The Pitch The

					The Pitch
                   The Pitch
   Short for sales pitch. Pitching is one way
    that stories are purchased in Hollywood.
    In a pitch, a writer or producer will meet
    with a studio executive and sell him an
    idea for a story. Effective pitches are short
    and simple.
                   The Idea
   What’s a good Idea?
     You   know one when you hear one.
                    Idea 1
   A cranky, rude man has to relive the worst
    day of his life over and over again until he
    gets it right. When he does, he finds true
    love.
                   Idea 2
   Two women receive in vitro treatments at
    a fertility clinic. The good news is they
    both become pregnant. The bad news is
    that their embryos were mistakenly
    swapped. An odd couple, they move in
    together to keep an eye on how the other
    one gestates "her" child.
                    Idea 3
   A young gay man is accidently struck on
    the head and suffers amnesia. His father,
    who had never accepted his son's sexual
    orientation, tries to remake his son as a
    heterosexual.
                    Idea 4
   An irresponsible father loses his marriage
    and custody of his children, whom he
    loves dearly. Desperate to be near them,
    he disguises himself as an English nanny.
   Those are all good ideas. The first and last
    have already been made into successful
    films (Groundhog Day and Mrs. Doubtfire)
    the middle two are ideas currently being
    developed in Hollywood.
   I use these as a way of explaining what I
    mean by good story ideas. All are simple.
    If you read the description in a TV Guide,
    you would probably be inclined to see
    these films because the underlying ideas
    are good. Which isn't to say that bad
    movies don't get made from good ideas.
    But a good premise is where Hollywood
    likes to start.
   Does it take a screenwriter to come up
    with good ideas? Not at all. Lightning and
    inspiration can and will strike anywhere.
    This has always been true.
        Pitchable vs UnPitchable
   Not every good idea is a pitchable idea.
    And to be fair, not every pitchable idea
    makes for a good movie. But pitchable
    ideas are what can be sold in a meeting in
    a matter of minutes.
   To be pitchable, the idea must be simple
    enough to convey in two or three
    sentences. For example, the log lines in a
    TV guide that describe a movie are
    pitches. Watch TV advertisements for
    movies and study how the essence of the
    film is distilled into a few words -- words
    that make you want to see the movie.
                   High Concept
 High concept refers to ideas that can be
  explained simply and immediately understood.
 a sampling of high concept ideas-
       "Boy meets girl. Girl turns out to be a mermaid."
   Although high concept is often a term of derision
    (rightly so in many cases) for dumb gimmick
    movies, it does not have to be so.
       "Failing actor disguises himself as an actress to get
        work." That is high concept. That is also "Tootsie."
   Pitchable ideas are usually "high concept." For
    example: a shallow man with terrible
    relationships with women gets hypnotized so
    that he can only see a person's inner beauty. He
    soon falls in love with the obese daughter of his
    boss, and must face the derision of his friends
    and co-workers. That describes Shallow Hal.
    Once you hear the idea, you can picture how it
    could be funny. The script that comes from the
    idea may not be good, but the idea itself works.
    That's pitchable.
   Now consider this: college chums from the
    1960s reunite at the funeral of a common friend
    and spend a weekend examining their lives and
    their lost idealism. That describes The Big Chill.
    That was a successful film because of the
    writing and acting, not the concept. In fact, John
    Sayles had already made a similar film “Return
    of the Secaucus 7. The Big Chill was dependent
    on the execution of the idea. This is an example
    of a story that is unpitchable (except if you're
    Lawrence Kasdan and you have someone eager
    to back your next film).
   In short, pitchable ideas are high concept
    and do not rely on perfect execution. Even
    if the movie is so-so, audiences will turn
    out because when the hear the pitch --
    now part of the ad campaign -- they will
    be intrigued. Think of the Blair Witch
    Project
           Reasons for Rejection
   Too familiar
    Your idea was just too similar to other ideas
    bouncing around Hollywood. This can be
    perplexing. You see bland, trite movies at the
    multiplex and figure (rightly) that your idea is
    much better than the junk being made. Then
    you conclude that your idea is superior to the
    ideas being pitched, and that is where you are
    wrong. There are great ideas being pitched that
    never get bought or made into films -- it's just a
    weird quirk of the business. The competition is
    tough.
       Reasons for Rejection
 Too general
  There are too many ideas that are so
  general they do not suggest a story.
  Examples:
 "Two guys drive across country having
  adventures"
          Reasons for Rejection
   "Fred and Mike drive their Corvette from
    Jacksonville to San Francisco having
    adventures along the way." The second
    version is no better, even though it has
    more apparent details. This would not
    work either: "Two Lane Blacktop" meets
    "Thelma and Louise."
          Reasons for Rejection
   Or this: "a man hires a beautiful woman to
    be his secretary because he wants a
    romantic relationship with her." That does
    not suggest a story, just a situation and a
    common one at that. How about this
    instead: "a skirt-chasing boss unwittingly
    hires a gorgeous transvestite as his
    secretary and falls in love with her (him)."
   That would be better, but it still lacks a twist to
    add conflict and make it fun. Perhaps "a skirt-
    chasing boss unwittingly hires a gorgeous
    transvestite as his secretary and falls in love
    with her (him), and confides some of his dirty
    business secrets. When the boss discovers the
    truth, he also discovers the transvestite is the
    son of the chairman of the board and cannot fire
    him." That is still kind of lame, but you get the
    point.
                Spec Script
   Scripts written without a commitment to
    be purchased are known as "spec" as in
    speculative. Thousands of spec scripts are
    written every year. This is another way
    that Hollywood buys stories. For example
    "Lethal Weapon" was written on spec.
                Treatment
   Rather than write a complete 120-page
    screenplay, some writers choose to write a
    10-20 page treatment that describes their
    movie in a fair amount of detail. This is
    done as an interim step between a pitch
    and a spec script.
                    Coverage
   Because of the huge volume of scripts submitted
    every year, studios hire "readers" to read and
    evaluate scripts. Their report, called coverage, is
    basically a synopsis of the story with a summary
    paragraph recommending that the script either
    be bought or turned down. In Hollywood a turn
    down is known as a pass. As in, "The coverage
    was brutal and they passed. Oops, this call's
    important. Bye!"
                  Package
   Used as both verb and noun, the term
    reflects the business realities of
    Hollywood, which is avoiding risk while
    spending multimillions. Agencies and
    producers induce studios to fund their
    projects by bringing in a complete
    package of elements: a script, star actor,
    bankable director and so on.
                Development
   This is the process of taking a raw idea or even
    a draft of a script and getting it made into a film
    or TV show. Lots of ideas are put into
    development -- idea people earn option money,
    writers earn money to write screenplays, other
    writers earn money rewriting the previous
    drafts, etc. -- but only a few are actually
    produced. Millions get spent on development,
    which is why you have an opportunity to profit
    financially even if your idea never makes it to
    screen.
                  Studios
   The major Hollywood film studios are
    Sony Pictures (formerly Columbia), MGM,
    Disney, Universal, Paramount, Warner
    Brothers and 20th Century Fox. Besides
    producing feature films, these companies
    produce television series and Movies of
    the Week for the networks and cable.
       Production Companies
   Actors, directors and producers often have
    private production companies that buy
    and develop ideas. Savvy creative people
    know that sustaining a career requires
    having good material. If they have enough
    clout, they can get a major studio to pay
    for the cost of running their production
    company (office space, salaries, etc.) in
    exchange for having the first crack at
    anything the company produces.
                  Your Job
 Your Production Company must now pitch
  to the studio (ME) your idea
 Remember
     Introduce  yourselves
     Introduce your Production Company
     Eye Contact
     Keep it brief

				
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posted:4/17/2011
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