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Screen & Stage
Elevator Exposure
By Kimberley Ann Sparks
October, 2007, 12:59

Ready for your 30 second pitch to ensure you're going up and not down the shaft?
You walk onto an elevator and, just before the doors close, in walks Steven Spielberg. He pushes the button for the 15th floor and you realise you have less than 30 seconds to tell him about the excellent script you've just finished. Ah, the classic elevator pitch. Would you be ready?

There are two good reasons why you should always be ready to pitch. The first is, like in the opening example, you never know who you're going to run into and how much time you'll have to wow them with your idea. The second is that it will always make you sound professional when someone asks you what you're working on instead of stumbling around for a couple of minutes trying to explain your story.

Going Fishing

What makes a good elevator pitch? A logline. We've heard the term before, but how many of us create one while we're working on our script or even before we start working on it?

Essentially, a logline is a hook to intrigue your listener to ask for more. I liken it to going fishing. I have my logline the bait and I cast it out to the sea of producers, directors, agents, etc. hoping one of them will bite. If your logline is juicy enough, thus begins the back-and-forth tug of war between the two of you. Your logline/pitch is brilliant and they ask for a one-sheet or treatment. What you send them bowls them over and they ask for the script. They've never read anything so amazing before, and they give you seven figures, and you win the Oscar. And, it all started with your little logline.

The Good Logline

What are the key ingredients of a juicy, successful logline? You need to tell us who the script is about and what their main conflict or goal is. That's about it. Though it sounds simple, it takes a bit of effort to write a great logline, especially one that will attract a reader or buyer.

With a logline, you're trying to create a visual image of what your movie is about. After hearing it or reading it, we should be able to envision the whole movie.

Case Study: The Fugitive

I recently played this movie for my class. If you've seen it, you know that the main character is Dr. Richard Kimble, a respected surgeon who is also wrongfully convicted of killing his wife. Dr. Kimble's main goal is to find the one-armed man who actually killed his wife, and his main conflict is trying to not get caught by the very determined U.S. marshal, Sam Gerard.

We have all the components of a logline, now we just have to write it so that it's concise:

Dr. Richard Kimble, a respected surgeon wrongfully accused of killing his wife, escapes custody and begins the hunt for the real killer, a one-armed man, while trying to evade the very determined U.S. marshal set to bring him back to justice.

Multi-Purpose Tool

You can use your logline in a number of places. When writing a query letter, you need to describe your project briefly though vividly, and a logline fits the bill perfectly.

Loglines are also a great starting point for your script. If you can't define these two simple things who your movie is about and what their main conflict or goal is you need to rethink.

I use my logline at the top of my one-sheets as well. It's great to let your reader know the general details of your script before they get to the finer points. I've also seen people include the logline for the script they're trying to sell on their business cards.

Now that you understand the importance of loglines, make sure you write one for each of your projects. You never know who you'll run into on an elevator. IN Icon

Kimberley Ann Sparks is a writer who has worked in video games, television, and film. She hates fruit because fruit is evil (don't be fooled, folks, they're out to get you), and she loves popcorn (the food of the gods). Scrunchy robots with teeth make her laugh.

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