What is the best way for writers to format and write a one-page written pitch for their screenplays and literary projects?
You’ve read about loglines…
Read ScreenCraft’s The Simple Guide to Writing a Logline!
… treatments and outlines…
Read ScreenCraft’s Outlines, Treatments, and Scriptments, Oh My!
…and elevator pitches.
Read ScreenCraft’s How Writers Can Master the Elevator Pitch!
But one additional tool that writers need to learn how to develop for each of their projects is a simple one-page written pitch — also referred to in some Hollywood and publishing circles as a one-sheet.
Written pitches are a necessity. You can use them for email queries, and they can be beneficial for that second step after a Hollywood insider or publishing contact has expressed further interest in your initial logline and query. You always need to have one on hand as you market your stories.
In fact, we even have an annual Virtual Pitch Competition with an impressive industry jury!
Here we cover the basics of how to create the most concise and effective written pitch in simple fashion.
What Makes a Great Written Pitch?
Written pitches have to be short, sweet, to the point, easy to read, and uniform. This isn’t the document that you want to be overly creative, decorative, or busy with — it’s all about getting to the core of the concept, story, and characters.
Get Them Invested in the Story and Characters
The purpose of the written pitch is to showcase the best broad strokes of the story and each major character. And you get readers invested by portraying what conflict they are up against and how that conflict is going to affect them physically and emotionally.
Readers live vicariously through your characters, so you engage them within a written pitch by presenting the key elements of location, conflict, characters involved, and the stakes at hand.
Don’t Explain the Plot — Summarize the Story
There’s a major difference between explaining the plot and summarizing the story.
When you explain the plot, you’re going into details about the various plot points from A to Z and everything in between.
When you summarize the story, you’re introducing the core concept and how that concept rocks the world of the characters. You can also touch on tone, atmosphere, and themes present within the story as well.
In short, plot is boring to read within a written pitch. A story summary is the best way to connect with the reader without having to go into subplot, twists, turns, and all of the other elements of the plot. Save that for the read of the material.
Offer a Professional, Articulate, and Organized Presentation
It has to be easy to read, well-written, and straightforward.
A written pitch isn’t about you and your story as the writer. It’s all about the project you are trying to pitch. Thus, there should be no mention of your personal preferences, struggles, inspirations, or anything like that. You shouldn’t include anecdotes about where you came up with the idea or stories about its development.
The presentation should be simple, professional, and articulate in how you present your story.
What’s the Format?
The format needs to be uniform for every project you feature within a written pitch. It’s all about giving the reader everything they need to know in one single page.
The title of your project.
The name of each contributing author.
You’re not telling a story in a logline. You’re presenting the core concept, the main protagonist, the protagonist’s main objective, and the stakes at hand — all within 25-50 words (fewer the better). Refer to the logline link above for more on how to write effective loglines.
3-5 SHORT PARAGRAPHS OFFERING A CLEAR BEGINNING, MIDDLE, END
Remember, your goal is to keep all of this information on one single page, so three paragraphs are better than five. But if you keep them all short, there’s breathing room.
The best format to follow is a three-act structure — beginning, middle, and end. One paragraph for each. Each paragraph offers the broad strokes of your story and characters — the core elements of your script.
Again, you’re not explaining the plot. You’re summarizing the story.
For a perfect example, go to a bookstore and read the back of any paperback fiction novel (or inside jacket of any hardcover) — and then give away the ending in the last paragraph.
How Do You Share a Written Pitch?
Your written pitches should be ready and available in different forms.
The first thing that you should do is save the one-page pitch in PDF format. This allows you to attach it to any email correspondence and offers the reader a well-formatted document to refer to.
Word Document, Google Doc, etc.
Whatever platform you are using to create the written pitch, it should be ready in editable-form to rewrite and tweak. It should also be available to copy and paste from as well.
Query Letter Form
Since the one-page written pitch can be used for query letters or second-level email correspondence, it’s a good idea to create a basic query letter form that you can cut and paste, and then make necessary changes to for each individual contact.
This query letter form will also include brief opening person-to-person correspondence, much like we feature in ScreenCraft’s Writing the Perfect Query Letter for Your Scripts!
Below we share an example of what a one-page written pitch for Jurassic Park would look like. Use this example as a way to understand the simple but specific nuances of what your written pitches should look like.
TITLE: Jurassic Park
AUTHOR: Michael Crichton (novel) & David Koepp (screenplay)
LOGLINE: When industrial sabotage leads to a catastrophic shutdown of a cloned dinosaur-populated theme park’s power facilities and security precautions, a small group of visitors struggles to survive and escape the perilous island.
SUMMARY: Wealthy businessman John Hammond has created an animal theme park called Jurassic Park, featuring cloned dinosaurs and prehistoric plants, on the Costa Rican island of Isla Nublar. Following an accident at the site in which a worker is killed, lawyer Donald Gennaro, representing Hammond’s investors, insists that he gets experts to certify his park is safe.
During their first leg of their tour of the park, Gennaro, mathematician and chaos theorist Ian Malcolm, paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant, and paleobotanist Dr. Ellie Sattler are elated to see living dinosaurs. But there is discussion and debate about the ethics of cloning a species and reintroducing them into the present human world. Hammond arranges for the group, joined by his grandchildren Tim and Lex, to take a full tour of the island in electric vehicles. But as a storm begins to ravage the island, lead computer programmer Dennis Nedry — plotting to steal dinosaur embryos for a rival company — shuts down the park’s security systems to gain access to the embryos and the island’s dock, where he will drop off the embryos. He is killed by a menacing dinosaur in the process, leaving Hammond and his supporting team locked out of the park’s computer systems.
The group is separated when an escaped T-Rex destroys their vehicles. They struggle to survive as the T-Rex roams free, and a pack of vicious Velociraptors hunts them down. Their only hope is to restore the park’s power, communication systems, and security systems. Once the surviving members of the group are reunited, they struggle to reboot the park’s systems while being pursued across the visitor center by the Velociraptors. The power is back on, but they are cornered by the Velociraptors until the Tyrannosaurus arrives and kills the Velociraptors, saving the group and allowing them to escape. Grant announces he will not endorse the park, and Hammond — seeing the error of his ways — agrees with his assessment. They board a rescue helicopter and leave the otherwise beautiful dinosaur-inhabited island peacefully as they return to the mainland.
Ken Miyamoto has worked in the film industry for nearly two decades, most notably as a studio liaison for Sony Studios and then as a script reader and story analyst for Sony Pictures.
He has many studio meetings under his belt as a produced screenwriter, meeting with the likes of Sony, Dreamworks, Universal, Disney, Warner Brothers, as well as many production and management companies. He has had a previous development deal with Lionsgate, as well as multiple writing assignments, including the produced miniseries Blackout, starring Anne Heche, Sean Patrick Flanery, Billy Zane, James Brolin, Haylie Duff, Brian Bloom, Eric La Salle, and Bruce Boxleitner. Follow Ken on Twitter @KenMovies