MAN PITCHING MOVIE: Okay-- here it is! The Graduate -- Part II-.
MOVIE EXECUTIVE: Oh, good!
MAN PITCHING MOVIE: Now listen--
BROOKE GLADSTONE: This infamous scene from Robert Altman's 1992 film The Player is recreated every day in Hollywood whether in an executive office, a lunch meeting or over a double mocha decaf latte, screenwriters and producers are trying to sell their story. It is known as a pitch, and it is the lifeblood of the motion picture industry. OTM's Rex Doane has been pitching this story to us for months and we finally agreed to let him do it. [CLIP FROM THE PLAYER]
MOVIE EXECUTIVE: It's going to be funny?
MAN PITCHING MOVIE: Yeah, it'll be funny -- dark-- [BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]
MOVIE EXECUTIVE: With a stroke? [BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]
MAN PITCHING MOVIE: -- and weird and funny and with a stroke.
CAROL BAUM: So everything is a pitch; everything is a sell.
REX DOANE: Hollywood veteran Carol Baum has produced such films as The Father of the Bride, Fly Away Home and the forthcoming feature, The Good Girl. She has pitched and been pitched to more times than she cares to remember. As she tells her students at the USC Film School never, ever let a pitch run more than 10 minutes.
CAROL BAUM: If you take too long, they're going to turn on you, and you're not going to be welcomed back. They're going to remember that you wasted 45 minutes of their valuable time. [CLIP FROM THE PLAYER]
MOVIE EXECUTIVE: Don't tell me you came here to pitch me a story.
ROBBIE FOX: When I pitch the most important thing is have a great opening line.
REX DOANE: As a successful screenwriter, Robbie Fox knows the value of brevity as well. Keep it brief and open with a bang.
ROBBIE FOX: I, I will - I mean I've pitched stories and I knew within the first line that I sold it. I pitched this movie to MGM and-- and the first line of the script was: "One fine sunny day, 3 surgeons' wives went to the fat farm for the weekend." And-- I saw the executives smile, and I just knew-- [CLIP FROM THE PLAYER]
MOVIE EXECUTIVE: Go ahead.
WOMAN PITCHING MOVIE: Okay. It's a TV star and she goes on safari to Africa-- [BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]
SECOND WOMAN PITCHING MOVIE: Like a Donna Mills or a Joan Collins-- [BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]
MOVIE EXECUTIVE: You're talking about a TV star in a motion picture? A major motion picture?
WOMAN PITCHING MOVIE: No, no, no, no. [BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]
SECOND WOMAN PITCHING MOVIE: No, not a real TV star--
ROBBIE FOX: You have to go in feeling like the pitch you have is you're coming in with a million dollars cash, and you're saying here -- I want to give you this million dollars. I just want to give it to you! [CLIP FROM THE PLAYER]
WOMAN PITCHING MOVIE: -- yeah - Goldie - and okay - it's out of-- [BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]
MOVIE EXECUTIVE: Oh, I see - it's a kind of like a Gods Must Be Crazy except the Coke bottle's now a television actress.
WOMAN PITCHING MOVIE: Yeah-- [BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]
SECOND WOMAN PITCHING MOVIE: That's-- [BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]
WOMAN PITCHING MOVIE: -- it's exactly right - it's Out of Africa meets Pretty Woman.
REX DOANE: Of course pitches can occasionally be too glib. Fox relates a favorite story told to him by Martin Short.
ROBBIE FOX: Mart once told me a great [LAUGHS] story [LAUGHS] - a guy came in and pitched a story to him, and he said I'm going to say it real succinctly -- Buster Keaton -- in space. And the guy was ready to pack up his bag. He goes - that's all. And Martin said-- "I need more. That's not enough."
REX DOANE: Carol Baum also has a few helpful hints about what to avoid on your next pitch.
CAROL BAUM: In the old days I remember -- in the tortured days when people didn't know any better --would come with a guitar to the room. I would recommend against that.
REX DOANE: Comic artist Dan Clowes who co-wrote the screenplay for the film Ghost World is a relative newcomer to the Hollywood pitch scene.
DAN CLOWES: The first 4 or 5 pitch meetings I went to I couldn't believe like that they were such, such living cliches. I mean they were really exactly the way they're parodied in movies. There, there's always that, that thing of -you know - you walk in and they, they are your biggest fan. They will, they will tell you whatever you've done that they've seen of yours is the greatest thing in the world and that you're a genius-- [CLIP FROM THE PLAYER]
MOVIE EXECUTIVE: I don't know you. I don't know your work. I think that you are a very, very talented young man, and I'm never wrong about these things.
REX DOANE: Clowes has in fact referred to himself and Ghost World collaborator Terry Zwigoff as the two worst pitchmen in the history of Hollywood.
DAN CLOWES: Terry and I tend to sit there in this fixed position with, you know, sweating -- staring at our shoes -- barely able to make eye contact, you know and we were both raised to have this sort of, you know, Midwestern self-deprecating quality. I remember Terry once saying like handing the person the script and going "well, it's sure not Shakespeare." You know, and that's - that's just not a good way to start a meeting. [LAUGHS] [CLIP FROM THE PLAYER]
MOVIE EXECUTIVE: That was a hell of a pitch.
REX DOANE: In general, the Clowes/Zwigoff duo lack what might be termed "market savvy."
DAN CLOWES: We'd go in and they'd say well what are some of your favorite films, you know? And we'd say well we like, you know, Crimes and Misdemeanors and Chaplin's City Lights or, you know, something like that - you know something they've - that to them just spells box office death. [CLIP FROM THE PLAYER]
MAN PITCHING MOVIE: It's going to be in black and white.
MOVIE EXECUTIVE: What's going to be in black and white?
MAN PITCHING MOVIE: The movie -- it's in black and white.
MOVIE EXECUTIVE: The whole movie?
SECOND MOVIE EXECUTIVE: Every scene?
MAN PITCHING MOVIE: Yeah!
MOVIE EXECUTIVE: Well if you shoot it in black and white they're just going to colorize it anyway, so what's the point?
CAROL BAUM: Long ago I think you could go into a studio with just an idea and somebody would buy it.
REX DOANE: Again, Carol Baum.
CAROL BAUM: Now, you have to have ammo. You have to have a director, an actor-- somebody with clout attached to your pitch.
REX DOANE: Star commitment is only the beginning. Mention anything unsupported by demographic studies or focus groups could seriously jeopardize a pitch. Robbie Fox.
ROBBIE FOX: I've sat in rooms before, pitched ideas where right in the script it says: 43 year old guy - he does this and this and that - and they say could this be could for Adam Sandler? [CLIP FROM THE PLAYER]
MOVIE EXECUTIVE: Hey, whoa! Whoa! Time out here. Nick, how old are these people?
MAN PITCHING MOVIE: Early 40s.
MOVIE EXECUTIVE: [GASPS] Oh. Boy!
MAN PITCHING MOVIE: What's wrong?
MOVIE EXECUTIVE: Well-- [LAUGHS] that is a bad age, Nick. I mean the people who buy movie tickets fortunately or unfortunately are between the ages of--
SECOND MOVIE EXECUTIVE: 14 and 24.
MOVIE EXECUTIVE: [LAUGHS]!
MAN PITCHING MOVIE: So?
SECOND MOVIE EXECUTIVE: So if kids want to see people in their 40s, they don't go to the movies! They go home -look at their parents! [LAUGHS]
REX DOANE: But the odds can be beaten. Films do get made. Drawing upon his years of experience in the biz, Robbie Fox is willing to share privileged insight to any up and coming filmmaker looking for that big break. [HIT MOVIE MUSIC UP AND UNDER]
ROBBIE FOX: It helps to have a big hit movie in the theaters at the time of your pitch. That will your pitch seem funnier.
REX DOANE: That sounds like a good plan.
ROBBIE FOX: Yeah. I would, in fact, the next time I pitch, I'm going to make sure that I have a big hit movie in the theater at the time. [CLIP FROM THE PLAYER]
MOVIE EXECUTIVE: I want you to get out of my office and go write me a movie!
MAN PITCHING MOVIE: [LAUGHS] Okay! Great! Thanks!
MOVIE EXECUTIVE: [LAUGHS] [HIT MOVIE MUSIC SWELLS]
REX DOANE: In New York, for On the Media, I'm Rex Doane. [MUSIC FADES]