Updated: Oct 18, 2019
Special Edition: Greetings from Berlinale
Maybe you are like me – I adore film festivals. This feeling of diving into a countless number of stories, worlds… running from one film to another, from one party to another, from one meeting to another, the atmosphere of celebration of all our film professions. People who think and feel the same, who you can meet and talk to, exchange knowledge, passion, and maybe even collaborate with, are on every corner, and all of them have come from around the world because they love film.
Festivals are the best way to keep yourself professionally alive and also challenge your ability to keep track with global production, which is huge, of course. We probably see just one percent of all films that are produced around the world every year. And as much as film is our love, it is also a big business. Red carpets and stars are living proof of that.
I know that if you are writing films or shooting them, you would like to be part of this big celebration yourself, first maybe as a spectator, but then absolutely as a filmmaker who has film in competition. So many people are part of it, why not you?
Having that in mind, Intuitive Screenwriting has two questions: one is how to sell your script, and the second is, how do you sell it to someone who feels the same as you about it? Can I say, “sell yourself to someone who’s going to love you”? Because you know, you felt good while writing the script, why wouldn’t you feel good after? It’s your birthright, isn’t it?
The first answer and the first step of the “seduction game” is: be prepared.
The second answer is: be prepared to wait.
The first tip is: be yourself.
The second tip is: your story matters.
What do I mean by “be prepared” – I mean, first of all, know your story and second, don’t give it to just anyone. I know you want to see it on the screen badly, but it’s essential that you find a perfect match for yourself and for your script.
Knowing your story well, will increase your chance to sell it
So, here are some pitch elements that I strongly believe can help you to write your script first and then eventually sell it.
Let’s assume you are writing/selling a love story, for example, and you need to answer the following question: what, who, why, when, where, and how?
Idea: What if we end up in a world where love is forbidden? (The ‘what’)
Premise: Love is worth dying for. (That’s your law, something you want to prove to the world and the reason you’re writing this story) (The ‘why’)
Emotional theme or topic: Love is not enough, what we are interested in is how to give yourself fully and not lose yourself in love – base it on a conflict. See it in a range of opposites. (The ‘what’ part 2)
Character: This person is the carrier of the conflict. Don’t forget to say what he or she wishes for so badly that they would give anything for it. Wishes define the character and make it possible for us to identify with him/her. Even more important, know the “love scar,” flaw, pain or fear your character is living with. That’s going to be a reason why he or she enters the adventure. (The ‘who’)
Action idea (short synopsis) in three sentences (basic structure): It’s essential that you know the basic action that leads to emotional change, which is a plot line.
First sentence (act I) is a reason we come into conflict in the first place - Inciting incident. It also defines a wish of a character. The second sentence (act II) is a moral dilemma. The third sentence (act III) is based on catharsis, someone or something “dies” so that something can live. (For that see Aristotle's Poetics for Screenwriters) (The ‘how’)
That brings us to seductive loglines. The logline is your answer to this question: “And… what’s your story about?” in one sentence.
Blake Snyder gives a couple of good examples in Save the cat. He says loglines are ironic. That makes sense because irony brings opposites together in an unexpected way. Find what’s opposite, what conflicts, in an unexpected way in your story; this is the heart of it and what’s going to sell it. Put your character in the center of it. (The ‘what’ part 3)
The first act turning point (we’ll speak about this more in depth in future posts) is actually also something that can help you with what your story is about. ("As they’re running from the mob, two musicians end up in a lady’s band." You may recognize this as the logline of Some Like it Hot (1959), but you can also see the whole story in this one sentence. The point is what is described here is the first act turning point in the film). (The ‘what’ part 4)
Atmosphere, style, setting: Use at least one or two sentences to paint the world of your story for your listeners. Bring them there. (The ‘where’)
Time frame: Maybe your story is happening in one night, maybe during the course of several years. Maybe it’s happening now maybe sometimes back in time or in the future.
The reason why you and just you are writing it: Read the first tip.
So, guys, I hope this helps. In an elevator, at a party or at a meeting, pitch it like you mean it, pitch it like you are in charge, and first of all, seduce yourself.
Good luck script lovers and festival lovers!
Greetings from Berlin!
P.S. Running to put my high heels on for the red carpet tonight!
P.P.S. Additional tips: sometimes no means no, sometimes no is a yes, and sometimes yes is not a real yes. Knowing the difference, will make all the difference :)
P.P.P.S. In 2004 (15 years ago!!) I was at Talent Campus with my script, “Funnyland,” in which the main character, Fanny, is obsessed with shoes, while actually she wants to run away from home. Once outside she finds herself trapped in a movie theater. Fanny stuff, isn’t it? Some things never change.