The Art of the Hollywood Pitch

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? 

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

Should you defend the free speech rights of neo-Nazis?

Former president of the ACLU Nadine Strossen discusses whether our society should always defend free speech rights, even for groups who would oppose such rights.

Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Former ACLU president Nadine Strossen understands that protecting free speech rights isn't always a straightforward proposition.
  • In this video, Strossen describes the reasoning behind why the ACLU defended the free speech rights of neo-Nazis in Skokie, Illinois, 1977.
  • The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.
Keep reading Show less

This smart tech gives plants feelings

Designers from Luxembourg created a smart planter that can make anyone have a green thumb.

Images credit: mu-design
Technology & Innovation
  • A design team came up with a smart planter that can indicate 15 emotions.
  • The emotions are derived from the sensors placed in the planter.
  • The device is not in production yet but you can order it through a crowdfunding campaign.
Keep reading Show less

7 things everyone should know about autism

Autism is a widely misunderstood condition surrounded by falsehoods, half-truths, and cultural assumptions.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Mind & Brain
  • Autism-spectrum disorder covers a wide range of neurodevelopmental conditions that are highly individualized.
  • The prevalence of autism continues to increase in the United States, not due to vaccines but increased awareness and improved diagnosis.
  • Autism awareness is crucial as treatment strategies are more effective if accessed early.
Keep reading Show less
Big Think Edge
  • Often times, interactions that we think are "zero-sum" can actually be beneficial for both parties.
  • Ask, What outcome will be good for both parties? How can we achieve that goal?
  • Afraid the win-win situation might not continue? Build trust by creating a situation that increases the probability you and your counterpart will meet again.