and maybe record it too. You’ll notice things when you watch a recording of yourself talking that maybe you’ve always missed.

Once you’re comfortable pitching a film idea to yourself, it’s time to practice your pitch in front of other people.

Get different reactions from anyone who’s willing to listen: friends, family, co-workers, etc. and pay attention to their non-verbal cues as you speak. Do they look engaged or fidgety?

If you’re feeling really brave, test your screenplay pitch out on strangers, or acquaintances you hardly know. This will really test your nerves and prepare you better than pitching a movie script to your wife or husband.

Research more on how to pitch a movie idea. 

If you feel you need more guidance on how to pitch a screenplay in a meeting, here are some resources. These are probably the two best books dedicated to pitching movies.

 The Hollywood Pitching Bible by Ken Aguado and Douglas Eboch

 Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds by Michael Hague

These short videos contain some useful information too:

Plan your night, day and journey. 

You don’t want to miss an important meeting because you got stuck in traffic for half an hour on the 405.

Get to bed at a reasonable time the night before. Plan your journey to get there earlier than you need to. Research parking spots, subway times or cabs. Wait in a nearby coffee shop if you’re too early and try to relax.

Any snags before a meeting can cause unnecessary nerves to kick in, so try to remove as much stress as possible by planning every detail.

How to pitch a movie idea in a meeting. 

Here are the main do’s and don’ts to remember as you deliver your screenplay pitch.

How to pitch a screenplay in a meeting: do’s.

Establish rapport. You’re much more likely to get a favorable response from an exec or producer if you get to know them a little. Rather than launching straight into a movie pitch as soon as you enter the room, establish some common ground. Ask how their weekend was. Look for common interests and ways to connect.

 Be interesting. Execs and producers get pitched a lot. If there’s something unique or interesting you can say about yourself it will help you stick in their mind. If you breed rare cats, for example, or used to be in the FBI, slip it into the conversation.

 Be the kind of writer they want to work with. In this business having a great script is not always enough. Make a point of being as open, interesting and charming as possible. Try to come across as easy-going but willing to work hard.

 Be passionate. When delivering your pitch you want to get across your enthusiasm for the project. If they can sense that you don’t believe in your story 100 percent, they’re unlikely to either.

 Ask if they have any questions. At the end of your pitch, listen to exactly what they want to know and answer as succinctly as possible. Avoid long, rambling answers that dive back into the story and attempt to fill in all the gaps.

How to pitch a screenplay in a meeting: don’ts. 

 Don’t drink alcohol before a screenplay pitch meeting to “loosen up.” (Or imbibe any other mind-altering substances.) Yes, a glass or two of wine may help you relax but it can also make you nervous if you start to feel its effects more than you expected.

 Don’t mention politics or religion or express strong opinions about anything without first knowing what they think. Saying you just left Chicago after six months because you hated it so much might not go down well with someone who grew up in Englewood.

 Don’t be too passionate. While passion and enthusiasm is great, you don’t want to overdo it. Saying things like “This story is like nothing you’ve ever heard,” “You don’t want to miss this opportunity of a lifetime,” or “My script will make you 10 million dollars, guaranteed,” is not recommended.

 Don’t get defensive and prickly. If an exec suggests a terrible change to your story, say you’re “open to it.” Avoid being coming across as arrogant and precious about your movie idea. Accept all suggestions gracefully and save your opinion for the bar.

 Don’t get flustered by difficult questions. This can happen if an exec wants to see how you react under pressure. If they try to throw you off, simply answer the question with a smile and keep your emotions in check.

 Don’t take rejection personally. Often the reason why an exec or producer doesn’t want to move forward isn’t to do with you or your pitch. There may be many reasons why they pass, so remain upbeat and friendly. You don’t want to burn any bridges before leaving the room. Hollywood’s a small place.

Following up on a film pitch. 

Having pitched your movie to an exec or producer, it can take anywhere from seven days to seven weeks to hear anything. Or longer. So don’t despair if you don’t hear back for a while.

Many screenwriters fail to follow-up and consequently miss out on assignments or sales. Don’t be one of them.

As we mentioned earlier, being interesting and stand out from the crowd can come in handy here. Rather than simply emailing the exec or producer after your pitch meeting, send a small gift as a thank you for their time. Here are some ideas for creative ways to say thank you.

We recommend then following up on your screenplay pitch after three to four weeks. Then, if you don’t get a solid answer on your script, ask when it’d be okay to check in again. You don’t want to become a nuisance, though, so make sure you leave plenty of time in-between queries.

Click to tweet this post. 

How to pitch a movie idea: conclusion. 

Learning how to pitch a script can be nerve-wracking for many writers. It depends to a certain extent how gregarious and charming you are to begin with. But these skills can also be learned.

Consider taking acting classes, joining a toastmaster group or getting out of your comfort zone in some way to make your screenplay pitch less scary. It’s true that a lot can ride on a pitch, but if you look at it overall as a two-way conversation rather than a speech, it should be okay.

Finally, remember every single professional screenwriter has been rejected at some point in their career. Rather than getting depressed about it, keep working on other projects. If you keep refining your writing and pitching skills, you’re likely to succeed in the end.


We hope this post has helped you learn how to pitch a movie idea and given you the tools to move forward with confidence. How many film pitches have you given? How did they go? Have you made a sale after a screenplay pitch? Let us know in the comments section below!

script coverage services

Liked this post? Learn more on how to pitch a movie idea and sell a screenplay…

How to Get a Screenwriting Agent and Manager in 10 Proven Steps

Screenplay Submissions 101: How to Submit a Screenplay Like a Pro

How to Sell a Screenplay: 6 Most Popular Ways New Writers Make a Sale

[© Photo credits: Unsplash / Pexels]

  1. Christopher graham says:

    I have two Ideas one is planet smallest animals with radiation becomes the planet invasion starting in the mid-east and the second is search for the gold based off a book script by Ronnie graham the author of the inventor. If you like the Idea let me know thanks

  2. Dwayne Pagnotto says:

    Hello? I posed a question just a day ago. Still waiting on an answer here.

    Thank you.

  3. Happiness says:

    This is really helpful thanks alit

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Glad it helped!

  4. Arvind Kumar Srivastava says:

    I am a S W A registered Screenplay writer and want to pitch an Idea of Script of Feature Film
    Here I submit you only log line of our script
    Log Line – A call girl saves suicidal young man and both falls into deep love, but she is pregnant from someone, suddenly they meet childless rich man who is looking successor.

  5. Immanuel Sam says:

    This post has really helped me as a newbie in scripting. I’m glad I found script reader pro.
    Please can I see an example of a written pitch rather than video or audio. Please…. Thanks a lot.

  6. Luis says:

    I have an story to tell that can make a book or a movie about something that are against the law how do I go about it

  7. Raquel P. says:

    How do I protect my work/script once I pitch it to avoid it from being stolen? In the process of writing one now that’s a comedy, but want to make sure that a production company doesn’t take the idea and not make an offer on the script. Thanks for all of the helpful tips…they helped me a lot!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      You’re welcome – thanks for reaching out! Have you seen this post on how to copyright a script?

  8. Amola says:

    Can I ask for a request. Do you know anyone who works in the film industry? I have many ideas for movies and series. And whenever I try to connect with one of the companies, there is no response Please if you know someone who helped me. I hope to spread my thoughts

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      We have connections if your script gets a “Recommend” with out script coverage which you can check out here.

  9. Amoakoa Adjei says:

    Thank you for this

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks for reading Amoakoa!

  10. Pidge Jobst says:

    You guys keep knocking it out of the ballpark. This was better than most industry book reads — succinct, well thought out, covered the majority of pitch points and early questions, short video samples from actual pitches, easy-to-follow Do’s and Dont’s. Thank you! -Pidge

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks so much, Pidge! It’s great to have you on board 🙂

  11. Monica says:

    Thanks for your useful tips, I am soon pitching for Sitges Film Festival.
    Fingers crossed!!
    Best wishes to All.
    Monica Pi

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Good luck, Monica and thanks for the feedback 🙂

  12. R V NAIDU says:

    Ya switu welco

  13. Alayna Henry says:

    Okay, I’m 16 and trying to figure out what kind of film career I’d like to have, so please go easy on me. I can see the ideas in my head, I just have to figure out a way to word them in a way readers can see and understand in the way that I do. So I have an idea about 6 friends that are juniors in highschool. They are all good friends and all go to the same church. Suddenly a guy in the friend group’s mom dies. This guy is the energy and heart of the group, and they all have to realize how important friends are, and they all have a good cry session together. The guy turns to drugs to get his mind of things and his friends have to pull him back in and build him up. This experience creates a bond with all of them and helps them become even better friends to one another. They realize that bad things can happen to good people, but God is still good. This group of kids are funny, upbeat and athletic all in their different ways, but this tragic accident causes all of them to think harder about this life and how important friendship is, and how good God is even when things get so bad and ugly. And ofcourse there is a little romance involved. Please contact me if you have any pointers or like the idea

  14. BIJAN Zahedi says:

    Glenn, it would never happen.

  15. Jannatul Ferdous Jerin says:

    I am story writer.please give chance

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      We’re not a production company.

  16. victor mejia says:

    the move i maked thats make all people feels there own mind.

  17. DAVID BRANDON says:


  18. Glenn says:

    How does a writer get in an elevator with a movie executive?

  19. Bijan Zahedi says:

    So, My first Movie is called (My Indian Ocean) it’s comedy.
    Mid aged man , married, honest, dedicated to his wife and daughter, but things keep happening to him, when there is no one present, no witness, no one to stand for him and defend him, weird, strange stuff, so his wife files for divorce, accusing him of being a lair, which is is not, one day while at the beach, just about the time people are leaving the beach, his cell phone is with his friends, no one is at the beach, a person, tall. dark, an Indian man appears from the middle of ocean, he keeps the guy, giving him a shelter, food, but keeps him as a pawn to prove to his wife and others that he is not a lair, from there, extremely funny things happens, and he returns to ocean.
    it was so funny, I was laughing out loud while I was writing it.
    Bijan Zahedi

  20. Bijan zahedi says:

    I have written several screenplay, but the 2 that I have ready have just finished, one Comedy, one Drama, I personally think Hollywood has failed to produce a true comedy movie, the most you will get 7-8 smiles and 5-6 laughs, writing comedy is so hard, much harder than Drama, the funniest movie I have ever seen was when I got my visa to come to U.S from Tehran, Iran, was actually a Hollywood movie called The Mad Mad Mad world, funny from beginning to the end, so I have given my screenplays to 18 people to read, their reaction has been awesome, it’s available for review.
    Bijan Zahedi

  21. Kamal says:

    I have a story it’s a movie idea I’m sure you I’ll buy it. It’s under a. one book that every person want to have it the book power if you have the book nobody in world can fight you.

  22. Bronagh Sallow says:

    I have a movie idea but I’m too afraid it maybe a bad idea. Its about a girl and a guy in the middle of the woods who were abqndoned and felicity is facing abuse from her foster brother Elliot I don’t have script but I’ve written the story on wattpad

  23. Arfath pasha says:

    Hello sir /madam
    I am arfath from karnataka India
    I have 12 action movies script that going to oscar award let me contact one time I explain to u beautiful script.
    This script has been 2000 ago history
    My contact no +919535323360
    Email I’d.

  24. oscar julian lopez rincon says:

    so, good.

  25. Lee Hawkes says:

    OPEN NICK is based on a 30 year old working class Londoner who is at odds with his repetitive mundane life inside London’s infamous ring ROAD to hell…

    The M25 motorway…

  26. Yaseen says:

    Hi I have a story it’s a movie idea I’m sure that if I send it to you you’ll buy it

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      You’ll need to find a production company for that.

  27. Grace Durand says:

    I actually have a couple ideas for some movies, and wanted opinions…
    The movie producing industry is a very particular, and specific business, that all starts with an idea. A flutter of imagination and spark of the brain and were off to work creating something new and spectacular. Now I would like to bring up quite a few ideas. The Hollow, Haunted, and Hidden trilogy by Jessica Verde. This would be a one of a kind, fantastic mystery, romance, suspense, and intense movie if I do say so myself. As a young woman loses a friend, the story unravels revealing the secret life of the lost friend and possible true love, with secrets of his own as well. Can she trust anyone in her so called peaceful hometown Sleepy Hollow? The truth is yet awaiting, in, “The Hollow”

    Next up is a spiced up, heated romance, thrilling ride to read upon, Wallbanger, by Alice Clayton. A woman is living the life of her dreams; new apartment, great job, wonderful age, (one great rack, in her opinion) and her cat.. Clive. She’s living the life, untilll..
    “Oh God”
    Thump Thump*
    “Mmhm, oh god!”
    She meets “The Wallbanger”
    Now that’s a movie to see

    Finally, a twist to a 2009 classic, where an angelic adopted child is all grace and polite smarts to her new family, until she was discovered to be not quite what she seemed to be…
    Yes folks, were talking Orphan, but when she supposedly came to her brutal end, had she really gone through so much just to end it a 9 years old? Welll, you see, a new family of three, with two classic teens in a house with a single father and one toddler, is Esthers newly adopted prey. She tangles the family up and out until her secret is yet to be discovered, as she has a new look, but same sinister secrets.. she was never gone, but now “Reborn”

  28. Sheridan says:

    Very helpfull information on how to pitch a script thank you

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks for reading, Sheridan!

  29. Iskandar doloksaribu says:

    Hi I’m Iskandar Doloksaribu, originally from Indonesia. I am a lover of Hollywood films especially action films. I have two action film ideas and I have written them in the form of a film synopsis, it’s just that my writing is not perfect because I don’t have the expertise to write screenwriters well. I hope that the idea of ​​a film that I make can become a film, it’s just that I don’t have a connection in Hollywood to submit a film idea that I wrote, so please ask me to help. thank you

  30. Raf says:

    Can I pitch you guys my horror script? You will want to buy it garaunteed!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      We’re a script consultancy not a production company so don’t buy scripts.

  31. mia mornar says:

    My name is Mia.
    I have written 3 book series about Detective
    I would like to see my books turn into the movie or TV series.
    You can contact me on my email address

    Kind Regards,

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Good luck with it, Mia (we’re not a production company.)

  32. Annette says:

    I appreciate this so much, I am preparing to pitch my script next week. Thank you!!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks for the shout out, Annette – good luck with the pitch!

      1. John Fugazzotto says:

        As Johnny was growing up on the farm. He had strange abilities that at times flabbergasted friends and family. The years went on but Johnny was far beyond that. He was ….out of this world……

  33. Lawrence john Campbell says:

    looking to sell my movie Idea i have part 1 and 2 all ready done and left open for a part 3 every one world wide will wont to watch this one just need to know were to send it to

  34. Jummy says:

    This write-up is a lifesaver, thanks.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Glad to hear it, thanks for reaching out!

  35. rafael reyes says:

    Hello I have a movie idea but unfortunately I don’t have a script
    The movie idea is called
    Its about everyday street goings on and how some people make it out by
    Scholastic or sports or music or arts or even by moving away
    Its about drugs brothels and going out to places and how it is all connected together

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      You’ve got a lot of good ideas going on there, Rafael – we would recommend starting by writing a logline and synopsis. You can read posts on both here: How to Write a Logline and How to Write a Synopsis for a Movie.

  36. Aran P says:

    THANK YOU!!, I was looking for someone to tell me how to pitch a movie idea and you guys nailed it!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Glad the post helped, Aran!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *