May 7th, 2012
With the Great American Pitchfest in less than a month, 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 pitchfest experience. But how many of you have completed your one-sheet?
If your hand isn’t raised – you aren’t ready to pitch! 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 50-100 pitches that day, is going to be able to remember you after the salient details of your glorious 5 minute pitch have escaped them. I write my comments on your one-sheet the second you leave the table – Yes, no, great concept, bad story, liked her, hated him, ask for script, totally retarded, smelled bad – whatever.
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.
– Then, 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 a few 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 you are sloppy or lazy and I don’t want to read your script. I know many execs who 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. You shouldn’t doodle little animals on it or anything, but I find that the one-pagers I keep and the ones I take more notice of have something different on the page. They are a bit more visual, perhaps there’s a picture or pattern on the page that connects with your story, or they are printed on a slightly harder stock of paper than 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.
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 got 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.
But 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.
Some people say 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. Those people are complete morons. 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.