I’ve been hearing pitches through @Stage32Scripts occasionally over the past five years. Here are the questions I almost always ask writers about their projects, what I mean by them, why I ask them, and what I’m looking for in an answer:
(You should be ready to answer these whether you’re pitching to a service like Stage 32, a potential agent/manager, a producer, or a studio. I have also listed them in order of importance; if you can’t answer the first questions, the later ones won’t come up).
Who is the main character?

If this isn’t clear in your pitch itself, it’s probably because you’re pitching an ensemble TV show. A series that focuses on an ensemble is viable, but you won’t have time to go this deep into everyone in the pilot. Pilot still needs a main character.
What does the main character want? What are we rooting for?

A strong external journey is important in order to understand what it is your audience is going to be asked to invest in.
What does success look like? What does “making it” mean?

Sometimes a character’s goal isn’t specific enough (ie “to make it as a writer in Hollywood). It’s important to know exactly what it looks like when success happens so your audience knows what they’re hoping to see.
Why do they care?

In order for the journey/goal to matter to your audience, it’s essential to know why it matters to the character. What does success mean to them? Why is achieving this success so important to them? What does it symbolize?
What is the Central Dramatic Question of the series (or of the first season/of the movie)? What is the overarching story of the series?

In order to understand whether a show has potential for longevity, I’m looking for a strong, cohesive narrative arc to tie the journey together
What does this look like? What am I watching? What is the external journey?

If you’re getting this question it’s probably because you’ve been talking about a lot of emotions, feelings, ideas, and themes. A peril in coming-of-age stories. What makes this story visual/for tv?
What are the stakes? What happens if they fail? What are we fearing?

Sometimes these are emotional, sometimes they’re actual, ideally they’re both. If your story doesn’t have strong stakes, it’s going to be hard to convince your audience of its urgency.
Why does falling short of the goal matter to them? Why is that so bad?

This is another way of asking about emotional stakes. How does your structure relate to the heart of your character, what they value, and why they value it? (Looking for thematic + plot cohesion here).
Why do I care?

If I’ve already asked about goals and emotional stakes and am now asking this, it probably means you haven’t answered those questions satisfactorily enough and I’m coming at it from a different angle. What makes your Central Dramatic Question compelling?
Why are we rooting for them?

This is as close as I’ll get to “what makes someone ‘likable’?” We don’t need to like your character, but we do need to want to see them succeed, even if it’s just out of curiosity to see whether they *can*.
What is their plan? What’s the tactic? What do they do?

If your pitch gives me a solid understanding of the overarching plot of the series or movie, I can start getting into the more interesting questions of what some of the sequence-level and scene-level stories are.
Why would this character do this?

Here I’m trying to learn more about your character’s motivation and values. If you haven’t set up strong stakes, I need to know some other reason why they’ll go through the trials of your show or movie. What’s driving them?
What is their emotional journey? What is their internal arc?

This is where the magic happens. If you don’t have an internal arc, you don’t have a story. @KMWeiland breaks this down really well in this article: helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/character-arcs…
Where does the comedy come from?

If you’re pitching a story that’s a comedy, and you don’t make me laugh, I’ll ask what elements of your project will make an audience laugh. Hint: saying “the characters are funny” isn’t enough. I love this book: amazon.com/Comic-Toolbox-…
How did these characters meet?

This is another way of drilling down into an inciting incident, if your backstory isn’t clear in the pitch. But if your story is about friends or lovers, it also tells me more about the characters as people.
What sets this apart?

Either your project is so grounded I’m not quite sure how to sell it, or I’ve heard a lot of similar pitches. This is where you highlight what splashy element of your hook is really different or where your personal voice is unique.
What makes this character interesting to watch?

This is another question if your character sounds grounded, reasonable, or too realistic. Many writers tell stories based on their own lives, but they still need to be narratively compelling to an audience.
What’s their weakness?

Have you written a character who is too strong/intelligent/badass, and whose internal arc doesn’t go deep enough? It won’t be that interesting to watch them break through every obstacle easily. Give them a physical or (preferably) emotional kryptonite.
Why now? What is the inciting incident of the series?

If this isn’t clear in your pitch, grounding your story in the launch of the events that set everything into motion will give me a better idea of that overarching Central Dramatic Question and why it’s important.
What is the main tension between the characters?

Either your characters sound too similar or too agreeable. Even if they’re on the same side, I want to know how their personalities will cause interesting problems for one another.
What is this show trying to say?

The story sounds fascinating, and now I want to know more about you as a writer! What’s your angle, what themes are you passionate about, and why did you choose to write this? How do you want your words to affect the world and your viewers?
That’s all I have room for here! I hope this is helpful as you’re preparing your next pitch.

What kinds of questions have you gotten while pitching? Have I left anything off the list?

What other topics should I do a deep dive thread on? #screenwriting

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More from @audreyknox

22 Nov
Happy Holidays, screenwriters! As a literary manager who receives hundreds of queries a year, I have put together a timeline of the industry to help you manage your outreach and networking with efficiency:
Thanksgiving to the New Year (New Year = the first Monday of the year): please do not send us anything except gifts and cards. We have piles and piles of reading. Our families miss us. We spend all of this month pretending to work.
Not me, but many of my friends and definitely (I cannot stress this enough) *not me* put together highly ambitious reading lists of scripts we’re behind on and instead end up spending the entire holiday break watching tv, only to do all our reading during the first week of Jan.
Read 12 tweets
22 Nov
When during the week is the best time to reach out to agents and managers? Thoughts below:
I recommend keeping a log of when you do outreach, what your email said, and what time/day of the week/date you did. I can give you opinions, but you can gather data.
Don’t do weekends. I try not to check my email on weekends, but I’m always keeping an eye on it for anything urgent. I don’t consider unsolicited queries to be urgent, so you’ll probably end up buried and forgotten.
Read 8 tweets
31 Dec 20
The best way to format a pitch is thusly:

Start with a personal anecdote to give your audience some insight into your personality (in a way that relates to your pitch) and maybe what inspired the idea in the first place.
Then jump into the premise (DON’T just read the longline—their eyes will glaze over and they will stop listening if anything sounds too rehearsed).

Then run through the MAIN characters (like 2-3, not too many!)9 we know who the story is about.
Pitch the pilot story: a good pilot is a microcosm of your series, so the pilot story will give your audience a good idea of what the show is. Then get into the season one arc, a couple of sample episodes (esp if it’s a comedy), then the series arc.
Read 9 tweets
30 Dec 20
Are you ready to start looking for a manager? A thread discussing what you should have in your creative arsenal for when you take that next step:
A question I get all the time from writers is “how many scripts should I have before looking for representation?” My unhelpful answer is obviously: as many as it takes. The more practical rule of thumb that I recommend is two.
You should have two really solid, well-received, ready to go final drafts of scripts in the same genre (this means two half hour comedies, two hour long dramas, two features, etc.)
Read 10 tweets
30 Dec 20
How to brand yourself as a writer: a thread.

The biggest branding mistake I see from writers is trying to convince everyone that you can write anything. I get it! You want a job writing. It’s your dream. You will take anything that comes your way. Here’s why that’s not smart:
(First off, let me say that I love you and believe in you and I do believe that you can truly write anything you set your mind to. That’s not the issue here).
When it comes to branding, many writers are either afraid of 1. Missing out on opportunities or 2. Being put in a box permanently once they start specializing in something. Let’s address each of these:
Read 16 tweets
29 Dec 20
ATTN aspiring TV writers: As we move into 2021, many of you are thinking of your next steps goals—one of which is probably to sign with an agent or manager. I tend to get many of the same questions regarding this process, so I’ll write some threads with the advice I usually give:
First, a disclaimer: these are my opinions based on my experiences and insights from this side of the business (management representation). If another professional offers different advice or a different opinion, that’s awesome! I highly recommend getting multiple perspectives.
My qualifications: I’ve spent 4 years working for @CartelHQ (starting as a receptionist, working my way up to Assistant, to coordinator, and now manager). I rep TV writers at the producer, story editor, staff writer, and script coordinator levels.
Read 36 tweets

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