How To Pitch A Movie – A Movie Pitch Example

You know (or you’re learning) how to write a screenplay – but do you know how to pitch a movie?

What you’re about to see is the first phase of researching and developing a movie pitch.

How To Pitch A Movie In 9 Steps

In the following movie pitch example, you’ll see how to write a movie pitch – and that a great deal of work goes into choosing just a few words.

Step 1: Draft The Initial Short Pitch

The first step to learning how to pitch a movie is to draft a movie pitch (it can be rough).

Try the following formula with five elements:

“My story is a (genre) called (title) about (hero) who wants (goal) despite (obstacle).”

I like starting with this formula because it forces the clarification of the dramatic conflict.

Typically, a story that is clear can be framed in terms of an entity (the hero) that is seeking something (the goal) despite some significant problem (the obstacle).

Using the formula, here’s my client’s initial pitch:

It’s a comedy called Nerd Ops about the National Security Administration’s nerdiest technical people who must become field operatives to save the world from a terrorist hacker organization.

Step 2: Identify Possible Genres

Genre gives context to the project, suggests a structure for the story, and has implications for budget, scope, and potential revenue. The 1-2 words you use to categorize your project, therefore, should be chosen with care.

You may already know how your project should be categorized.

If not, here’s a way to generate ideas for genre descriptions:

  • Go to;
  • Look for produced projects that are the most like your idea;
  • See how they are classified.

For Nerd Ops, is “comedy” the best description of genre? Could we find something more specific?

Here are some other possible genres:

  • Dark comedy
  • Buddy comedy
  • Action comedy
  • Spy comedy

Step 3: Identify Themes

While I do believe that it’s important for a finished project to have one core thematic premise, at this stage of our movie pitch example we’re interested in looking at themes more broadly.

Here are some themes that I could see being relevant:

  • Weaknesses can be strengths (and strengths weaknesses)
  • Warriors for the 21st century
  • The brotherhood (and sisterhood) of geekdom
  • Humans vs. machines

Step 4: Identify Structural Elements

Structural elements are obvious, relevant aspects of the project but not themes.

Some structural elements of this story could be:

  • The culture of elite hackers
  • The NSA recruiting process
  • “Hell Week” SEAL training
  • Powerful supercomputers

Step 5: Brainstorm Comparisons

Let’s generate more projects to which Nerd Ops could be compared:

How to pitch a movie comparison projects 3 films

  • Spies Like Us (Dan Ackroyd’s character is a technical genius)
  • Hackers (elite hackers work together)
  • The Other Guys (desk jockey cops become field agents)
  • Stripes (oddballs in the military)
  • Mission Impossible 3&4 (technical geek played by Simon Pegg)
  • The Recruit (Colin Farrell’s character is a math genius)
  • GI Jane (the structure of “Hell Week”)

Step 6: Build A Table To Hold Comparison Data

What we’re going to do now is build a spreadsheet. Along the way, we’re going to get ideas for more comparison projects and we’ll add those to our spreadsheet.

Set up a table with twenty rows and nine columns. Those nine columns should read: Title, Genre, Rating, Release Date, Buyer/Distributor, Domestic Box Office (DBO), International Box Office (IBO), Total Box Office (TBO), Pitch.

Step 7: Fill In The Table

First, I’ll search for Spies Like Us.

I’ll enter the data in my table, then click on the tab for “Similar Movies.” This shows me that there’s a project called This Means War that I hadn’t considered. So I’ll click on that and enter the data. Then, I’ll click on the tab for “Similar Movies,” and repeat the process.

Then, I’ll look for summaries of the projects on I highlight them, edit if needed, paste into a text file to remove formatting, then cut and paste into my table.

The important thing is to collect the data in one place so you can look for patterns.

My table looks like this: Good in a Room Nerd Ops Spreadsheet Example

Step 8: Sort The Table And Look For Patterns

Now, sort the table with the highest grossing projects at the top.

The point is not to be a slave to the box office and to copy exactly movies that have been successful.

Rather, it’s to have the same information that the decision-maker has, and to be able to customize your movie pitch using that information to showcase what’s original about your project in a way that is compelling to the listener.

Looking at our table, we can start to see patterns:

  • Nerd Ops would be more clearly described as an action comedy rather than a spy comedy (e.g. Austin Powers, Bean).
  • The top grossing action comedies are either romantic comedies or buddy pics (e.g., Knight and Day, Rush Hour, The Other Guys)
  • Characters who are “desk-jockeys” or “prodigies.”
  • Two male heroes.
  • A PG-13 rating.
  • Titles with 2-3 words.

Step 9: Improve Your Movie Pitch

Here’s the old short pitch, then the new one:

Old Movie Pitch:

It’s a comedy called Nerd Ops about the National Security Administration’s nerdiest technical people who must become field operatives to save the world from a terrorist hacker organization.

New Movie Pitch (changes in bold):

It’s an action comedy called Nerd Ops about two competing National Security Administration computer prodigies who must become field operatives and work together to save the world from a terrorist hacker organization.

Commentary On This Movie Pitch Example

To a new writer, these changes may not seem like such a big deal.

However, to an agent or a decision-maker who could buy the project, they are a MAJOR deal.

Two significant things to notice about the new movie pitch:

  1. Action comedies have a different market than comedies – both inside the US and especially outside the US. This change of genre has huge implications for audience, budget, marketing, and distribution.
  2. Centering the story on two heroes establishes that there will be two roles for stars rather than having it be an ensemble cast that may not interest the biggest stars.

This is how you sell a screenplay – by learning how to pitch a movie, choosing your words with extreme care, and speaking in the language of the decision-maker.

What If Your Pitch Doesn’t Sell?

Pitching, like writing, directing, or producing, is a big, complex topic.

It takes time to learn how to pitch a movie and more time to get good.

So if your pitch doesn’t help you make a sale or get hired, it could be that:

  • Your pitch isn’t compelling enough.
  • Your story is flawed.
  • You’re not handling the meeting dynamics well.
  • You’re not meeting with the right people.

Don’t Keep Pitching If It’s Not Working

When you are at the point where you are pitching your project to decision-makers, your success or failure in those meetings makes a big difference to your career.

If you’re not making sales or getting hired, it may be time to take a step back.

Take the time to learn how to pitch a movie. Make sure you’re getting in the right rooms with the right people. And be ready for the pitch meeting dynamics so you know exactly what to say when you get there.

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Discussion About How To Pitch A Movie – A Movie Pitch Example

  1. George

    Well, I feel the newer one is way busier and less coherent–the “two competing National Security Advirors, and “computer prodigies” is very DISTANCING and makes the characters less relatable—

    feel the older one is cleaner, more simple, more FUN sounding–and I get the same feeling (note: from technical people to field operatives implies the change, the action, the fish out of water, etc…)

  2. Ferdinand

    I think the old pitch doesn´t have main character, only the context. Is redundant, “Nerds Ops”… later “nerdiest technical people”… are character´s features. Therefore, no conflict, no goal at this level, main character. I think it doesn’t introduce us to the story, lack “who”. Thanks Stephanie and your client for sharing.

  3. Signe Olynyk

    Well done, Stephanie! A great example of how to make an okay pitch even better.

    Something that I think readers might want to consider is that written pitches/queries are often different than verbal/in person pitches.

    In my opinion, the first one is decent as an email or letter query, partly because of its simplicity. The second one is stronger as a verbally delivered pitch because it is more specific and paints a better pitcher visually.

    What are your thoughts on that, Stephanie? Do you think written logline queries should be different from verbally delivered pitches?

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Great point, Signe. Yes, often what works on the page sounds awkward when spoken out loud. I do think written queries should be different from verbal pitches.

  4. Manina

    I like your benchmarking approach to find out, where my script fits into what’s already out there. Would you suggest to do this table exercise before or after your first draft? It could probably add a lot of clarity as to how I want to position myself, but could also cut off the creative process too early. How do you see this?

    • Stephanie Palmer

      I suggest doing it before if you can, because it can save you time (if you spend a lot of time on a draft with a flaw that you catch in the research phase).

  5. steve obrien

    Many thanks for the article, really.


  6. Reed

    I could kiss you, for this. All I can say is thank youuuuuu, so much. You haven’t the slightest idea how much this information means…at least to me. Again thanks so much for this information.

  7. How To Write A Screenplay You Can Sell ‹ SSN Insider

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  8. How To Write A Screenplay Agents Will Love ‹ SSN Insider

    […] Your short pitch is 1-3 sentences that encapsulates the main idea clearly and concisely. Typically this a “selling” logline of your project that communicates the main idea. If you’d like to see an example of how to develop a short pitch, here’s a case study outlining the nine steps to creating an effective short pitch for your screenp…. […]

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    […]  By the time you get a meeting with a decision-maker who can make something happen, you should have a prepared pitch that you can deliver without referring to […]

  10. Claire

    I hope this gets made, sounds like my kind of comedy!

  11. How to Become a Screenwriter ‹ SSN Insider

    […] relationships with decision-makers who want to work with you. They suggest projects to you and ask for you to come in and pitch ideas. You are hired for rewrites and hopefully make a couple sales […]

  12. Jenny

    I wrote out a pitch but I’m still curious to see if i did it right… would u mind reading it? And I also wanted to submit my idea to a website I found, and when it says “send a pitch, and if he likes it, then you will be further notified” what format does it want the pitch to be in? I’m guessing this form but I haven’t found other sites with answers. Thanks!

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Hi Jenny. Unfortunately, I only give specific project feedback to my clients and I am not accepting new clients at this time as I am booked. You are probably referring to Bob Kosberg. I don’t know his requirements, but generally a synopsis that is shorter than one paragraph and covers the beginning, middle and end is what producers want in a short pitch.

  13. Mark Schaffer

    Very valuable roadmap. Using it to shape my pitch. Like the table idea.

  14. ellen

    Hi, i am working on a pitch for an awesome movie idea. It will be a written pitch that i want to email out. I am worried that i might email my idea to someone who will steal it. Is there anyway i can protect myself against this? Thank you.

  15. John Geraci

    Hello Stephanie,
    Interesting – I just finished listening to “Good In A Room” and was detailing my pitch based on your great ideas; then I got this, so I am revising the pitch and it can only get better. Many thanks.

    • Stephanie Palmer


      • Amyana

        I was just wondering how this pitch differs from a logline? They sound kind of similar.

      • Stephanie Palmer

        Yes, this is similar to a logline.

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  19. Gunel

    Dear Stephanie,

    This is very useful information, thank you! But there is one thing, the website says that it is not available at my country, are there other similar websites, where I can get summaries of the movies in fantasy genre?
    And one more question. I am almost finishing my script, should I complete the script and then start writing my pitch, or should I write my pitch now but after I do research?
    Best regards,

    • Gunel

      And one more thing, you mentioned that we need to add pitches of those movies into the table. Where should I find them?
      I type in for example Harry Potter pitch, but I can not find anything.

      Thank you!

      • Stephanie Palmer

        In this case, the “pitch” is the short summary of the movie you’d find on or a similar website.

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Instead of netflix, try And as for your creative process, I recommend research, pitch, then draft the script.

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  22. Mike Rogers

    Thank you for providing this information. Any information regarding the process is invaluable.

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Glad it was helpful to you, Mike.

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  24. Moey

    Ms Palmer, I have so many ideas for really unique stories and am just struggling to get them out there as I live in Australia where I don’t have any opportunities to pitch them anywhere or to anyone. Please Help.

    • Lori Blessing

      What if you pitch your idea- they say no and a few years later you see a story that uses your concept?

      • Stephanie Palmer

        That experience does happen, Lori. Here’s some information about copyright that you might find helpful.

  25. Maria Ellsperman

    I do love your first still and foremost. Short and to the point. It was amazing! Well, is amazing.

  26. Eric

    I’m looking to hire a agent that can help me pitch a movie idea….any suggestions?.

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Agents aren’t generally hireable- they decide who they want to work with and then receive commission based on any projects they sell. I have course How To Get An Agent that goes into detail on what agents look for, how to approach agents in the right way and how to find the right agent for you.

  27. Abiodun Oluwadurotimi

    Hi Stephanie, great write up you have there really helpful. I am a young film maker from Africa, Nigeria to be precise.

    I have interest in producing melodrama short films as this opens more consciousness to troubling issues here. From rape, domestic violence, child labor, maternal mortality, female genital mutilation (FGM) to mention a few.

    I would like to know if it is possible to get individual, corporate institution, or financier from other parts of the world I could pitch to as I am interested in producing a 26 episode TV serial which will be aired on the 3 most watched television stations in Lagos, the most populated state in sub Saharan Africa with a population of over 20 million people.

    Thanking you in anticipation of your response to my request.

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Thanks for your note, Abiodun. These are very serious issues and they are worthy of attention. Yes, there are a wide range of ways that projects are financed, especially when they cover important causes. I would start by researching how projects that have been produced in the past that are most like yours have been financed. If an individual, corporation or financier has had success with a similar project, they will be much more likely to invest in yours. Wishing you lots of success!

  28. Brittney Tucker

    Beautiful post and very informative. I am looking into writing as a side hobby for now and I would like to get feedback from you for my movie pitch ideas. Would you be available for online mentorship?

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Hi Brittney. Thanks for your note. Unfortunately, I am fully booked for consultations, however, here are some people and companies I recommend: Resources.

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  30. Jorge Marcos

    Thanks Stephanie! The table comes up with a better pitch. Can you use the table to show the numbers and potential to your pitch audience?

    • Stephanie Palmer

      I wouldn’t show them the table – you want them looking at and listening to you as a writer, not thinking of you like a researcher. The table is a tool for you to use to develop your pitch – not a visual aid for you to share in your pitch.

      • Richard

        Hi Stephanie, I’m lucky enough to have secured a pitch with a major Hollywood producer next week for my script. It’s an animation for family audiences. Should I include concept art, storyboards and breakdowns of the individual characters? Thanks in advance! Richard

      • Stephanie Palmer

        Stick to pitching the story verbally – keep their attention on you. Then, if you’re asked to show the art or talk about characters, have that ready to go.

  31. Troy

    Thanks for your information, as always. Working on my pitch package as we speak.

  32. Thais Guillen Otero

    Hi, Stephanie. Thank you so much for this article. I really needed it.

  33. hope shackelford

    Tim Tebow and I were both born in the Philippines to missionary parents and both our mothers had hardships at birth

    My birth include parasites almost taking my life and my father traveling for formula and being a only child at the time

    my birthday is August 11, 1987

    My story can be shared by itself the life of mine can have books and movies

    I did a John Robert Powers audition the man who did the audition did not make a call that he appeared to want to make but due to the other participant the option for the next room was given to both of us I’d like to know can their be another audition as well as my story can be a combination

    My name is Hope Shackelford

  34. Ermelle

    On 8 – 29 – 2005, a Veteran and injured, retired Police Officer gathered his neighbor, a Veteran and adult son, to enter Hurricane Katrina flood waters. Fortunately, a major Filmographer, also a Veteran, accompanied their 12 and a half hour rescue mission. Documentary includes untold stories of rescuers and was nominated for Best Filmography and Best Editing at the Southampton Film Festival.

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Congrats on your nomination, Ermelle!

  35. Tamiko White

    I am taking my first screenwriting workshop and will be pitching two ideas. What is the most effective way to pitch?

    • Stephanie Palmer

      I recommend following the steps in this post and wish you lots of success with your workshop!

  36. Lee

    Thanks for all of this its really helpful, one thing I didn’t get right, from where you take the pitch for The Table? (so much sites like IMDB, Wikipedia Box office Mojo etc, How (and why) you make your decisions?

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Thanks for your comment! I’m a little unclear about your question. Could you please elaborate?

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  38. John Scully

    I have written a story about a life-long and would like to have it made into a film. I need a film pitch worked out so as it can be presented to film producers. I have much of the material but unable to work the pitch. If there’s help for this I can send the material to you, Please give me an estimate for this work?

    Thank you,
    John Scully.

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Hi John – Thanks for the comment. Please email me at and I will send you a recommendation for someone who can offer you individual pitch coaching. In terms of a price estimate, it’s best for them to hear your needs before quoting you a price.

  39. Cheryl Fauntleroy

    I am investing as much money, time and patience that’s affordable, on my slim budget. Writing is my passion, and once I feel confident, I will make screenwriting my life.

    • Stephanie Palmer

      That’s great to hear, Cheryl! Best of luck!

  40. Tonico

    Log Line: The World Bank is putting an option on a work. Not to have the work produced rather have the work NOT produced.

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