Skip main navigation

Expanding the Five Finger Pitch

Read Michael Lengsfield's article on expanding the Five Finger Pitch to a Ten Finger Pitch
Hand showing pitch ideas on each finger, teen drama, 16 year old runaway, hitchhiking cross country, doesn't know full name, throwaway kids
© University of East Anglia

In this second week, let’s continue to work with the story we developed for our Five Finger Pitch, which should loosely conform to the model for the character-driven three act screenplay.

In this exercise, let’s fill it out to a full Ten Finger or Two Handed Pitch. The first five fingers remain the same. That part of the pitch focuses on the story’s lead character, the setup and your approach to the material. To fill out the story in more detail, let’s use the other hand. These five points will focus on the details of our story’s “Has Trouble Getting it” and follows through to a resolution.

If you used your own story for the Five Finger Pitch but are finding it too challenging, in the time frame of this course, to complete this extension exercise with that story, do feel free to switch to a film you already know.
The first three fingers cover what would be a second act:
  • The Thumb will summarise the first half of the second act. It’s all about the protagonist heading off with the original plan. At this point, the action may go more or less to plan, despite the obstacles.
  • The Index Finger will address the story’s midpoint. Events at a story’s midpoint often address the changes that occur within the protagonist(s). Until this point, the audience may see the characters more clearly than they see themselves. Midpoint action often forces the characters to recognise their own changes, bringing some of the internal wants and desires to the surface. It may be falling in love, growing to trust another character, or perhaps seeing someone else as a fraud or bad influence. At this point, the characters often must take note of their inner needs, as well as the external goal that drives the plot.
  • The Middle Finger will summarise the second half of the story, right up to the crisis moment, when everything goes wrong. As the story moves toward a conclusion the range of options narrows and the obstacles or opponents begin to close in on the character. If it leads up to a victory, it will be a false victory. In most cases, it leads to near disaster.
The last two fingers cover what would be a third act, the resolution.
  • The Fourth Finger covers the character’s moment of doubt and change, which sets him or her off to the final confrontation.
  • The Pinky Finger describes the story’s climax, the final events, confrontation or action that will, once and for all, resolve the story question.
The process for this expanded pitch remains the same: each entry must be short enough to write inside a finger. Brevity is your friend, as it will force you to summarise effectively. You can always fill in more details later, but a simple, clear summary will keep you on track and your listener engaged.
Here are the hand illustrations once more: Five Finger Pitch Pictures.
Once we finish this, we will have what is effectively a concise, ten-point outline for a story.
In the next step you will have the opportunity to create and share your Ten Finger Pitch.

Michael Lengsfield

© University of East Anglia
This article is from the free online

An Introduction to Screenwriting

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education