It’s the dream of many creatives and authors: seeing their big idea and characters take to the biggest screen of all in Hollywood. What may be surprising for many scriptwriters is where movies begin: with an elevator pitch!
Unlike the spiel you give when job searching that’s based on facts and figures, a movie elevator pitch is more about eliciting emotion. After all, the reason people tune-in to their beloved comedies, romances and thrillers is to escape, challenge themselves or process a feeling. Capturing a potential producer’s attention is the same.
While there are various tactics — including the 20-minute pitch and writing a movie bible — we’re going to focus on the most basic form that gets you through the door. Whether you’re writing an email or speaking face-to-face, keep your elevator pitch for a movie between 30 seconds and 2 minutes. The goal, of course, is for the listener to be intrigued enough to receive your screenplay and set up a follow-up meeting.
That’s why you must include these details:
- Who you are. This should include how you came up with the idea and give context to why it’s an important story to tell.
- The genre. Your introduction should tease this information but your next line should confirm it.
- The plotline. And by this, we definitely mean a brief summary but not a deep dive. You should introduce characters and talk about the rise and the fall without giving away too much detail.
- Existing movie examples. While your masterpiece will be different, in an elevator pitch for a movie, providing existing examples of successful films can quickly illustrate your vision.
- A closing that serves as a call-to-action. Is it a meeting? Sending over the manuscript? A cliffhanger? You choose but make it clear.
3 movie elevator pitch examples
If you’re curious about the pitches that made cinema magic — and even won awards — read on for examples:
1. ‘A Quiet Place’:
“Imagine a world where dangerous creatures have killed most of the human race, leaving just a small percentage of the population left in hiding, struggling to survive — only these survivors can’t make a single sound because the quietest noise instantly attracts the creatures. My script is called ‘A Quiet Place’ and tells the story about a post-apocalyptic world where a family is forced to live in silence while hiding from monsters with ultra-sensitive hearing. It all builds to the final moment of the wife having to give birth while her family has left her alone. And she has to do it in silence to avoid triggering the creature’s sensitive hearing. And the father has to sacrifice his own life to save his children by drawing the creatures away from them with a scream! It’s ‘War of the Worlds’ meets ‘Hush.’”
Why it works: It’s easy to imagine this new dystopian world, even though it’s only a short paragraph. Because it leaves the listener wanting to learn more while also being super-clear, it’s a successful approach.
2. ‘The Man From Earth’:
“Imagine a group of college professors that gather to say goodbye to a colleague, only to listen to his claims of being an immortal man. My screenplay is called The Man From Earth, and tells the story of an impromptu goodbye party for Professor John Oldman that becomes a mysterious interrogation after the retiring scholar reveals to his colleagues that he has a longer and stranger past than they can imagine — he has been walking the earth for 14,000 years. It’s ‘12 Angry Men’ meets ‘The Twilight Zone.’”
Why it works: There’s intrigue, there’s humor and there’s human interest. Most people have been to school, right? And had a professor they loved? Being able to visualize the story makes this one enticing.
“Imagine a tourist island that is ravaged by an unstoppable great white shark that nobody can catch. My book is called ‘Jaws’ and tells the story of a killer shark that unleashes chaos on an island resort — and it’s up to a local sheriff, a marine biologist, and an old seafarer to hunt the beast down before it kills again. It all builds to the final moment of the police chief — remember that he’s afraid of water — alone on the end of a sinking boat in the middle of the ocean with a rifle pointed at this gigantic and menacing great white shark that is swimming towards him with a barrel of compressed air stuck in its jaws. Smile you son of a b—h. Boom! It’s slasher flick meets ‘Moby Dick.’”
Why it works: Considering ‘Moby Dick’ is essential reading in most school systems, an exciting version of the long, long book is a fun twist. And, with a thrilling, fast plotline with a killer shark, this feels like a blockbuster already.