Ruth Barringham is a writer, author, and online marketer. She also runs https://ruthiswriting.com
Ever thought of a good idea for a movie and then dismissed it because you’re not a screen writer?
Well you don’t need to be a screen writer to make it into the movie business. You only need to have a great idea for a good script to earn big money.
In fact, pitching a successful idea for a movie to a Hollywood Studio is one of the highest paid ways to earn money – up to six-figures just for writing a few lines.
As an example, one successful pitch was from a grandmother in the USA who only pitched one sentence: “Are you interested in a story about a man who lives in the Statue of Liberty?” The idea was fleshed out into a complete story and sold to a movie studio. The grandmother was paid almost $100,000 for writing her one sentence.
The trick to being successful is to be able to pitch your idea in a way that provokes interest in the reader. As writers we have an edge over others because it’s not always the best idea that wins, but the idea with the best pitch.
An idea for a movie can come from anywhere. What you need to do is to be always on the lookout and alert to all possibilities. Movie ideas in the past have come from video games, comic books, movie re-makes, board games, magazines, newspapers, books and general conversations.
Hollywood studios know that their most talented scriptwriters don’t necessarily have the best and most original story ideas. This is why they buy ideas from many different sources. They don’t care where an idea comes from. But if it’s good they want to own it.
So if you have a story idea that would make a great movie, or even if you have only part of an idea, you could have something of incredible value. You only need to pitch your idea, or part idea, and if a movie studio wants to buy it they will set their own screenwriters to work on it.
What a Movie Pitch Needs
The best movie idea needs 3 essential elements.
Firstly it needs a beginning, middle and end.
Secondly it must have conflict (preferably multiple conflicts) to drive the story forward.
The third essential element is a main character, or characters, for the audience to care about. It doesn’t matter if the characters are good guys or bad guys, as long as the audience cares. Bonnie and Clyde’s main characters were wanted criminals but their personalities kept the audience caring about what happened to them.
Without characters a movie can seem flat. Take Jaws for instance. Without the involvement of the character’s emotions, it’s a story about a great white shark that terrorises tourists on a beach in New England. Eventually the shark is hunted down and killed.
With character emotion included it’s a story about a New England sheriff who is afraid of the ocean. When a great white shark terrorizes and kills tourists swimming at his beach, he has to face his greatest fear and go out to sea to catch and kill the shark. Eventually the boat is sunk, the crew lost and the sheriff and the shark have a final and fatal showdown in the water.
See the difference when a character is introduced?
There are 8 different movie genres that audiences pay to see. These are:
Action Thrillers – i.e. “Lethal weapon,” “Die Hard.” These movies are a roller coaster ride of action, danger and thrills and are always a saleable idea.
Comedy – There are 3 different types of comedy: Straight comedy, i.e. “Twins,” “Death Becomes Her.” Romantic comedy, i.e. “Pretty Woman.” Outrageous comedy, i.e. “Mask,” “Honey I Shrunk the Kids”. Comedy ideas always appeal.
Science Fiction – i.e. “Jurassic Park,” “Alien,” “Men in Black.” Always popular with audiences but expensive to make so ideas need to be new and extremely appealing.
Love Stories – i.e. “An Affair to Remember,” “An American President.” Not big box office grossers so not always pitchable – unless the story has a very unusual twist. But they can be suitable for a made-for-TV movie.
Horror – There are 3 different types of horror movie: Comedy – “An American Werewolf in London.” Psychological – “The Sixth Sense.” Gore Fest – “The Evil Dead.” Studios are always looking for a new horror idea, especially if it has a new or unique twist.
Suspense Thriller – Used to be the big ‘must see’ movies in the 1950s but are now more likely to be made as a TV movie, although some have still managed to break the mould and be made into big screen movies, i.e. “Fatal Attraction”, “Basic Instinct”.
Real Life Stories – i.e. “The Terminal,” “Ghandi”. These need to have a high amount of character appeal for audiences. Most true life movies are made into TV movies, unless they have a really interesting twist in the story or are about someone famous.
Period Movies – These are very expensive to make and often difficult for the audience to relate to and for this reason, unless you have a really unique idea, should usually be avoided.
Another thing to remember with any movie idea is not to assign certain actors to play certain parts. There have been exceptions to this rule such as Twins which was thought up with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito in mind. But this idea was pitched by a well-known director who approached the two stars who instantly loved the idea.
What Makes a Good Movie Idea?
When pitching an idea for a movie remember that there are 2 types of movie idea: High Concept and Low Concept.
A high concept idea is one that can be described in only 2 or 3 sentences. To see if your idea is high concept give it the “TV Guide” test. Look at the movie page in a TV guide and see how succinctly the movies are summarized. If the short description entices you to watch the movie then it’s high concept.
So look at your idea and see if you can boil it down to 2 or 3 power-packed, short, sentences that will excite the reader and compel them to watch it.
Examples of high concept movie ideas are:
“Speed” – A bus is rigged with a bomb and if it goes less than 50 mph, the bus, and all the passengers on it, will explode.
“Groundhog Day” – A bored TV anchor man finds that when he wakes up every morning it’s still the day before so he is forced to live the same day over and over again.
A low concept movie idea is “When Harry Met Sally” or “The English Patient”. Why? Because they cannot be described quickly and easily.
“The English Patient” was an Oscar winning movie and worked great as a script. But to pitch it as a single idea would have been impossible because of all the constant scene and time switching and the cross cutting stories. These types of movies are best left to the script writers.
Disney’s “Enchanted” is a perfect idea of a simple idea that can be pitched — characters from fairy tales come to life in the real world. That only took 11 words.
To pitch your movie idea, as well as the first 2 or 3 sentences called a logline or a tag line, you also have to flesh it out into a synopsis.
Take for instance the earlier logline from “Groundhog Day”. In your longer synopsis you could expand it to:
“A bored TV anchor man is sent to a small town to cover a minor local event called Groundhog Day. He is resentful at the TV station for undervaluing his potential yet again. He soon finds himself caught in a cycle of waking up and having to relive Groundhog Day. At first he cannot believe it’s true that he’s re-living the same day over and over. He then becomes amused by it, then bored by it, then suicidal because of it and discovers that no matter how many times he kills himself he still wakes up on Groundhog Day again. It’s not until he becomes the honest and kind person he should be, instead of the thoughtless jerk that life has made him, that the curse is broken and the cycle stops repeating.”
How to Pitch Your Idea
Once you have your own great movie idea, it’s time to pitch it to Hollywood. Movie ideas can be pitched to several different sources. They can be pitched directly to studio development teams, producers, directors and to movie stars.
If you do have a star in mind then there’s no reason why you can’t pitch to them directly. You can find contact information for celebrities at these websites:
https://www.who2.com is a free site listing celebrity background information.
https://www.reelclassics.com/Address/address-list.htm has a free list of celebrity addresses and contact information.
https://www.ifta-online.org. Independent Film & Television Alliance lists up and coming events for producers, directors, financers, writers and others in the movie industry. It also lists independent film companies. Their film catalogue lists movies in production, post production, plus the production companies.
Or you could try using INKTIP.com “Where everyone goes for scripts and writers.”™ to get your idea (logline) published in their magazine so that it can be seen by over 15,000 movie producers, reps and other industry execs. Inktip claim that over 28 movies a year are produced using scripts and writers they found on Inktip.
But the quickest and easiest ways to pitch your movie idea is through the Hollywood agent known as “The King of Pitch.” Mr Robert Krosberg. He is the only Hollywood agent who makes his living by pitching and selling other people’s movie ideas.
Every year Robert Krosberg considers over 5,000 movie ideas. Of these he’ll pitch about 50 or more to the major film studios.
To pitch your movie ideas to Robert Krosberg just go to his website at http://www.moviepitch.com. Here you can sign up and pitch as many movie ideas to him as you like for a small fee (at time of writing).
There is also a wealth of information at his site about how to pitch your idea and what the industry is currently looking for.
And you never know; a future Hollywood blockbuster movie may have been created from your idea which could have earned you a six-figure sum.
So why not give it a go?
As Robert Krosberg himself said, “No one really knows where the next great idea is going to come from and the best executives know that they don’t know. That 25-year-old kid with the weird hair might have an idea that’s worth millions.”