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02/26/2002 - DON?T PITCH THE STORY


They think they want the story. They even tell you they want the story. But listen here: they don't want the story. They want the pitch.

Drill this into your head, and you'll avoid a lot of frustrating meetings.

Believe me, they (producers, agents, actors, directors, writers, friends, significant others, and anyone else) will ask you what the story is. They'll lead you to believe that you should go down the plot points, in order, as if you're recounting the movie. They are lying. You tell them the story, and they're not going to have the imagination to see the texture, and how everything fits together. That's what the script is for. Every time you talk about the story, you're talking about the pitch. Remember it well.

Don't be tempted by the other person's authority or friendship with you. The only time you really want to talk about the story is if someone has read and bought (or is thinking about buying) the script.

So what is the "pitch"? It's those compelling points that drove you to write or create the story in the first place. Those intriguing questions, characters, true-life facts, pet peeves, etc., that kept you going when you were writing or outlining it. It's the tip of the iceberg, the cream of the crop, the cover of the book - use whatever metaphor or bad clich? you want, but just avoid, at all costs, getting into the nitty gritty of recounting the plot. Unless you're an exceptional and experienced storyteller - and they're someone with an extraordinary attention span and focus - just stick with the most concise, exciting version you can get away with.

I've been in just about every kind of pitch situation - episodes, series, mini-series, networks, studios, producers, assistants, agents, managers, lawyers, non-pros, actors, writing partners, friends, strangers, and more - and I can't think of one where the concise pitch is preferable over the story. Most every time I've tried to buck this maxim, I've paid the price. Sure, maybe I got through the pitch meeting, but I often knew that I would have been more effective if I would have had a tighter pitch.

I'm not saying you can't give any of the story. A few colorful scenes always help to make the pitch more exciting. But use the script as source material, then tie the pitch to real life, the listener's life, and your own.

They want the pitch, not the story. When it comes to pitch meetings, it's the only way to go.




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