I was fortunate enough to attend a seminar with Hollywood master pitcher Steve Kaire. Typically, a logline without paper (anything written down) sells for around $5000. It’s better to pitch to production companies rather than development executives because they are usually seeking attachments.
He listed the four key components of a successful verbal pitch as:
TITLE: I’ve previously written about the importance of a strong title. It’s the first impression someone makes of your script. It should indicate what the story is about and the genre. Easy to sell titles include: Thank You For Smoking, The Wedding Crashers and Monster In Law (which sold on the strength of the title back in the day when it was possible). Poor titles include Drive Angry and Crank.
GENRE: The most popular genres are comedy, thriller, drama, adventure, horror, period, crime, fantasy, sci-fi, drama and musical. The top five selling genres are: action (easiest to sell to foreign territories), adventure (quest), thriller (suspense/horror), comedy/romantic comedy and crime. The toughest genres to sell are drama (despite their consistently cleaning up at the Oscars), musical, western and period.
LOGLINE: Loglines expound the setup/ premise, characters and conflict in 1-5 sentences. Convey the most information in the fewest words.
CHARACTER ARC: (optional) Can you tell by the way some projects are greenlit prematurely? This is the change the main character undergoes.
WHY DO SOME PITCHES FAIL?
- WEAK PREMISE: It’s too simple lacking in conflict and throughline. Examples include: a post office worker gets ready for retirement. Such projects are most likely character-driven and are entirely dependent upon execution than the concept.
- TOO GENERIC: The story has been told so many times before and you haven’t added a hook to make it original. One of the most overly-pitched stories are abduction/ ransom. Consider the recent Mel Gibson film, Ransom in which the father puts out a contract to killer his daughter’s abductor which adds a unique spin. Even more high concept is Ruthless People with Danny De Vito, who’s wife gets kidnapped. Rather than trying to get her back, Danny rejoices
- ODD IDEAS: Some are disturbing, nebulous or too arthouse. Sometimes the subject matter is too offensive and against prevailing public morality to attract an audience.
- TOO COMPLICATED: Oftentimes the writer has numerous unrelated storylines running on the page.
- PHRASING: Passive rather than active verbs have often been cited as boring producers as has eloquent, flowery, tangential language.
The desired reactions you want to your pitch are: Wow! Why didn’t I think of that? Why hasn’t this been done before?
When you’re pitching:
BE brief, enthusiastic, at ease. Develop a rapport and be flexible.
DON’T read your notes (send them an email instead), don’t memorize rigidly (have an element of rehearsed spontaneity), be boring or desperate.
So go forth and spread the good word on your stories.