Saturday, September 29, 2007

Pitch, Hit, Score!

The most viewed article on is titled Tampon Protests Distract N.Y. School. Well, of course it is--just look at the headline! It's got a bit of sex, violence and rock 'n roll right there in five little words. People who viewed this article also viewed stories titled, Woman Dies After Airport Arrest and Man Eats 21 Pounds of Grits for Title and Isolating the Menace in a Sterile Supermax. Wow--I have no idea what that last one means, but it sounds like the plot of a Battlestar Galactia episode, doesn't it?

All in five to seven brief words these headlines generate enough interest to get someone to click on them and read the story. Sort of like a logline pitch--concise, coherent but enough to induce curiosity. Distilling the story of entire screenplay down to a few sentences (or less!) is one of the hardest things for a screenwriter to do. A story that can be summed up in a few words is known as "high concept" while one that requires more explaining is, uh--a Wes Anderson movie. Not that there's anything wrong with Wes--it's just that the harder a story is to pitch, the harder it is to sell. Harder to get someone to "click" and want to read your script.

My favorite logline is for my dark comedy script, The Prophet. I tell people it's about "the mass marketing of a modern-day messiah." That generally gets people to take notice and say, "I want to read that." For my other comedy, I say it's about "a nice girl who unleashes her inner badass when she becomes a professional dominatrix." That generally gets people's attention as well. My multi-plot line, ensemble drama with the semi non-linear timeline? Almost impossible to condense into a logline, impossible to pitch--and therefore almost completely unmarketable. I probably should have tried coming up with the pitch before writing the script, huh? Oh well, maybe someday some young indie director will read it and fall in love with it...

So go read some headlines--see how few words it takes to grab attention. And then use that knowledge to create your loglines and practice your pitching.

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