You walk into an elevator and just before the door closes Steven Spielberg gets on. You have 60 secs to pitch him your latest screenplay. What do you do? Your goal is to have your audience say “yes, I understand, and I care” after reading or watching your brand story.
If your audience just says “now I know” then you have successfully informed them but not enough to make them care, to make them stay to whatever you have to say next. Your career can be made in 60 seconds – if you make the right pitch!
Today’s guest is returning champion Michael Hauge. He is the best-selling author of Writing Screenplays That Sell (now in its 20th Anniversary Edition) and Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds: The Guaranteed Way to Get Your Screenplay or Novel Read.
According to Will Smith,
“No one is better than Michael Hauge at finding what is most authentic in every moment of a story.” – Will Smith
We discuss pitching techniques, the pitch story arch, and much more. After partnering with Michael on the best-selling Udemy Screenwriting course Screenplay and Story Blueprint: The Hero’s Two Journeys I wanted to work with him again. We came up with the NEW online course Pitching Your Screenplay or Novel in 60 Secs (Click here for an EXCLUSIVE Discount).
Enjoy my conversation with Michael Hauge.
Alex Ferrari 0:30
Today on the show we have returning champion Michael Hague, Michael Hague, if you guys are not aware, is a string, screenwriting consultant and overall screenwriting guru that has been on the show before in Episode 55. And he has written many books but the must have on every screenwriter shelf is writing screenplays that sell, which is a mandatory reading for any screenwriter out there. And Michael and I partnered on a online course called the screenplay and story book blueprint, the heroes two journeys Where is with Michael and Chris Vogler, the author of the writers journey, and that is easily one of the best selling online courses we've ever done. And I wanted to have Michael back on the show because today we're going to talk about how to pitch your story in 60 seconds. And Michael wrote an entire book specifically called selling your story in 60 seconds. So whether you're a screenwriter, a filmmaker who's trying to sell their or not sell their story, but pitch their story to somebody who you want to be in the movie, or, or be part of your movie, an investor, an agent, an actor, a crew member, that you want to get to work on the film. This is very, very important and obviously very important for screenwriters trying to pitch their stories to producers, and studios. And we also have, of course, an online course that Michael and I worked on. And we'll have a special discount for you at the end of this episode. But in this conversation, I was able to weasel out as much information out of Michael as possible for you guys to really understand how to pitch your story in 60 seconds like a pro. So without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Michael Hauge. I'd like to welcome back to the show, Michael Hauge, Michael, thanks so much for coming back on the show.
Michael Hauge 3:18
Oh, my pleasure. It's great to be back.
Alex Ferrari 3:20
You know, your your your episode was probably one of the most downloaded episodes in the history of indie film hustle. Just because it was one of the early ones. I think I don't even remember what the number was. I think it was like 20 or 30. We're now getting we're closing in on 200 episodes. Soon. Yeah, I'm busy. And but that episode was very well received, and the course that that we partnered on the heroes two journeys, the story, storytellers blueprint has done extremely well. And a lot of listeners have taken that course. So thank you so much for coming back and just sharing your knowledge.
Michael Hauge 4:00
Oh, absolutely. And congratulations. I didn't realize the number have gotten that high. But it's an honor to be back. And and I'm looking forward to talking about this because this is this is a significantly different topic than the other one. This is in the selling arena rather than the creating arena.
Alex Ferrari 4:16
Exactly. Exactly. Because, you know, I brought you back because we're going to talk about pitching. And I think that's a mystery for a lot of filmmakers, screenwriters, people in general, they just don't understand how to pitch and it's such an important skill. So we kind of put together wanted to kind of dig into, you know, a lot of the stuff that you work on on your book, which is called selling your story in 60 seconds, and I wanted to get into it. So what is a 62nd pitch exactly?
Michael Hauge 4:45
Well, this is a pitch that one would give either a novelist or screenwriter would give or in this case screenwriter primarily when they have a very short amount of time number one And they have one goal and one goal only. And that is to get somebody to read their script. Or if you're a filmmaker in another arena to get somebody to look at your short film or your piece of work that you want to use as a sample, but as opposed to say, a pitch meeting in Hollywood, once you reach a certain Echelon, you might be invited to sit down in an agent's office, sit down in a production company's office, and discuss your screenplay or discuss your idea for a script. That's all well and good. But you're never going to get to that meeting, until someone has read your script. And they're not going to read your script unless you know a persuasive way to get them to take a look at it. So this is all about just that, will you take a look at this and read it? And then my script will stand on its own? If you'll only take a look?
Alex Ferrari 5:48
Right! So it's basically the elevator pitch, if you will.
Michael Hauge 5:51
Yeah, if you're going to a very high floor. elevator, 60 seconds to get up there. Yeah, I mean, the 60 seconds is not a precise shirt. But there's another context where it's not just elevator, but it's a phone call. But also, if you go to a pitch Fest, or a pitch Mart or if you're going to a writers conferences, screenwriting conference, and you're just have the opportunity to corner someone who has a degree of power in Hollywood, who's in the business, in the hallway or something. And and you can say, you know, I'd love to tell you about my script. Or sometimes if you're just schmoozing with someone in that context, they'll ask you, well, what am I working on, you can't take 10 minutes of their time to talk about all the nuances and details of your masterpiece, you've got to do it in a very short period of time. But in the 60 seconds, you can give someone enough information about the script that they can decide whether or not they want to read it. But you want them to decide yes or no based on an understanding of what the promise of it is. And not because they don't you, you told them, the start of it, and nothing more, because that's all you have the time for.
Alex Ferrari 7:06
Now, what are the top reasons why pitches go wrong?
Unknown Speaker 7:11
Well, to me without question, the number one mistake that screenwriters make when they're pitching their project is, no matter how short the time span, they try and tell their story. And you just simply can't do that I see sometimes, if you've got a screenplay for a movie, and that, that you can tell the story in 60 seconds, then you've got a story for a 62nd film, because that's, that's what you're trying to do. You're trying to squeeze them, this is how it opens. And this is who the characters are. And then this happens. And then all at once a body is found. And then now we're and if you're at a pitch mark, where they say you've got, say 10 minutes, and you go longer than that, they're just going to take you away and you won't even finish, sometimes you're only given five minutes. But the thing to remember is even five minutes is too long when you have a five minutes like because you've got to have some time left after you pitch it. So the the prospective buyer of that script can talk about it and ask you questions, and find out the details that they want to know not the details that you thought were so critical to put in the pitch.
Alex Ferrari 8:23
Now, how do you target buyers and target people who might be interested in either buying your script? or watching your film or even giving you money for your film? How do you target buyers?
Michael Hauge 8:35
Well, what you want to basically do is you want to follow in the footsteps of people who have been successful at marketing and selling or getting scripts option that are similar to yours. similar meaning not they have the same plot, but they're in the same genre. They have the same general budget. If yours is a period piece, you want to find out well, who who has produced period pieces in the past if it's a horror film, who are the companies pursue, you know, making horror films. So the way you can do that the number one resource I always recommend is the Internet Movie Database imdb.com except that for a very small amount of money, you can get a subscription to IMDb pro.com. And when you have the pro it means let's say let's say you've written a horror film, okay, and you want to find out well who is making or who has made horror films recently that have been successful. And you find out that this Friday jigsaw opens which is kind of a spin off on saw series. Okay, so you can go to imdb.com on your computer, and you can just put the search on jigsaw, and it will have pages or a lot of screens worth of information, the title, the name of every character and who plays that care. After the name of all the cast and crew, but here's the thing, it'll also list say, the producers and the production companies involved, not the studios. And we can explain that in a second. But you check out what are the who are the producers and the production companies, then if you have the pro version, which is, as I say, a minimal investment, then you can click on them, and they will give you contact information. So it will you will then find out Well, this is the address and this is the phone number of this production company. And so then what you do either in that entry, or by calling the office, you find out who is the development director, or the head of development, or the story editor, whatever the title is, who's in the business, who has the job at that company of getting scripts into the company, find out that person's name, and then you you call them cold or you send an email, you can send a letter, but letters aren't really, they're kind of passe.
Alex Ferrari 11:00
Right! It's like sending a fax.
Michael Hauge 11:02
Yeah, you can do a fax, that's still somewhat doable. But whatever it is, you want to try and track that person down, and get them on the phone. And guess what you're going to do if you can get through to them and have them on the phone in their busy schedule. And they're only going to give you 60 seconds, Guess how you're going to use it, you're going to give them your 62nd pitch.
Alex Ferrari 11:26
Now, can you discuss the seven steps of a great 67? Great 66/62? pitch? No, because there's a well then there you go. What are the eight?
Michael Hauge 11:40
Yes, I can. So here's here's how to look at it. A pitch is four steps of preparation, and four steps of presentation. So there are four things to do to get ready to give the pitch. And then four things you need to do to actually give the pitch when you're on the phone or across the table at the pitch fest or whatever the situation might be. So the first four steps of preparation. Number one, you need to you need to review all of these steps begin with I apologize in the background here a more my next door neighbor has to guard Yes, yes. I know where else coming to Los Angeles? Yes. No. worries, you know,
Alex Ferrari 12:39
If there was just one thing I could do in my lifetime is to find a way to get rid of those.
Michael Hauge 12:46
Oh, I know. It's just they make they contribute to noise and philosophy. exactly same time. Okay. So back to the issue at hand. Step number one is review. That means you will look at the story of your screenplay through a particular AI. And what you're looking for are the key elements of that story that your potential buyer needs to know to make the decision of whether they want to see it. So this is instead of telling the entire story, you're going to present your pitch in such a way that you reveal these, these things. So I what I need to do now if it's okay, as I should go through the list of what those keys go for. Okay, so I'll make it very quick. And then taking the course, of course, I go into detail of all of them. But here's what a potential buyer wants to know. First of all, who is the hero of the story? Who is the protagonist? Who are we rooting for? Next of all, where is that character at the beginning of the story before anything extraordinary happens when we are first introduced to that character? What are they doing? What's their job? What's the setting? What's their life? Like? What has their life been like for some time? It's the introduction of that character. Number three, why do we care about this person? Do we feel sorry for her? Do we? Is she in some kind of Jeopardy? Is she a good hearted time person? So she's likable? Is she very skilled, any of those qualities could create empathy, but you have to create, you have to let us know why we will connect with this character as we watch her on the screen. The fourth thing is what's the opportunity, that's my turn for the first key event of the story that is going to start moving forward. It's something that happens to the hero about 10% of the way into the script that has never happened before and is going to get them moving forward moving towards into some new situation. So the next thing is what where is that new situation? So it may be they start out in their home and then they find out they're going to inherit some money. So now they're going to move to they have to go to England and collect the inheritance or if Luke Skywalker starts off on his planet, and then he sees the the holograph, from Princess Leia, and that's gonna take him into a new situation where he'll meet Obi Wan and so on. Next point that you want to establish is, what's the hero's goal. This isn't just a situation, this is the visible finish line that this character needs to cross at the end of the movie. So is this a movie about stopping a serial killer, is that a movie about stopping in invade is about when the love of another character is about winning a competition or escaping from danger. But whatever it is, it needs to be visible and specific and have a clearly defined endpoint. So what is that? Next? What is the conflict? What are the big obstacles the hero is going to have to overcome to accomplish that goal? If it's the King's speech, the goal is to give a speech, but the obstacles are what make it enjoy it, you know, emotional and enticing, and that is he's got a terrible stammer he's going to have to take over his king, he's got to lead his country into World War Two. That's that's the conflict. The next item is the plan. We need to know Well, okay, so how is the hero going to go about stopping the alien invasion or winning the love of the other character. And finally, and this is not within the story, but it's something important to think about, what are a couple antecedents to your script. So what you want to do is in the pitch you're going to convey, or you're going to mention a couple of movies that you could point to and say, Well, those two movies made money. So mine is likely to make money. It doesn't mean the plot is the same, it means they're in the same genre, they have about the same budget, they appeal to the same audience, they have a tone that's similar. Because there are romantic comedies that are dark, romantic comedies that are silly and romantic comedies that are fairly dramatic, you want to pick a couple antecedents that fit into the subcategory of yours. And that's it. I think that was nine qualities of the story that you're going to convey. Now, I haven't talked about how yet, because the class will reveal that. But whatever you're saying in the 60 seconds, you need to mention these things, because that's what's going to determine their decision. Oh, boy.
Alex Ferrari 17:30
Yeah, so another thing I think sometimes mistakes that I see too, as well, and I've done it in the past too, is when you pitch you when you when you compare it to another movie. They tell us a movie that was unsuccessful. Which was like, you know, my movies, just like Ishtar, like really? Suicide Squad all day like
Michael Hauge 17:54
Exactly. Yeah, you know, you don't really want to go there. You got to be careful. It needs to be somewhat recent needs to be with him correct with the lifetime of the person you're pitching.
Alex Ferrari 18:05
You start dating, you start dating.
Michael Hauge 18:09
And don't pitch Casablanca either. Even though you say it's a great movie, it's my favorite. It's not relevant. 10 years 10 years is a good time. But But the thing is that the mistake some people make in their pitches, they'll say, Well, this is this is like up Titanic and and King Kong.
Alex Ferrari 18:36
Oh, yeah, they combined.
Michael Hauge 18:38
Because well, like up, it has a talking dog. And like Titanic, it's a love story and whatever. And you can't do that they've got to be three, they've got to be two movies that that are in exactly the same genre. And and the more money those movies have made, the better it is. Because subconsciously, what you're doing to the buyer is you're you're saying without this is the subtext is, look, those movies made a lot of money. So obviously, you're going to be interested in my script, because it's going to make the same kind of money. Because you need to realize that in Hollywood, the people in power aren't necessarily story experts. But they do. They are good bean counters most of the time, and they know what box office success looks like. They don't know why it was a box office success, but they figured well, if this can be the next Titanic, I'm all for it. Right.
Alex Ferrari 19:33
Now, what are a few things that people should never do when pitching an idea?
Michael Hauge 19:40
Never Well, besides going on and on. Don't Don't tell the person hearing the pitch. how great the story is for it's going to be successful. Don't say this is going to appeal to the mass audience. Don't say this is this is going to be an earth shaking story. Don't make any comments or commentary or judgments about your own script, let the stories down on its own, let the pitch stand on its own. So if if this sounds like an emotionally involving commercially successful story or when that could be, they will conclude that for themselves, you don't need to say, and I mean, I've had people pitch me things that says, I swear this is going to be bigger than avatar. No, it's not going to be bigger than Avatar and our company probably isn't interested because that's not your job, it's my job to conclude that your job is to tell me just enough about your script that makes me want to read it.
Alex Ferrari 20:43
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. Now, how do you gear up for a pitch? Like what are the good things that you should bring into battle, if you will, with you besides the pitch?
Michael Hauge 21:05
My suggestion is nothing. Okay, very pointedly, or a bet. See, here's the thing, when you go to a pitch Fest, this happens a lot. They'll say bring a leave behind. So you have a one pagers, people bring treatments or something like that? Well, if they say that my advice is okay, go ahead and write a one page synopsis of the story. But here's what you don't do, you definitely don't put it on the table. As the pitch began, don't ever set anything in front of the person hearing the pitch. Because if you do, if you give them something to read, they'll be reading instead of listening to you, and you want them to pay attention to you. You can have it in your briefcase or backpack or whatever. And then if they say, Well, I really my boss insists that we take back an outline, then you can whip it out and say, Okay, good. Well, we have this. And sometimes I'll even recommend that someone when they asked that question, the writer say, Okay, look, I know you want to see a synopsis, but one page just won't do my script justice. How about if I email it to you, and you just read the first 10 pages. And if you don't like it went by page 10. Just trash it. Just delete it no harm, no foul. But if it pulls you in, as I know, it will, then you'll get a much better sense of what the value is. They still might say no, that's against the rules that our company and then if they insist give him the leave behind, but don't show it or anything else. There are people who recommend taking to a pitch things like pictures of actors who could play the role. I'm not I'm not a fan, because for two reasons. One, I personally am not a multitasker. So I'm either looking at a picture of Matt Damon, which means I'm thinking about Matt Damon, and thinking to myself, Matt Damon costs a fortune, we're not going to get Matt Damon for this script. So I'm losing interest by looking at that. And, and instead, you want to create a movie inside my mind, that's what you want me looking at. So you want to tell this pitch. And as you mentioned, these elements, I'm picturing this character, I'm picturing this setup, I'm picturing the obstacles that your hero face. So you want me in my head not looking at something else.
Alex Ferrari 23:29
Now, is there a big difference or a different approaches for pitching when you're pitching at a pitch fest versus a executives office versus an elevator?
Michael Hauge 23:41
Well, in the office, it's different because in the office, they are expecting you to come in ready to have a 10 to 20 minute conversation. What I often recommend in those situations is you can start that meeting by giving the 62nd pitch and then letting that be the doorway into a longer conversation. Many times though, when you go into an office meeting for a pitch, it's more about something they've already been pitched, or a script they've already looked at. And the purpose of the meeting is to discuss it. And that's a different animal altogether. The one thing is in a pitch Fest, you have a finite amount of time, but you've paid money to do it. And so they're expecting you to be there on an elevator in those, you know, grab them when you can moments, or even on a cold call. You always want to kind of ask permission you want to say Geez, I I'd love to tell you about the script I'm working on would this be a good time to do that or I don't want to intrude? Or when you get somebody on a cold call, you can say Look, I know how busy you are. But but I I I've just completed a script. I'm sure you know, it's something I really think you'd be interested in because because it's innocent. Same arena as this movie, you just, you know, did, or you mentioned something you have in common? Like, I know you're a graduate of University of Oregon and so am I. And I thought you might be willing to let me take 60 seconds. But you need to ask if it's okay to give the pitch, if it's an unexpected confrontation or connection, something like that. The the the one other difference in a pitch Fest, that's to your advantage is if you paid money for 10 minutes, you get 10 minutes. And one of the other reasons to have a pitch that's, you know, 60 seconds, or at least under two minutes is, then if they say no, and you have another project that might also be of interest, then you can say, well, we still have, you know, seven minutes left, or even if it's a five minute slot, and you only took take 60 seconds, she's only got four minutes left. And I have another idea that's for a romantic comedy. could could, would you be willing to let me present that to you right now. And so if you truly have two pitches ready, that's the only occasion where you'd pitch twice as if they say no to the first.
Alex Ferrari 26:13
Now, do you kind of touched upon it earlier? But do you have any specific advice on how to establish rapport with the person that you're pitching with?
Michael Hauge 26:21
Yeah, I kind of got I know, you asked me about the eight steps that I took. So long was step one, we got sidetracked. But anyway, it's, it's after you beer, your story and figure those things out, then then you want to research the person you're going to pitch pitch to, you want to write out and script the pitch, and you want to rehearse it, rehearse, rehearse, that's the preparation, the presentation is that that first star is rapport or relationship. And there are two ways that are very effective at doing that. One is finding a common experience. If you've been recommended to someone on the phone, then you want to say, you know, Bob said, I should give you a call, he thought you might be interested in this project. And he also said you're in a lunch or something like that. So you mentioned the person who's given you the referral. If it's a pitch Fest, or if it's a cold call, you don't know the person, but you do know that they're a golf fan. And you you know, you were a caddy for Tiger Woods once or you went to the same school, or, or you have something in common? Great. Now, that's not going to happen very often. I mean, really? How many of us know people that are in power in Hollywood? or most of us? If we,
Alex Ferrari 27:37
You, you do know a few people, sir,
Michael Hauge 27:39
I know. I don't, okay, I could, I could use an abacus to count them. I don't need to count. Okay, so then what you do to establish rapport is you acknowledge them for something. And it might be because you've researched them, you know, that they, like I mentioned earlier, suppose someone has made horror films, you can, you can say, you know, I was a huge fan of this of the ring, if they were produced will be, let's say, but don't just say that. Just say why say because it scared the crap out of me or because what I loved about that horror film was that that actually, it developed the relationship between the mother and center, don't just say, I'm a huge fan and let it go with that, because anybody can say that, but tell why you were a fan of the movie, or the or a movie that they represented the writer for or something like that. Now, a warning is when you go to a pitch Fest, it's possible, you won't know anything about who you're pitching to, or it's going to be an underling at the company. But you can always acknowledge someone for this if they're listening to your pitch, and that is they're taking the time to do it. So you can say something like, Look, you know, I know that you probably rather be doing something other than this pitch fest. But it means a lot to somebody like me, who flew here all the way from jerk water USA, just have a chance to talk to you and I want to tell you how much I appreciate it. And, and that should be genuine, you should really be grateful and no one on the planet is immune to an acknowledgement. It just creates a connection when you say I sincerely say I want to thank you for something you did. So that is probably your strongest tool for rapport.
Alex Ferrari 29:29
And can you continue with the rest of the steps after the report was the other ones of the eight or the eight steps?
Michael Hauge 29:35
Yeah, so the next one is I in the in our in my goal to make everything our sound like our which is the word right. The next is revealed this is when you actually give the pitch part of the pitch you reveal those nine elements of the story. And and I have a tip for that too. And that Is or a contrary and suggestion. A lot of people recommend the way to start a pitch is give the title and the logline and I strongly recommend against that, because titles until you know what a movie is about hearing the title is usually meaningless. I mean, it sounds ludicrous now because it's become part of the culture. But if you heard in 1974, that there was a or 72, before the book came out that there was a movie coming up called Jaws, you would have no idea what it was about. Right? Okay. But if you said it was about, it's about a great white shark, terrorizing the community, and now, three guys have to go out in a little boat and try and destroy it. And then you end that pitch by saying so my. So my screenplay and titled jaws is the story of three men trying to defeat a great white shark. So you put the title and the logline at the end of your presentation of those elements instead of at the beginning. And otherwise, it's pretty much going through them in the order I mentioned, a good way to begin might say it might be to tell them how you came up with the idea. So instead of just jumping in and saying, well, Susan Smith is a nuclear physicist, he say, I've always been a huge fan of, of thrillers that have strong love stories underneath. And here's where you can add movies like Three Days of the Condor, or trying to think of another or body, let's say, I'm dating myself with Yes. Because notice how now you're slipping in those antecedents without using the word Annecy, you're saying, I've always been a fan of movies like this, but in and so my thriller, The difference is that the the the man in the hair hero falls for is really a hitman who's been assigned to kill it. Okay, so you start with how you came up with the idea, it grew out of kind of movies you loved or grew out of a true story or something that happened to you in the past? And then you say, so I started thinking, What if, and then you get into the hero, and the setup and those other elements, and then you're sort of off to the races.
Alex Ferrari 32:18
It's so it's, it's when you're when you're doing that, it's because a lot of people I've seen pitch a pitch fest and and just pitch in general, they just kind of go right to it, they just jump right in. And just like, you know, it's like a machine and there's no warmth to it, there's no connection. They're just like, they're literally a robot because they've been trained to be that way. And they've rehearsed so much that it's literally just a machine where you're sitting down and making a connection with another human being. And by doing, what you're suggesting makes a lot more sense to me to like, how you came up with the idea and what movies you like, because that's another way to connect with the person you're pitching with. Like if they like the movie of three, you know, three days in a condor, like, Oh, yeah, I love that movie. Is it kind of like that? And it starts connecting different synapses in their mind and emotions already, before you even start pitching. Is that a fair statement?
Michael Hauge 33:08
Absolutely. Absolutely. I think the way to think about a pitch is it's not a speech. And it's not an ad, it's a conversation. Actually, it's a conversation that you and everyone listening to this has had before because all of us, and all of you have recommended movies to people. You said, Oh, I just saw the big sick. And what's that? Well, it's about this guy. And he's from Pakistan and got it done. You tell the high points and you say, I just loved it. And it was hilarious. But I love the relationship. You have just given a pitch for a movie you saw you've done it 100 times. We've had that conversation. All you're doing in a pitch meeting, or on the phone here is you're having a conversation about a movie you love. It's just a movie that hasn't been made yet.
Alex Ferrari 33:59
Now can you please impress upon people how important a logline is not in the pitch because you actually do it at the end. But just in general. People kind of forget the logline. They just write a sentence it's very it's it's an art in itself, isn't it?
Michael Hauge 34:15
Yeah, I guess I don't want to make it sound too lofty because it sounds something difficult. Sure What but but I think of loglines. This way, a logline is a sentence that's going to come to convey the three foundation elements of any story. And that is character, desire and conflict when I said and so jaws is a it's about a great it's about three guys and a small boat who have to stop a great white shark. That is that is terrorizing their the beach town. I didn't say it exactly that way because I don't remember exactly but that's it all. I was saying character, three guys in a boat goal destroy a great white shark conflict, it's a great way to jerk and it's terrorizing their their village and wants to kill them. Right? That's it, I it's not so much about honing some magic with words. It's nice if you can do that. But it's much more important that you say, character design or conflict. Because without knowing or saying those three things, anything else included is not going to give me an idea of what I'm going to go see. Now you can pick, you want to think about the exact words to create a vivid image of it or be very clear about it, you can add a phrase or two to make it distinct from other horror movies or about also stopping demons or creatures or whatever. But But the main thing and the reason a logline is valuable for you to formulate is it forces you to think about those three basic things in your script. And I swear I've read scripts and talk to people and heard pitches by people who don't really have never really thought about what's the goal, they just have this is about a person in a situation and then they do this, then they do that. And then this happens. And that happens. It's like but what do we want? What are we rooting for? So a logline forces you to identify those three elements.
Alex Ferrari 36:21
Now, in today's world, it's not only just about the feature film anymore, it's also about series, there's I think 450 series being produced this year alone. So what's the big difference between pitching a feature film versus pitching a series?
Michael Hauge 36:38
Well, on one level, it's not all that different. Because it's it's kind of the way I think of it is this you're pitching a series, but you're pitching it by detailing a lot of what would be in the pilot or the first episode of the series. Because that's when we meet the hero, that so that's when the hero is set up. That's when we first have to empathize. That's when whatever the opportunity is, that is going to drive that that whole series, if it's an ongoing story, like say, Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones, that opportunity has to occur to some extent in the first episode, because otherwise, nothing's happening, then it's just a one hour setup. If it's let's say you're pitching a more traditional series, you know, under the NCIS, or something like castle, okay, then you're just pitching a pilot, because you introduce the characters, and they have a goal that they have to accomplish at the end of that episode. So what you do is you think about that episode, and then you kind of expand say, so this is, so imagine these two people, a mystery writer and a woman cop. And when a body is discovered, and they're thrown together, now they have to solve the murder, and each week, and so you then connect it by saying, and each week or if it's an ongoing thing you say. So the overarching story is about a cop who has to stop a hitman from committing a series of murders in her town. That's, that's the series of Fargo. So if you take the first season of Fargo, the overarching goal is the cop has to stop the Hitman. And then, but then what you do is then the one thing you want to add is in so in one episode, this might be by hat might happen. But as but by the end of the first season, this will have happened. So you clearly convey that you've not just thought about three episodes, well, you've not just thought about the opening, but what the ongoing story is going to be and what some of the other characters are going to be woven through it. So I guess the answer would be there's some more detail to add. But you still want to make sure you hit those elements. And you still want to have seeds you still accept now you're going to get to pick feature films you're going to pick successful series that are similar.
Alex Ferrari 39:10
Now, is there? Do you have an example of a pitch that was that blew you away? Or do you remember one at all? I mean, I don't know. Probably not.
Michael Hauge 39:20
But I'm just asking. I didn't know there would be a test. Because to convey why it blew me away, I would have to really remember it and presented to you so I could find out this is this is all the the reasoning. In the class, I construct an example of a pitch that illustrates all of these things. But that's that's when I made up for a movie that's never been written just as an example. Got it. Um, but if I guess I guess I can't keep stumbling along and try and pretend I have any answer. You can say no, you can say that. Oh, it's great. I've heard great pitches, but I don't remember what they Exactly. So
Alex Ferrari 40:04
Now, do you have any final words of wisdom as far as pitching your story?
Michael Hauge 40:10
Yeah. We don't have time for okay. When people do sign up for the course, of course, I read the book, because there was all that. Let Oh, yes, I do. I do have one last thing I want to add. And that is, some is about a couple of things in terms of the presentation. And that is notes, and nervousness. Okay. When it comes to notes, I strongly recommend that you take note cards, and on those note cards in big letters with a, what do they What do they call that a, you know, Greenspan, they used to call it a sharpie, with a sharpie, you just write down keywords that will remind you of that step in your pitch. So it might be if how you got the idea is you're going to refer to two antecedents just write down the antecedents. And then card number two, is your so what if, in other words, it's not something you have to look at steadily, but you want to have that as a backup, even though you've rehearsed your, your pitch. By the way, what you absolutely never want to do is read somebody a pitch. When I coach people on their pitch, I won't let them read their pitch to me even when I'm coaching them, unless there's no other choice, because it is so hard to concentrate when someone's reading to you. You have to be ready to say it as a conversation. You have to be like an actor, after rehearse it so much that you can just make it natural, you can make it into a conversation. But notecards are good idea. Because if you have that backup, then you probably won't need to use it. The other thing is when it comes to nervousness, stop worrying about it or trying to think of a magic way that you won't be nervous, because you will be just accepting. Save yourself. Of course, I'm nervous. I'm not used to doing this. I'm meeting somebody, this is important to me, I they're in power, and I haven't met them before, etc. So of course, I'm going to be nervous. And here's what I would tell you I have worked in Hollywood now for more than 35 years. I've talked to a lot of executives, a lot of agents, I've heard them speak and I've had conversations. Never in my entire career Have I ever heard somebody say, God, I heard this great pitch this movie would make millions it's one of the best I've ever heard. Unfortunately, we're not going to option it because the writer was so nervous. Because they're right. To put it bluntly, they don't give a shit. Right? They are, they are there. Their job is find me a good story. They want your story to be good. They don't care one whit if you're nervous, if you stumble, if anything, they're looking for a story they can take back to their boss, put a feather in their cap if they if you if they can say you got to look at this because this is a terrific idea. This is the terrific story or the or they'll go back read the script, and then they'll say that. So take note cards, and don't worry about being nervous because it's not an issue.
Alex Ferrari 43:24
Michael, thank you so much for sharing a lot about pitching today. And I know again, it's such a mysterious art form and hopefully, the course that we're putting out called How to pitch your story in 60 seconds. And your book story. Please name your book again.
Michael Hauge 43:43
Okay, so it's tricky because there's, they sound the same. The story is selling your story in 60 seconds, right because the book is designed for screenwriters and novelists because they're both in the situation. I'm trying to get their material read. Our course is called pitching your screenplay in 60 seconds because the course is zeroing in specifically on screenwriters.
Alex Ferrari 44:06
Michael, thank you again, so much for being on the show. Again. It's an absolute pleasure as always talking to you my friend.
Michael Hauge 44:11
Yeah. And it went so fast. We probably we probably been talking for three hours that we're done. There's so much more to say I love hearing myself talk. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to listen to myself. My greatest joy.
Alex Ferrari 44:27
Thank you, Michael.
Michael Hauge 44:28
Okay, take care Alex
Alex Ferrari 44:30
Well, I hope you have a better idea on how to pitch your story or screenplay in less than 60 seconds after listening to Michael and his knowledge bombs he jobs. So thanks again, Michael, for sharing your knowledge as always. And as promised guys, I have a special discount for you guys. Normally we are selling the course at 175 bucks but because you're listening to this episode and you're part of the tribe, you get it for 12 dollars and it is well worth it guys. So all you got to do is go to indiefilmhustle.com/pitch60 that's indiefilmhustle.com/pitch60. And the number six, zero or 60. And that will give you a coupon code will take you directly to the course on Udemy. And if you guys have not taken the other course the story blueprint, the heroes two journeys by Michael and Chris, then I will have in the show notes, a link to that course with a special discount as well. The show notes are at indiefilmhustle.com/205. Now guys, I hope you are enjoying your holiday month in December, I have been a very busy be working on all this stuff that I'm putting together for you guys in January. And January is going to be epic. I can't even tell you starting off with the Ask Alex show, which will be 31 days. I don't know how I'm doing it. But 31 days on our YouTube channel where we'll be answering questions from the tribe. And it's it's pretty insane. That alone Not to mention all the craziness that we're going to be doing at Sundance, we're gonna be releasing a epic new course as well. Which I'll talk to you about in a little bit, but not yet. I'm just trying to give you guys as many tools as you can get for the new year and to get that new year 2018 start off right and following your dreams, getting that film made writing that screenplay and whatever I could do to help you. That's why I'm here so, so guys, thank you for listening. And as always keep that also going. Keep that dream alive and I'll talk to you soon.
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- Pitching Your Screenplay or Novel in 60 Secs (Click here for an EXCLUSIVE Discount)
- Screenplay and Story Blueprint: The Hero’s Two Journeys
- IFH 055: Michael Hauge – Writing a Screenplay That Sells
- IFH 114: The Six Stages of Character Development with Michael Hauge
- Writing Screenplays That Sell
- Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds
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