How a Pitch Video Can Help Sell a Project

Image ©1994 Touchstone Pictures
Image © 1994 Touchstone Pictures

The pitch. Everyone talks about pitching projects, but what does that really mean?

Simply put, it’s when someone with an idea tries to sell it to someone, either an individual or business, with the money and/or resources to get it made.

In the entertainment industry, writers and directors pitch not only their own concepts but also try to sell their creative talents on an already developed project that needs the vision to bring it to fruition.

As both time and technology change, so has the pitch itself. Once presented on paper with the occasional illustration, now pitches are presented in various forms of multimedia, including a sizzle or mood reel, which has become the most effective way to present your approach. Utilizing visual elements that might be misunderstood by words alone, a strongly designed and edited reel will naturally show how a difficult to market project could be executed in a clear and compelling way.

But there aren’t any limitations to what kind of reels can be produced, as they serve several different purposes.

For instance, these first two pitch videos resulted in the director’s vision making it’s way to the big screen.

Deadpool by Tim Miller

Created by director Tim Miller and starring Ryan Reynolds back in 2012, this footage was originally produced to sell the studio that the Deadpool character was a viable property after his lackluster appearance in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The footage was intended to prove that the costume, tone, and character would work on screen. What was delivered by Miller was an exciting sequence that was violent, funny and irrelevant, and very impressive.

Unfortunately, the short went nowhere until it mysteriously was leaked online, where its reaction was extremely positive, convincing 20th Century Fox to put the project into production. This footage was reshot and incorporated into the film.

To date, Deadpool has earned almost $750 million internationally.


Looper by Rian Johnson

via Johnson:

This is a strange curiosity I thought might be interesting – just after I finished the script for Looper but before we began preproduction I asked Joe to record some voice-over, and with help from my friend Ronen Verbit constructed this “fake trailer” using clips from other movies.

This is a fairly common thing to do when you’re trying to get a movie off the ground, but it was the first time I tried it. It was meant to show more some of the film’s tone, and to show how the odd concept could be presented in a clear and compelling way in the marketing. Zach Johnson did the sketches. Note that we hadn’t begun the casting process yet, and the clips were chosen just based on their visuals and not by who is in them.

Both of the following projects were made under different circumstances; Daredevil went on to become a successful series on Netflix and The Hunger Games was produced as a successful quadrilogy, establishing lead Jennifer Lawrence as a box office star.

Daredevil by Joe Carnahan

Sizzle reels are spliced together with pre-existing shot footage, concept art, and audio to sell an audience on tone and theme. Carnahan, the director of films such as The Grey, The A-Team and Smokin’ Aces also used comic book images from Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s work on the title, re-edited footage from Ben Affleck’s take on the character and set specifically during the gritty era of 1970’s New York. Sadly, this vision never came to fruition as Fox let the rights revert back to Marvel.

The Hunger Games by Kevin Tancharoen

Considered to work more like a trailer, showcasing both the talent and the creative vision.

A fantastic example of this is Fame and Mortal Kombat: Rebirth director Kevin Tancharoen’s pitch for Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games.

For this pitch, Tancharoen went a step further, creating a more cohesive movie trailer. It’s not just about atmosphere and tone, but also story. Whereas Daredevil captured the spirit, The Hunger Games captures both the story and the soul of the books.

Finally, this last video shows some of the imaginative images developed for a particular director’s take on a film long in development.  The final version was a box office flop, directed by Pixar’s John Stanton.  Although the film was poorly marketed, it’s interesting to consider if this take on the source material would have found a wider audience.

Kerry Conran’s John Carter of Mars

Before the project went to Disney, it was developed at Paramount with visionary director Kerry Conran (best known for Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow), who put this together with his artist brother, Kevin Conran.

In Kevin’s own words:

What might have been…
The floating mountains and dragonfly-winged creatures existed years before similar ideas were brought to the screen in AVATAR.

A pitch reel will show more than any screenplay ever can; it’s immersive and it provides a vision that the reader might be lacking. They’re getting a window into a filmmaker’s imagination that can help them visualize beyond their own limitations.

Welcome them to your world.

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