My good friend Jim Eaves, (head honcho of Amber Pictures and one of my co-conspirators on the Death Tales movies), once got in a lift with Harvey Weinstein. It’s not something that happens particularly often to low-budget horror filmmakers in the UK. There isn’t a photo of Jim in a lift with Harvey Weinstein, so here’s a photo of him with George Lucas instead. It’s one of my favourite photos in the world.
So, if you’re in a lift with one of the most powerful men in Hollywood, that’s when you need an elevator pitch. And balls the size of Kong, naturally. It’s the time when you’ll need a concise, punchy and above all interesting way of getting your project across in as short a time as possible.
Here’s the original elevator pitch for Chainsaw Fairytale. Nobody outside the Jinx offices has ever seen this; I’m only releasing it into the wild because the project has taken a slight backseat lately due to… Well, due to the announcement we’ll be making on Feb 22nd. This was my attempt to crunch the narrative down into an attention-grabbing one-minute pitch, for if I were ever in that fabled lift.
Frankly, it’s not great. It’s a work in progress, written at a point when the screenplay was still foremost in my mind and before I’d had the necessary cooling off period to get a bit of perspective on the thing and work out what was truly interesting about the screenplay. Of course, following the elevator pitch cliche that you only have one chance to make a first impression, I’m being a complete idiot letting you guys have a look at it as it stands. It’s not ready.
But, of course, sod it.
The first thing I’ll do when I rewrite this is try and give readers a more immediate impression of who Amy is and why they should care about her; I like the flippant ‘didn’t get the memo’ bit but it could certainly turn a lot of people off.
(Sidenote: I’m forever dropping out of the dispassionate authorial voice at innappropriate times. I had an actor last year quite rightly query why my action directions in a shooting script referred to a character as a ‘bastard’ when they should really be staying a bit more detached from proceedings)
I remember pitching at one of Raindance‘s Live Ammunition events in the mid 90s. I’m pretty sure the panel had Irvin Kirshner on it, but if it’s my memory playing tricks then please forgive me. I pitched a script called ‘Gatecrashers’ which I’d written with an old friend from University. The two of us perfected our patter, pitching back-and-forth in a rat-a-tat fashion to try and get across exactly why our movie would stand out from all the other Tarantino wannabe scripts being written by guys coming out of university around that time. I thought it went well. After we’d finished, someone on the panel (Kirshner? God knows) finally spoke;
“You guys are a hell of a double act. I was so busy being entertained by you that I forgot to listen to what your movie was about”
That wasn’t the response we were hoping for, and Gatecrashers eventually fizzled and died. Weirdly enough, though, I had a telephone call from a lawyer a couple of years ago. He’d found a copy of the screenplay for Gatecrashers in a vault in his law firm; put there by a partner in the firm who had since died, at the request of my old uni mate who I’d long since lost touch with. He posted it to me, and this long-forgotten piece of my movie history now sits on a shelf in my office. The Tarantino-esque high-concept movie (a gang of beautifully dressed gangsters robbing the parties of the rich and shameless) with the elevator pitch which was just too goddamn entertaining.
If you want to take the elevator pitch down to just a few words, I recommend the Turbo Charged Logline approach as pioneered by the much-missed Blake Snyder in his book Save the Cat!: The Only Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need, which remains the single best book about commercial screenwriting that I’ve ever read.