1. Realistically, how many pitches can one do (or even begin) in
In most pitching situations, you will know about what is expected in terms of your time
limit for each pitch.
If you don't know ahead of time what is expected, then begin with your "elevator
pitch": that is, your hook and story concept in about the same time that it takes an
elevator to open and close. If your listener's eyes look happy or encouraging, then
amplify. You should always be ready with a concise pitch and longer versions of the same
pitch just in case.
In most pitching sessions where the producer or agent wants to hear several ideas in a
short period of time, then spend about a minute or two on each pitch. Given that
guideline, you should be able to fit in about three pitches in five minutes.
Keep in mind that the listener may interrupt and ask questions or want you to tell them
more. You are in a selling situation, so be prepared.
Finally, it's usually best not to memorize a pitch. If you can deliver it "from your
heart" but not "by heart," that is ideal. If you need note cards to guide
you, that's okay, but never read a pitch. Let your passion come through when delivering
the pitch. If you get a positive reaction, consider leaving the listener a one-sheet with
your contact information on it.
2. I want to use a pen name. Do I register it or file some legal document? Will a pen name
mess up a writing contract?
Once you sell your script, the attorneys will know who to write the check to. The contract
will be made in your legal name, but request a paragraph in the contract that stipulates
that the writing credit shall be in your pen name. There is nothing you need to do to
register a pen name.
3. How do you find the fine line between creating a script which is "overdone"
or "over-structured" versus one that is too "loose" or
One film's over-structure is another film's under-structure. It depends on the nature of
the project and what the film wants to be.
Action movies tend to have a lot of structure. I usually recommend to clients to do as
much as they can to develop and deepen their characters, even though those characters will
not be as well developed as those in a well-written character-driven story.
Likewise, I usually advise writers of character-driven stories to strengthen sub-plots,
make sure all loose ends are tied up, and place more emphasis on the action/visual
elements of the screenplay, even thought these stories will not be as structured as the
The key is to find the structure that works best for your particular story, and it's a
different answer for different scripts.
4. Is it permissible to write a screenplay using a character from another screenplay if
you intend on only using the screenplay as a "sample script" to the company that
owns the rights?
As long as you understand that you can only use the script as a sample, then it's okay to
write it. However, most companies will want to see that you can create characters from