How to pitch your screenplay to producers
You’ve dedicated time and energy writing and rewriting your screenplay and now have a story you’re proud to show off. But how do you get your screenplay under the nose of a producer? We caught up with Film & Television MA (online) module leader, Dr Jem Mackay, to hear his top tips for pitching a screenplay to producers.
Finding the right producers to contact
It’s important to be realistic when looking for potential producers. If you’re just starting out in the industry, chances are you’re not going to get a Hollywood production company on board. You need to make sure that you’re contacting the right kind of producers, so it’s vital you do your homework.
Some producers won’t even consider your screenplay unless you’ve got an agent. So, one of the most valuable things you can do when starting out is to sign with an agent. You could also consider joining a writers’ union. The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain represents professional writers and offers a range of benefits such as contract vetting and legal advice as well as hosting networking events for members.
When researching producers, use resources such as IMDb or the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook to research films or tv shows that are of a similar genre and target budget to your screenplay. This will help you to narrow down the right type of producers to contact. You want to get in touch with producers who seem like a natural fit for your screenplay.
It’s no secret that you’re more likely to break into the film and television industry if you have contacts already working in the sector. When you’re trying to get your foot in the door, think about people know who might have a contact. The closer you are to a producer the more likely you are to get a face-to-face meeting.
If you’re new to the industry, then it’s always worth seeking out local support networks. Join a writer's group or a local theatre company that encourages new writing. Often getting a play produced is the fastest way to get noticed.
Other tactics for connecting with producers and getting your work seen are attending film festivals and pitch festivals or entering screenplay competitions, such as BBC Writersroom or BAFTA Rocliffe New Writing Competition
How to reach out to producers
Don’t be tempted to send a blanket email to multiple production companies. Each email should be personalised to the individual producer you’re writing to. Your email to a producer should be short and sweet, as well as convey that you’ve done your research. You want to compliment the producer and say which films of theirs you admire and why your screenplay would be a good fit for them.
Your email should outline the type of production you’re looking for. Some producers look after the whole financial details of the film while others just take on a particular section, such as video effects. Make sure you include your argument for why this film should be made now. It could be the theme that you have personal knowledge of or how your story is particularly relevant for the current time. If you don’t get a reply within a month of sending your email, follow up with a polite note to see if they’ve read the screenplay.
You’ve secured a meeting, now it’s time to prepare for the pitch
Some people will have up to an hour with a producer while others will have just 10 minutes. Make sure you know how long you have and work to that period. You need to be confident in your pitch, which is why practising is so important. The more confident and enthusiastic you are about your screenplay, the better your chances of it being accepted.
It’s crucial that you know your screenplay inside and out. When you pitch your story to the producer, start with your logline and then go through the story in the order it’s told. Set the scene, and introduce the main characters, describe the conflict, cover any key plot points, and finally, outline the conclusion. Revealing the ending of your screenplay is important as this reflects your ability to tell a good story. Overall, be professional and show them your creativity and confidence.
If you haven’t heard back from the production company within four weeks of the meeting, reach out via phone or email to reiterate your enthusiasm and commitment to the project.
If you receive a rejection, then try not to take it personally as there may be multiple factors behind their decision. See the positive that you’ve made a connection with a producer, which you can use in the future. The key thing is that you believe in your script. Don’t give up on it - start pitching to the next contact.
If you’re interested in learning more about pitching, then our online master’s degree in Film & Television offers step-by-step professional instruction to help nurture creative talent. Through a combination of lectures, webinars, guest talks, tasks and discussion forums, you can build your film and television industry competence while gaining a professional qualification as a filmmaker.