The Business of Screenwriting: Bitching About Pitching

Today we have a guest post from Hollywood producer Max Millimeter. As usual this is a transcription of a recording Max made up at his Laurel Canyon home:

Okay, shoot me. Seriously.

Just got done with yet another pitch meeting where the goddammed writer screwed the pooch. What kinda pooch? Not a little wiener dog. Not a poodle. I'm talking a big-ass… what's a big-ass dog? I don't know dogs for shit. You figure it out, okay? This putz writer screwed that big damn dog.

How?

First off, he starts off talking about the story. I don't wanna hear how you came up with it, what genre it is, why you think it's the best damn thing since sliced bread. No! Tell me the story, that's what I'm there for, to hear a story.

Second, he's reading the pitch from a goddammed piece of paper. Look, if this is your story, you should know it by heart. When you pitch, you're like an actor. Learn your damn part!

And that leads to the biggie. You come to pitch, I want concept, I want characters, I wanna see the movie, but mostly I want passion. This is a story you believe in, okay? This is a story you have come up with, you have sweated bullets over, you are willing to fight for, a ball-bustin', titty-shakin', in your face, goddammed big deal. So act like it, okay?

This guy, this pasty-faced, slump-shouldered, weasly-eyed, limp-dick wimpy poo is all… "And the protagonist… er… um," and "And next… subplot… uh."

FUCK. THAT. SHIT!

This is your big shot! Whatever the hell you do, lemme see your passion!

I swear to God, I'm sitting there listening to this poor son-of-a-bitch wander through this so-called pitch, and while I'm nodding my head with my stupid fake smile on my face, here's what I'm thinking.

Ya' know that thing where you squeeze a person's head between your thumb and your finger? Like this guy:

That's where my mind is. He's droning on and on with his story, and I'm in my mind squeezing the crap outta the guy's melon.

Believe me, there is nothing worse than sitting through a lousy pitch, where the writer blabbers all over the place or gives you the story beat for goddammed beat. Especially if the story stinks to high heaven.

It's a pitch! Not an outline. I don't need every scene. Shrink the story and make me care. This ain't a new thing. This is S.O.P.P., Standard Operational Pitch Procedure.

So here's my advice to you. When you think pitch, think this simple formula: 4–4–2.

4 minutes: Gimme Act One. The Protagonist, other main characters, the situation, the problem, what happens to kick-start the story. Boom, boom, boom. Nice and neat.

4 minutes: Time for Act Two. I don't want the whole damn thing, just gimme the highlights. This dynamic, that dynamic, see how they play off against each other. Pick the key things and drive those home.

2 minutes: Act Three. Big ending. Resolve the holy crap outta the story, then shut the hell up. If I got questions, good for you. If not, beat a hasty retreat, 'coz you know I'm gonna pass — even though I'll say, "We'll get back to you" — and start working on your next project.

It's that simple. 4–4–2. Ten minutes, in and out.

But remember, bring the passion. 'Coz if you don't gimme passion, it's me squeezing your head time.

The Business of Screenwriting is a weekly series of GITS posts about living life as a screenwriter in Hollywood. Max Millimeter is a veteran filmmaker and known around town as "Hollywood Movie Producer Extraordinaire." Today's Max Fact: Once got high with Dennis Hopper. "There's high. Then there's Hopper high. Rainbow Bar and Grill, 1978? Rub elbows with the dude and you got wasted."


The Business of Screenwriting: Bitching About Pitching was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Go Into The Story – Medium

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