Academy Award Nominated Writer/Director Tony Gilroy Analyzes Some Movie Pitches

There aren't too many screenwriters with as many hit movies as Tony Gilroy (who, full disclosure, also happens to be one of my favorites). Even fewer screenwriters make the full transition to writer/director and are nominated for an Academy Award for their directorial debut (Michael Clayton). Regardless of the validity of Hollywood's most prestigious award, that still takes a bit of skill to pull off. So when someone with his experience level sits down and listens to some movie pitches, there's a good chance he has a pretty good idea about the difficulties of getting those films made in the Hollywood studio system.

Thanks to Scott Myers at GITS for posting this one:

Video is no longer available:

It's absolutely fascinating to hear an experienced writer (and director) analyzing movie pitches in the way that he does. He considers all aspects of the production, from budget, to tone, to casting choices -- and then also understands that above just a great idea, the story still needs to be executed on paper. If you're trying to be a screenwriter, he's the type of person you'll be up against when trying to sell your movie. From his point of view, it's not just enough to have a great pitch, at the very least you need to consider all of the other factors that go into making a film, because just one of those factors might be the difference between a paycheck or a swift kick out of the studio office.

Now, Tony is obviously looking at these pitches from a Hollywood point of view, but in terms of the scripts that many people will be writing for the lower budget levels, not all of these factors may be relevant. Someone without a lot of money isn't going to be casting an A-lister even if the script might call for one. The key difference that an independent screenwriter has to consider is that the bigger the idea, and the more characters there are, the more expensive it will usually be. So when money is a factor, pitch #1 from the video probably is going to be a little tough to pull off on a budget. There is no reason not to write for the sake of writing (to improve your own skills), but if you're trying to sell a script, these are the obstacles that you will come up against.

[via GITS]

Your Comment


Great article. A fascinating look at some things I didn't even think about or consider. Thanks!

But Joe, in the second sentence, it should be "fewer", not "less".

Keep up the great work!

August 10, 2012 at 10:43AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Adrian Centoni

You're absolutely right - fixed now. Always looking for grammatical errors, so it's much appreciated.

August 10, 2012 at 10:49AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Joe Marine
Camera Department

No problem, I love your work on this site. I also love grammar and proper spelling. If you guys ever need an editor, let me know!

August 10, 2012 at 10:45PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Adrian Centoni

It's interesting to hear him say what he does. As a director who will be soon pitching multiple movie ideas with a series of short films, it helps to hear others' viewpoints. It's quite a skill to be able to know what's "too" big for your first feature, like the one they mention about the Atlantean story.

I think there's a middle ground to go without compromising. While you may want to do a medieval adventure with dragons for your first feature, it's much too expansive. But you CAN do something big like "Chronicle" or "Terminator" and still have that wow factor, while keeping the budget at the micro level.

From what he says, it sounds like originality within a budget is the most ideal, which I guess is pretty much common sense. Good stuff!

August 10, 2012 at 11:02AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

David Phifer