The Art of the Hollywood Pitch

Danny Strong:  How does one make it in Hollywood?  Wow, that’s the million dollar question.  I think if I could simply answer that I’d be able to be a millionaire just by giving that advice, you know?  It’s extremely competitive.  It’s an extremely difficult industry to break into.  I sometimes compare it to professional sports, like wanting to be in the NFL or the NBA, you know?  It’s one of those things that people grow up dreaming about wanting to be a part of, but in fact, very few people end up actually making a living being in that profession.

I actually don’t think there’s a ton of luck in the writing game because writing is one of those things where you’ve got a script, you know, it’s 120 pages, or 30 pages for a TV show or 60 pages for a TV show.  And it’s either good or it’s not good, and it doesn’t really matter whose name is on that cover page.  Once someone starts reading that script they’re going to know if they’re engaged by this writing or if they’re not engaged by the writing. 

You really need to get the person you’re pitching to see the story; to get them to be able to see the movie as clearly as possible.  And sometimes that means being extremely detailed, and sometimes it’s a matter of having specific details that take them into the world of it and then having sort of more of a general discussion than having the entire thing, you know, beated out moment for moment.  So it varies from project to project.  But definitely the ultimate goal is to do whatever you can to get the person as immersed in the story as possible.  

The first pitch I ever sold was the pitch for “Recount,” and that was a very long pitch.  It was 35 minutes long, but I really wanted them to understand all of the multi-dimensional facets to the story of the Florida recount.  So I opened the pitch with a fake—a replica of the butterfly ballot, and I said, “We open the movie on this,” and I set the butterfly ballot down.  And then I took them through the movie, not as a history lesson but as the story of how I saw the movie layout, you know?  I said, Ron Klain and James Baker and the battle of these two men, and then I brought in Katherine Harris and made it as cinematic a telling as possible. 

And then when I was done, at the end of the pitch, I showed them a two-minute video clip of the actual Florida recount to give them, you know, images of what it was really like down there to just immerse them in the story as much as possible.  And I knew—because I was pitching HBO who, you know, only hires very experienced writers and I had never sold anything—that this was going to have to be one hell of a presentation if I was going to get them to hire me to do this movie. 

Directed / Produced by
Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd

Live on Thursday: Learn innovation with 3-star Michelin chef Dominique Crenn

Dominique Crenn, the only female chef in America with three Michelin stars, joins Big Think Live this Thursday at 1pm ET.

Big Think LIVE

Add event to your calendar

AppleGoogleOffice 365OutlookOutlook.comYahoo


Keep reading Show less

New Hubble images add to the dark matter puzzle

The images and our best computer models don't agree.

Surprising Science
  • Scientists can detect the gravitational effects of invisible dark matter.
  • Dark matter causes visual distortions of what's behind it.
  • The greater the distortion, the greater the amount of dark matter. Maybe.
  • Keep reading Show less

    Did our early ancestors boil their food in hot springs?

    Scientists have found evidence of hot springs near sites where ancient hominids settled, long before the control of fire.

    Ryan Pierse/Getty Images
    Culture & Religion
    Some of the oldest remains of early human ancestors have been unearthed in Olduvai Gorge, a rift valley setting in northern Tanzania where anthropologists have discovered fossils of hominids that existed 1.8 million years ago.
    Keep reading Show less

    A new minimoon is headed towards Earth, and it’s not natural

    Astronomers spot an object heading into Earth orbit.

    Credit: PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek/Paitoon Pornsuksomboon/Shutterstock/Big Think
    Surprising Science
  • Small objects such as asteroids get trapped for a time in Earth orbit, becoming "minimoons."
  • Minimoons are typically asteroids, but this one is something else.
  • The new minimoon may be part of an old rocket from the 1960s.
  • Keep reading Show less

    Personal finance: How to save, spend, and think rationally about money

    Finances can be a stressor, regardless of tax bracket. Here are tips for making better money decisions.

    Videos
    • Whether you have a lot of money or a lot of debt, it matters how you handle your personal finances. A crucial step when it comes to saving is to reassess your relationship with money and to learn to adopt a broader, more logical point of view.
    • In this video, social innovator and activist Vicki Robin, psychologist Daniel Kahneman, Harvard Business School professor Michael Norton, and author Bruce Feiler offer advice on achieving financial independence, learning to control your emotions, spending smarter, and teaching children about money.
    • It all starts with education and understanding. The more you know about how money works, the better you will be at avoiding mistakes and the easier it will be to take control of your financial circumstances.
    Keep reading Show less
    Quantcast