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  • Creating the Pitch-Perfect One Sheet

    April 15th, 2017

    By Danny Manus

    One important part of the pitch that writers constantly forget is the One-Sheet. I know many of you are preparing your pitch, getting your script in shape, and figuring out what your strategy should be to maximize your pitching experiences. But how many of you have completed your one-sheet?

    If your hand isn’t raised – you’ve got some work to do. One-Sheets are an absolute must if you are going into a pitch meeting, especially at a pitchfest event. It’s what you are going to give the executives at the conclusion of your pitch that will allow them to remember you and your story a week or two after the event, when they finally go through everything and decide what they want to read. If your pitch is your first impression, the one-sheet is your lasting impression.

    It’s the only way the executive, who has listened to 50 pitches that day, is going to be able to remember you after the salient details of your glorious pitch have escaped them. I used to write my comments on the one-sheet the second the writer left the table so I didn’t forget. “Great Idea, Not Commercial, Bad Pitch, Nice Writer, etc.”

    Your one-pager (another term for one-sheet) is your calling card and you should always keep one on you at all times. Even if the event you’re pitching at tells you not to!

    It’s not just a selling tool for your story, but also for yourself. It differs from a synopsis in a few ways. First, as its name dictates, it’s only ONE page.  Secondly, unlike the synopsis which is just about your story, your one-sheet can be a bit about you as well. It’s much closer to the query letter but without the letter aspects. You don’t need the greeting or closing, but a good one-sheet should include the following:

    –  Your name

    –  The title of your screenplay

    –  Your contact info including email (even if they have it already)

    –  The genre of your script

    –  The logline of your script

    –  If appropriate, 1-2 lines that state anything special about you that pertains to your story or the film business in general just like in your query letter. Or mention of any major contest wins, produced projects, etc.

    –  1-3 very short paragraphs (about 8-12 lines on the page) about your story, your world, your protagonist and what they must accomplish, what is against them, and what’s on the line.  It should be a bit more stylized than your synopsis, which means your voice as a writer should shine through.

    –  Much like the query letter, you should not give away your ending, but you should tease and intimate your awesome ending – let the exec know that your story builds to something exciting.

    On a one-sheet, you can also include at the bottom 1-3 more titles with genre and logline of other projects you have written (if you have others), because the executive might not like your project, but they might like YOU, and want to know what else you’ve done.

    And incredibly important for your one-sheet — no typos or grammatical errors!! If you cannot write a half a page without a typo or mistake, then why would they want to read 100 pages ot that? Many execs will throw away a one-sheet with a typo on it.

    Execs can tell if someone can write by their one-sheet, and they often will not ask for a script if the one-sheet is unimpressive, bland, boring, or doesn’t tell them anything.

    The paper shouldn’t be boring. In the 3500+ pitches I’ve listened to, the one-pagers I keep the most and take more notice of have something different on the page. They are a bit more visual, perhaps there’s a poster or pattern on the page that connects with your story, or they are printed on a slightly harder stock of paper than just regular printer paper. It doesn’t need professional graphic design, but I’ve seen many one-sheets that are basically the poster for the movie on one side and the synopsis and other information on the other. This seems to be the trend these days and there are a number of places out there offering this more graphic service.

    Just like with your pitch – the more visual a one-sheet is, the more memorable it will be. Is an exec not going to read your script because your one sheet isn’t visually stimulating? No, of course not. But you are trying to do things that make you stand out, in a good way. Executives may tell you it doesn’t matter, but subconsciously, it does. People like shiny objects. It’s how Transformers keeps getting made. So if there is something visually stimulating – not detracting or distracting – but stimulating about the page, chances are execs will pay more attention to it.

    One thing you should NOT do – is put the actor you want in your movie on your one-sheet. Nothing will scream amateur more than a photo-shopped picture of Adam Sandler!

    However you design it, I cannot express to you the importance of having one. Writers always ask if a business card is good enough. As far as getting an exec your contact info, a business card works. But even if the title of your script is printed on that card, that’s not going to remind the executive about your story or your pitch or some of those key words you dropped during your pitch. Business cards get lost, they fall out of pockets or bags, get thrown away, etc. A one-sheet is a preferred.

    Many people say things like one-sheets are unnecessary and that if you don’t write them, an executive will have no choice but to ask for your script instead. Untrue! They have another option…not asking for anything! And if they were on the fence about your project, not having a one-sheet makes it that much easier for them to forget you were ever there.

  • It’s Willamette, Damnit!!

    August 25th, 2010

    By Danny Manus

     

    I’m sorry for not posting this sooner, but August has been one crazy month both for No BullScript and for me personally! And it started off the best way possible – in Portland at the Willamette Writers Conference. This was my 4th – possibly 5th – year going to the conference. To be honest, I don’t remember how many years it’s been. But once again, it did not disappoint and is still one of my favorite Writers Conferences of the year.

     

    The Willamette Conference has a very different vibe than the conferences in Los Angeles I attend. First, it’s probably 60% literary – so there are lots of smart book people walking around. They are usually pretty scared of us film folk and keep a good distance.

     

    There’s definitely an invisible wall between the book and film executives no matter how hard we all try to knock it down. Portland’s a fun town, and after a full day of giving classes, taking pitches, and using our brains, the film execs like to go out and have some fun. We try to include the bookies, but every year they choose to return to their comfy hotel rooms and read themselves to sleep. Oh well.

    However, on friday night, we did all attend a lovely dinner together which made me look at baby carrots in a whole new way. It was…an interesting dinner. And if anyone is ever looking for a passionate, verbose chef, let me know – I have just the guy for you! For all the other late night hi-jinx, well, I’m afraid Vegas isn’t the only city that can keep a secret.

     

    The writers in Portland are also very different from LA writers. Many are older, many are published authors, and many like to write smaller personal journey stories. There’s nothing wrong with this, but as I’ve always preached – know your audience. There were some BIG name companies there this year – Fox 2000, GK Films, New Line, William Morris Endeavor, etc. – and they don’t want to hear tiny little personal journey stories. They want to hear something exciting and commercial and something that jumps off the page without even reading a page. Out of the 30ish pitches I heard, at least half of them were set in Portland. Writers write what they know – I get that – but let your imagination take you to other places in your writing.

     

    Now, Portland has some amazing stories – dark, awesome stories. It’s the number one city in the country for sex trafficking. It also has more strip clubs per capita than any other city in the country (um, so I hear). And yet almost every Portland-set story I was pitched was a low budget dramedy or drama or comedy.  However, it’s still better than last year where all I got were period pieces.

     

    One thing I will say about the Portland writers – they are all such nice people. They are amazingly welcoming and sweet and will bend over backwards to help you, and that’s always appreciated. Especially since in LA, they will bend over backwards to stab you in the back.  And Willamette writers truly want to learn. They don’t JUST show up to pitch things, as many in LA do. They WANT to take the classes – they pay attention and take notes. They really seem to take everything in and want to get better and that’s the best quality for a writer to have.

     

    I sat on 2 panels and taught two classes – “Become Your Own Development Exec,” which went over very well and “Loglines, Query Letter and One-Sheets…Oh My!” which was a new class but was exactly what these writers needed. I got great compliments on it and I hope everyone else enjoyed it as much as I did. I got to read through everyone’s loglines and show them what they needed. I wish I had taught this class on Friday instead of Sunday because out of the 30ish pitches, only about 3 had actual loglines. Most writers had taglines or short synopses, but almost NONE of the writers had a real logline. Hopefully after taking my class, I’ll come back next year to find a bunch of wonderfully constructed and sellable loglines!

     

    There were some great speakers and teachers there this year for film and lit – really something for every writer at every level. And the executives this year were top notch and all really cared about writers and helping them succeed. I even made some new friends, which is even better than finding a great script. It was a great mix of people and made for a really relaxed, fun and enjoyable conference.

     

    And it was a great weekend for No BullScript! We were advertising everywhere, I got to do my first book signing for my E-Book, and I have already started working with a bunch of new clients from the conference! I’d like to send a BIG THANK YOU to Gibran, Diane, Elisa, Joan, Julio, Donna and Robert, Stefan, Nancy (for bringing me there years ago) and everyone else at the conference! You’re awesome!

     

    And I can’t wait to come back next year! Perhaps by then I will have learned how to correctly pronounce Willamette, which I still mess up after all these years. It’s Willamette, Damnit!

     

    Spartacus!

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