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July 26 at 8:15am

A New Era Requires A New Pitch, Pt.2

By Ted Hope

Yesterday, I tried to provide context as to why we must change the manner we pitch our stories, films, and storyworlds.  Today I am pondering what a pitch for today might be?

The question though is much bigger than that.  We have to ask what is the creative process — particularly the one that can hope to have a financial payoff of some sort in the end — when we have to look in so many directions and dimensions? If linear tales, no matter how well told, can not gather enough traction to make a dent in our collective attention in this era of superabundance, how do we begin to tell of our efforts at far fuller worldbuilding?

When there was a limited supply of stories that could actually be executed, a hope of successful mass market distribution for them, a fair price for rights acquisition possible, and a belief that people would pay attention when encountering a good story well told, we all could focus on getting that fresh take on a tale of transformative emotional truth packaged into its various necessary forms so that it could be funded, produced, and distributed. We started often by developing a pitch, a story we could tell quickly and in a manner that would make the listener even more to come. Whether it was the log line, elevator pitch, or development exec coffee chat, we knew what it was. That was then.

But that is not today’s world by any means. Today’s world requires a much different approach.

One of our greatest problems is we are still human beings. We have developed habits, desires, and essential rituals. We have needs. Stories – the linear sort with a beginning and end – have served us well for centuries. We are addicted to them, both as creators and appreciators. Stories, of the linear variety, are now embedded in our neurological code. What once was a workable practice is now a rut, deep and rigid, locking our wheels in line down a road to ruin. Our imagination starts in a place that is no longer truly applicable to our cultural or business practices. How do we change? How do we wean ourselves from that linear trap of a one-off movie?

The challenge to establish an ecosystem around a new variant of our culture industry  is really just another case of a consistently moving finish line. We need to acknowledge that nowadays we are not yet done when we can tell the story in a manner that sparks others imagination and entices them to want to be involved. What a remarkable and satisfying feeling that was! We told a story, leaving room for more, and they heard it and got it and wanted to be involved. It was lovely. But now those that think that is enough, I don’t want to work with. Their method won’t work. The movie won’t get made. Or if does it won’t have the cultural impact I aspire to. It has to go further. Both the tellers and the listeners need to recognize we need more now.

There are far more great stories than our current infrastructure can effectively consume or engage with. There is however a shortage of well developed storyworlds. We have to show how and where and by whom those worlds can be built. Today’s pitch needs to reach to those further realms where our tells don’t just inspire others to listen in their seats but to get involved and add on and riff, build a balcony and a build a swing – whatever it is, it must get us out of the rut and the ditch and show a universe of new paths.

A good number of the movies that I have gotten made, partially got made because I could provide context to how the marketing of the film might be handled. I tried to always come up with at least ten different approaches so that executives would feel that if I had ten decent concepts they, being experienced marketing executives, could surely come up with at least one really good one.

We are now in an era where that same approach I used to funding my films by riffing on the marketing needs to be applied to world-building from the get-go. Show them ways that people can expand upon the narrative, where the background can be deepened, why people will engage deeply and often, and why they will feel they have a greater takeaway, a greater return, of the investment of their engagement. A pitch in this era of abundance needs to be a many armed beast of varying layers and depth. That is the pitch we need create.

Start with a core story.  Show how the rules or the the themes of this world has the room for many more iterations.  Explain how a supporting character has many stories of their own.  Demonstrate how people want to connect around this theme, issue, or idea.  Provide a tool, or character, or prop, that other creators can use to riff on the world and incentivize them to do so. Extend other objects into the physical world, be at as a badge or clue, that can unite folks on different platforms.  Discuss how you are going to play the cards.  Spark their imagination, not just with the story, but with the platform and the strategy.  Leave them wanting more.  If they add water, they’ll not only have dinner, but they will have learned how to fish.

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