From a Producer's Perspective: The Elevator Pitch

by David Kaufmann on October 1, 2019

Continuing with our series on how to roll out a successful pitch, now that you’ve got your idea and a strong set of relationships, it’s time to focus on gaining initial interest in your project.

Selling a creative pitch is a momentum game. The more excitement you can build around your idea, the easier it will become to sell. To garner attention, you’ll need to develop and deliver a strong elevator pitch.

This is your time to hype your project before you ask a busy executive to read your script, treatment or pitch deck. The more interested and excited they are by your idea from the outset, the better the chance of receiving positive feedback on your materials.

David Kaufmann goes even deeper in his book, The Producer's Brain. Get it on Amazon now.

So What Is An Elevator Pitch? 

Your elevator pitch is the one-minute version of your larger idea. The term itself refers to the amount of time you’d have to sell your vision if you happened to find yourself between floors in an elevator with a high-level decision maker. 

In a couple sentences it should convey what your idea is and why it matters. This is your opportunity to quickly establish a high-level vision that leans into both the familiar and the unique. So how do you get started? 

Establish Characters and Genre

Think about the core structure of your project. Is it a horror film or is it a romantic comedy? Is it a brother/sister story or is it a love story? 

Be sure to include these details. 

Establish Your Comps

The easiest way for someone to wrap their head around what your movie will look like is by comparing it to films that are already in existence. This allows executives to begin to easily picture the world and characters that you are looking to build. 

Your comps should use a familiar film (or set of films) to create a vision that is unique to your project. You can do this by matching or inverting existing titles.  

If you are matching films look for two unique films and put them together. If you have an action concept with an irreverent family of characters you might call it The Expendables meets The Royal Tenenbaums.

If you are inverting a film change something about the premise…It’s Star Wars but at the center of the earth.

When executed successfully, you can fully establish what your vision is for your project in a single sentence.

Establish Relevance

The easiest way to establish that your project is relevant is by backing it up with pre-existing intellectual property (for more on this process, check out my previous blog). This will ground your project in something that already exists in the world. If you have a piece of IP, use this as the lead of your elevator pitch and then explain your comp. 

If you don’t have IP, think about the potential audience for your film and why it should exist in the world. Add this succinctly to your elevator pitch. 

Connect the Pieces

Take your genre/character information, comps and relevance and marry them together. For example: 

“I’ve got an awesome new project that I’m really excited about. It’s an action/comedy based on a best selling book. Think of it as The Expendables meets The Royal Tenenbaums. It’s got a strong female lead character and subtly explores the military industrial complex and its effect on society. Want me to send over some more information?” 

I’m not sure that this will make a great film, but it will give an executive a good sense of what you are going for and what makes it unique. 

Pick up the Phone 

Once you have a great elevator pitch together, think about who might be a fit for your project. Make a list of your relevant relationships and then call everyone. 

Remember, this approach is most effective when the person you are pitching already knows you and the quality of your work. 

Quickly deliver your pitch over the phone and ask if they’d like you to send over your pitch deck. If they say yes, great! You are well on your way to building the interest and excitement needed to sell your pitch.

In the next blog, we’ll explore how to build a pitch deck that really pops. 

David Kaufmann is an independent film and television producer living in Los Angeles. He began his career as an NBC Page at Saturday Night Live. He spent over nine years handling film and television licensing and development at Major League Baseball where he helped create critically acclaimed films like Moneyball and 42. He has an undergraduate degree in Journalism from the University of Richmond and holds an MBA from NYU Stern with a focus on the media business and creative producing. He is an active member of the Producers Guild of America. For more on David, please visit his IMDB or LinkedIn.

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