If you missed part 1 of the Michael Hauge interview, do yourself a favor and click here right now, then come on back.
Not only is Michael Hauge a script consultant for some of the major film houses in Hollywood and a respected and well-traveled lecturer, he consults with attorneys, psychologists, corporations and individuals on employing story principles in their projects, their presentations, and their work with clients and patients. His new book, Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds: The Guaranteed Way to Get Your Screenplay or Novel Read, has just been published by Michael Wiese Productions.
Part 2, interview with Michael Hauge
Q: Do you have any pitch tips that might surprise people?
MH: Let me mention some things that people shouldn’t do – even though some consultants will disagree with me about these suggestions. First of all, don’t lead with your title. When you give your pitch, don’t start by saying, “JAWS is a story about a shark …,” because no matter how clever or interesting or relevant that title is, the buyer isn’t going to know what that connection is. As soon as you say it, they’re going to try to picture what your title means and not be listening to you after that, or they’re just going to be confused.
Imagine opening a pitch by saying, “BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN is…” I don’t know anyone who can get a picture out of the phrase “Brokeback Mountain”—well, now you can because everyone saw the movie—but you know what I’m saying. The title doesn’t create any emotion; it just creates confusion.
Next, don’t begin with your logline, that one sentence that summarizes your story, because when you first begin, a pitch is like any other conversation, and it’s going to take a while for the person to focus in on what you’re saying. If you just dump the logline on them right away, it’s just too much, too fast.
One of my favorite ways to open a pitch is to say, “I think the best way for me to begin is to tell you how I came up with this idea.” And then you tell them.
Here’s why I like that approach. Number one: it’s a segue, an empty sentence that they don’t have to pay much attention two. Number two: one of the most important things to convey in a pitch is your passion for your own story. And whatever it was that gave you your idea in the first place is probably what peaked your interest and got you passionate about it. So if you start talking about how you came up with your idea, you’re going to go right to that passion. Plus you won’t have to worry about memorizing your pitch, because you’re just talking about something that really happened. This will reduce your nervousness, because once you begin focusing on the story, instead of thinking, “How am I doing?” your fear is going to dissipate. And finally, whatever it was that gave you your idea will also be the hook that pulls them into the rest of your pitch.
Here’s an example. You say, “I’ve always been a huge fan of fantasy adventure stories, especially those with women as heroes.” And you pick a few antecedents, and then you tell the story of the story: “One day I read about somebody who found an artifact buried in an archaeological dig, and inscribed on the artifact was something indicating it had supernatural powers. I got to thinking, ‘What if an everyday woman found this artifact, and weird things started happening to her, so she had to go on a mission to discover yadda yadda yadda …?’” What you’re doing is segueing from how you got the idea right into the “what if” that becomes the essence of your story. But you’re doing this in a way that the core emotional stuff — the paranormal elements, the action/adventure, the odyssey she goes on, the danger she’s in, the excitement of the story – is revealed as you give your pitch.
Then you can end your pitch by saying, “…and that’s what occurs in my story,” then give your title, and end with your logline. You see, I’m not saying don’t reveal your title or logline, but rather to wait until it means something to the buyer. This way the last thing the buyer hears is the story description, something they can then use to sell the story to his boss in order to get her to read it.
Q: That’s a great tip. (Sidenote: Therese has already used this tip, and it works like a charm!) Can you share any others? [Read more…]