Jeffrey Davis, Writer/Professor: Never heard them talk about plot, ever. They talked about characters and conflict.
Film Courage: Can you explain the three elements of a Hollywood pitch?
Jeffrey: The first thing is a hook because you have to have a premise. We’ve talked about this many times in the book [Pitch Like Hollywood: What You Can Learn from the High-Stakes Film Industry]. The first way though in my experience is you have to start with a sentence that hooks people. Peter, will you tell them one that comes from Karol Hoeffner’s pitch about the girl who leaves school for a year? I love that, I think it’s an excellent example.
Peter Desberg, Writer/Professor/Psychologist: I can do it, I’m not sure I’ll get the wording exactly right.
Jeffrey: It doesn’t matter.
Peter: Sometimes you learn more if you don’t go to school.
Jeffrey: Right, so it’s called Leap Year or Gap Year, I’m sorry! It’s called, Gap Year. Leap Year is a whole Amy Adams movie. So you start with that because that may be as far as you’ll get if they don’t like…so it’s one or two sentences at most. It gives you a sense of what the theme or the story might be about and then if you’re lucky you go to the log line which I’m sure a lot of people have talked to you about.
Peter: But a quick interjection. As a boring psychologist (which I guess is redundant) one of the things we look at a lot is the principle of primacy, the thing you hear first is the thing you remember best. There’s hundreds and thousands of studies. I give somebody a list of items to buy at the market, they always remember the first one. It’s just what we do right and so the first thing you hear is very important and so if you can get that very first thing to be something that rattles around in their cortex and stays with them because it’s clever and it gives you some sense of where you’re going, that’s going to help guide them all the way through.
Jeffrey: I’ll give you another example because we use it all the way through the book and that’s the Odd Couple, probably the best American comedy written in the latter half of the 20th century and we know this because everybody copies it (hopefully they make it their own when they copy it). I was thinking about Mom which was a great show but it’s the odd couple so Peter came up with a great…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).
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Peter Desberg is professor emeritus at California State University, Dominguez Hills, and recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award and Outstanding Professor Award. He is also a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in the area of stage fright and performance anxiety. The author of 23 books, he has been quoted by such publications as The Wall Street Journal, Psychology Today and The New York Times, and has consulted for companies including Apple, Boeing and Toyota in the areas of pitching and persuasion, corporate presentations, and using storytelling and humor in business presentations.
Jeffrey Davis is a professor of screenwriting at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, and served from 2009–2019 as the department chair. Davis has also written and produced trade shows for Dick Clark Productions and counted among his advertising clients Dell Computers, Toyota of America and Honda. His has more than 30 credits to his name, including Night Court, Remington Steele, and documentaries for A&E, Discovery, and The History Channel. As a consultant, his areas have also included writing, pitching, and employing storytelling and humor in business presentations.
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