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Think Tank

The Art of the Hollywood Pitch

When Danny Strong came to the stage to accept his first Emmy Award for writing HBO's Game Change it was the culmination of a remarkably successful career transition. Strong is perhaps best known for his acting roles in films such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997). While he continues to act -- appearing this year on ABC's Grey's Anatomy -- Strong has also firmly established himself as an acclaimed writer of political dramas. The first script Strong sold was Recount (2008), based on the 2000 election. This year's Emmy winner, Game Change, focused on John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin during the 2008 campaign. 

So what's the secret to Strong's success as a screenwriter? 

There is no magic formula, he says. After all, at the end of the day a script is either good or bad. But good stories still don't sell themselves. Will a particular story make a great movie that can be successfully marketed? A screenwriter needs to make a studio executive see the story as a film, hence the 2-minute elevator pitch, which is part of Hollywood lore. 

Selling a story is no different than selling any business idea. Hollywood writers just happen to have a unique gift for pitching their stories. Storytelling, after all, is their business. So what are the elements of a successful Hollywood pitch that anyone can learn from? We asked Danny Strong in a recent interview.  

As it turns out, Strong's first successful pitch -- for Recount -- was actually a 35-minute presentation, complete with props and a two-minute video clip at the end. The key idea, according to Strong, is "to get the person as immersed in the story as possible."

Watch the video here:

Danny Strong Emmy image courtesy of Helga Esteb / Shutterstock.com

Follow Daniel Honan on Twitter @Daniel Honan

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