“What is your film about?” “Um….” The perfect pitch (not)

 I haven’t ever seen a film that’s about “Um…”, but there must be a whole slew of them being made by emerging filmmakers today.

 “Um….”  —  When this is the first word a filmmaker says in response to my asking them “What is your film about?”  I inwardly cringe, I prepare myself for the long, rambling, sometimes scene-by-scene monologue I hear, and I  listen patiently and attentively. 

Two, ten, 20 minutes later, when they’ve finally finished, I tell the filmmaker, as gently as I can, to be glad I’m not a distributor or a studio exec, or an agent, or broker.  Why?  Because hardly anybody in one of those positions would have listened to such a long speech.  The filmmaker would have lost most of them at “Um….”.

30 seconds!

That’s the most time it should take to describe a film.  Use a stop watch and click off the time,  count out loud as you watch the second hand or the digital numbers.  That’s really not as short as it initially seems, right?   It’s really all the time you need, and it may very well be all the time you get to speak to a busy person in the industry.  More importantly,  if you don’t immediately capture and hold the attention of the person to whom you’re speaking, you’ll start to lose them after 30 seconds.  They’ll tune you out. 

Read, write, edit, rehearse.

Visit film websites, visit IMDb.com, read the taglines and the synopses of films.  Read some of them out loud so you can time yourself to ascertain how many words you can comfortably say (without “Um”s) in 30 seconds.

Then sit down and write your film’s synopsis.  Your goal is to craft something that immediately captures and holds your listener’s attention, accurately portrays your film’s story/message/world, and ultimately, makes the listener want to learn more about it.

Rehearse your pitch by timing yourself as you read it out loud.  Rehearse it in front of a friend, colleague, family member, the person behind the counter at the dry cleaners. Ask yourself, and ask them:   Do the words sound natural as you say them?  Does it sound too stilted?  Is it too long?  Have you left out something important? Does it sound interesting?  Edit as many times as necessary.  You know this drill, you did the same thing with re-writes to your screenplay, editing until you got it right.

When you think it’s the best you can make it, try rehearsing it to a perfect stranger.  I’m serious.  Choose someone who looks like they might be a friendly person, and who looks like they’re not particularly busy at the moment, walk up to them and say “Hey. You know, I’ve just completed my first film.”  Hopefully, they’ll smile and say “Really, what’s it about?”.    Then do your pitch.  Watch how they react.  Use their reaction (positive or negative, or total disinterest),  to help you further hone your pitch to perfection.

Tip:   Be able to pitch your film in 30 seconds or less.

Talk:  Have a pitch?  Post it in comments  and I’ll take a look at it and give you feedback.


4 Responses to “What is your film about?” “Um….” The perfect pitch (not)

  1. will be back again bookmarked it for safe keeping

  2. Great blog, keeps me from exercising

  3. Hi, please let me know your thoughts on this pitch for a film – we are sourcing development funding to write the screenplay:
    The film tells the story of the disastrous 1998 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, 6 people lost their lives, 5 boats sank in what unfolded to be the largest peace time search and rescue operation ever undertaken by Australia. Not against the elements but because of them.

  4. keyword says:


    […]“What is your film about?” “Um….” The perfect pitch (not) « Film Publicity Help: Tips, Tricks, Traps. Let’s Talk.[…]…

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