Thursday, August 19, 2010

Make sure you're selling the genre they want

Recently I had an opportunity to pass a friend's script onto a contact in the business. I had gotten this particular player interested in reading a few scripts off of pitches and this other friend was now ready with his spec. I knew that the industry player in question was open to all genres, but was really looking for comedy.

As it happens, my friend's script was a comedy with college-age characters. He'd done a recent rewrite on it and I hadn't had a chance to read it so I told him to write up a 1-paragraph pitch which I would then forward to my contact. Easy, right?

Except that the short synopsis my friend wrote emphasized only the dramatic elements of the story - the personal character arc that the hero goes through. It ended up sounding like a drama built around a journey of self-discovery rather than a low-budget comedy about a post-grad house party. My friend got so invested in what his character goes through that he forgot that presentation is half of what gets you through the door.

When trying to sell, the way you pitch your story can make all the difference in the world. A few choice words can take a wacky comedy and seemingly reduce it to a straightforward drama.

If you want a visual representation of what I'm talking about, take a look at this trailer for Dumb & Dumber, with the footage edited so it looks like a melodramatic thriller:

Or how about this trailer that makes Mary Poppins look like a horror film?

And surely you've seen how The Shining has been made to look like a heart-warming comedy?

So how are you going to sell your movie? It's not about your premise. It's about how you tell them your premise.

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