Future Filmmakers Pitch Story Ideas to a Pro

What’s the recipe for a perfect pitch? Is it passion? Delivery? Confidence? Actually, it’s all three ingredients, according to Minneapolis film writer and director Andrew Hunt.

Trey Wodele, Associate Dean of Education and Program Chair: Digital Video & Media

Trey Wodele, Associate Dean of Education and Program Chair: Digital Video & Media

For more than ten years, IPR associate dean of education Trey Wodele has shown his screenwriting students a video clip of Hunt’s film pitching skills in action. In 2006, Hunt was among the top six contestants on Fox reality show, “On the Lot.” 50 filmmakers were given a logline and limited time before they had to pitch their ideas to some of Hollywood’s finest directors and producers. Some pitches were downright uncomfortable to watch. But in the episode Wodele uses year after year, Hunt is the clear and confident winner of the “pitch” challenge.

Imagine the surprised look on students’ faces when Hunt walked through the door on the day they were supposed to pitch their movie ideas in front of the class.

Filmmaker, Andrew Hunt

Filmmaker, Andrew Hunt

“I’ve had a friend-of-friend type connection to Andrew, but had not actually met him until this winter at Z-fest,” said Wodele. “I told him that I’d used his pitch as an example for hundreds of kids over the years and we discussed him showing up to witness the pitches from my current students. He said he’d be thrilled.”

One by one, students got up in front of “studio execs,” including Hunt, stating their loglines and pitching ideas. Three students are part of the High School Advantage (HSA) program, with the youngest student just 16-years-old.

Among the students is 18-year-old Ethan Tracy, who is in his second quarter at IPR in the digital video and media production program.

Digital Video & Media student Ethan Tracy pitching his story idea

Digital Video & Media student Ethan Tracy pitching his story idea

“This was the first pitch I ever actually prepared for.  A few weeks ago, we were just kind of practicing how a pitch works,” says Tracy. His logline was about a “slacker” who applies for a job at the CIA as a joke, but somehow gets accepted.

The pitch took around five minutes, followed by feedback from Hunt, instructors and classmates.
“I love this character that this kid is pitching because there’s nobody else that could pitch that story except for that kid,” said Hunt, during an interview with IPR. He said Tracy was able to tell the character’s story so well. He sold it.

Tracy said he felt nervous but was able to get through it. In fact, he said if he had done this as a high school student, he likely would have froze in front of the crowd.

“I was the last person. It gave me time to mentally prepare and I was able to get my story concept told,” said Tracy.  I wish I had a better structure and voice articulation but I don’t know, Andrew gave a lot of constructive criticism and I know what to work on now. He liked the idea.” Tracy said he would like to be a producer someday but enjoys storytelling as well.

For Tracy and the other students, it was a chance to network with a professional filmmaker and establish a connection that may lead to a job someday.

Hunt said if anyone in Wodele’s class wants to get in the film industry, they can do it.

“It’s not a matter of who, it’s a matter of when,” he said.


Top Three Tips for the Perfect Pitch

With years of experience in pitching a story, Hunt has some good advice when it comes to the perfect pitch:

  • Connect with the material

“Make the material yours. Only you can tell that story. I think that’s when you can see a good pitch from a bad pitch.”

  • Entertain the audience

“You’re not just telling people. You’re telling people a story, which means you’re entertaining them. You want them interested, you want to keep them you know, engaged into your story. So the words you use, the tempo you use them.”

  • Confidence

“When you get up there, you’re really not pitching any idea. You’re selling yourself. People in this business want to invest in people that they want to work with. Like, I will take a cinematographer okay but I love working with than a diva any day of the week because it’s all about relationships and that’s about people.”
[vimeo 5377808 w=500 h=338]

Pitching Hollywood… from Andrew Hunt on Vimeo.

Visit the IPR digital video & media production program page to learn more.

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