Screenwriting Blog
Posted on by Courtney Meznarich

Screenwriter Donald Hewitt Tells You How to Nail a Pitch

Screenwriting is a three-part business: write your script, network, and pitch your script so you can sell it and see it turned into a film. Wondering how to pitch a screenplay in Hollywood? An opportunity to pitch your screenplay to a producer may fall into your lap on a rare occasion, but most of the time, you’re going to have to work at selling your screenplay. There are a few places to submit your screenplay and a few things you can do to prepare to pitch your script if an opportunity comes your way. Screenwriter Donald Hewitt is going to help you get ready!

Hewitt’s credits include the adapted screenplay for the Oscar-winning animated film “Spirited Away” and Oscar-nominated “Howl’s Moving Castle.” He’s worked as a screenwriter for 17 years and is currently a screenwriting coach and teacher at USC School of Cinematic Arts and UCLA. He’s also an admitted introvert and really had to work hard to get good at pitching himself and his stories.

“I’ve taken courses on public speaking, I’ve taken improv classes because I am like you guys. I am an introvert, shy person,” he told us in an interview. “Pitching is hard for me, and it took me a long time to get to where I could do it and do it well.”

There’s a lot to learn from someone who had to struggle through a challenge to reach success. For some writers, networking and pitching to strangers may come easy. But introverted or extroverted, there’s still a craft to pitching.

“Now pitching, that’s an art,” Hewitt said. “You really have to get comfortable doing it.”

So, what’s Hewitt’s pitch strategy? How does he prepare for that golden opportunity? Learn how to write a pitch for a screenplay, he says. Then practice, practice, practice, well before you worry about how to get a script to a producer. You need to be ready.

“Loglines are incredibly important,” he said. “But also, you need to know how to then back that up and tell the story. I write out a treatment that tells the whole story. I basically memorize it. I tell the movie from beginning to end. It takes about 15 minutes.”

And if pitching opportunities aren’t finding you, then find them.

“There’s these pitch fests now. That’s another open door that’s similar to the contest, and maybe a faster route to get people to be able to read your material,” Hewitt said. “Again, do the research; know who’s there, what kinds of companies are there, which ones you want to pitch to, see who fits with the material that you have.”

And to master anything, practice makes perfect, he added. “Do your homework, practice it, do everything you can to get better at it.”

Depending on your opportunity, or how prepared you want to be for when that opportunity to pitch to a producer knocks, you should have an elevator pitch and a pitch deck prepared. An elevator pitch is a 30-second to one-minute explanation of your movie (it could be completed in an elevator ride). A pitch deck is a visually heavy presentation that goes more in-depth into your concept, your ideas, and yourself.

Preparation is the key to success,

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