“Time is money” certainly rings true in Hollywood, and could be the best way to approach business leaders in your industry.
As a working producer and director in Hollywood for many years, I know that the entertainment industry is one of the most difficult businesses in the world. Nine times out of ten decisions are made because of the “hit” factor and how much money can be made in the shortest amount of time.
Every big film or television project is a multi-million dollar investment so the risks are high. But the business of entertainment can also be a very lucrative one—for networks and studios, for A-listers, for those of us lucky enough to be successful. So the question naturally arises, what can Hollywood teach other business leaders?
I think the most important lesson Hollywood has to impart to other business fields has to do with time or lack thereof. In this industry, you have to sell fast or you don’t sell at all. No one has time for a lengthy pitch anymore, nor will they read anything longer than 120 pages.
Almost all of the pitches I do with screenwriters are kept to 10 minutes or less, and I also simplify my numerous book properties into one-page, three-page, and five-page write-ups to make it easier on execs who I know just don’t have the time to read an entire book.
Most other industries and businesses run the exact same way—if a professional proposal can’t grab attention immediately folks simply move on. In the last few years, short and sweet has truly become the recipe for success.
There are too many examples to list for when a studio or network executive has said to me on the phone “I only have a minute, what’s the hook?” And by “hook” of course, they are asking me to swiftly share the one-sentence marketing tool that tells them what is unique about the project.
The ability to craft that selling sentence prior to launching into any long-winded pitch or proposal is a valuable skillset and one worth cultivating. It’s an ability that can be applied to any industry—real estate, marketing, education, or any other big business—and is one of the best ways to get something sold in today’s market.
In fact, every project I’ve set up, including the feature film “The Duff” (which came out last year and made an incredible $43.5 million off an $8.5 million budget), started with this powerful single sentence—known in my field as a logline.
A great example of one of my projects where the sale was literally all about the logline is “Fringe Girl”. I had a television movie project I wanted to sell, based on the book “Fringe Girl”, but the story was quite reminiscent of the film “Mean Girls”.
I knew I couldn’t sell it that way since “Mean Girls” had been done already and it’s always important for a pitch concept to feel fresh. So, I decided to carefully craft a great logline that would highlight the project’s most unique element—which happened to be related to the history instructor character. He teaches Fringe Girl about the strategies involved in leading a revolution, using Napoleon as his example. In turn, our protagonist utilizes this information to overthrow the queen bee of the school.
My selling sentence became: “The story of a teenager who uses the principles of revolution to change the social order at her high school, and save herself from being stuck on the ‘fringes’ of the population.”
I made the sale to the Disney Channel, but I know that if I had gone in instead with a long-winded plot description, I would have had the execs looking at their watches as well as making comments about how it reminded them too much of “Mean Girls”—and ultimately the potential project would have been a ‘pass’.
So again, why is this Hollywood process beneficial to business leaders in other industries? Because it’s all about the skill of being concise while carefully highlighting what’s special about what you have to sell.
The ability to generate a tight, streamlined summation of a story, idea, or item is highly valued in today’s uber-busy society. Attention spans have gotten very short. Even a tweet has just a 140-character limit. So in the same way, a logline or elevator pitch needs to be limited to one strong sentence because creatively short is the best way to gain immediate attention.
Carefully crafted brevity can make all the difference when sharing an idea, proposal, or project with a business leader whose schedule is jam-packed.
Carefully crafted brevity can make all the difference when sharing an idea, proposal, or project with a business leader whose schedule is jam-packed, and in a world where everyone constantly wishes for more hours in the day.
Some business professionals will probably disagree with this approach, believing instead that slow and steady “reeling them in” is a better answer, and for some it may be. But having set up more than two dozen projects over the last few years, all with strong one-sentence starters out the gate, and now having met with countless business owners and seasoned executives, I can tell you that the quick sell is infinitely superior, more efficient, and much more appreciated by those on the other side of the desk.
I began my producing career on the buying side as the EVP of Television and Movies at an entertainment company and know personally from that time how much I valued being brought something quick and concise, which also told me why it was different so I could get excited about it.
I’m not advocating selling everything you have or do only in one sentence, of course, but if done correctly, a top-notch logline can certainly provide that quick first bite which hopefully will entice the buyer to want to eat the whole meal.