Be The Best Writer You Can

Fearless Pitching and David Mamet (Again!)

The Fearless Pitcher
I’ve had some great feedback from my new book ‘The Fearless Pitcher’s Handbook’ that I let out the starting gates on Wednesday.

(Get full details here.)

…but I also had a couple of emails – complaints really I guess – that said, more or less:

‘Why would I buy your book? I am never going to have to pitch any scripts. I’m going to do all my selling scripts via the internet, facebook and whatever.’

That’s a good question. I guess.

But if that’s what you’re thinking, then I have a question back for you.

Are you really prepared to spend the considerable labour to complete a great script, to spend months, possibly years of your life getting it to a point at which it roars like a V8 engine – and then not try your best to sell it??

I think that’s like assembling a top of the line Mercedes and fitting an old Ford engine under the bonnet.

You may get hired with just written pitches, and emails and so on, (of course you may, anything is possible) but it is SO much more effective if you can just simply TELL people what your story is
about when they ask you!

Hiding behind the internet will only get you so far. It’s real world face to face interaction that gets you hired.

But there’s another reason that this book can help…

Thinking of your script in the condensed form that you need to pitch it helps you dramatically…

… because you will be forced to consider the mechanics of the STORY.

And that can only make your STORY stronger.

I know that for some people this may be a challenging offer… the word ‘pitching’ can bring fear out in the minds of the strongest.

In some regards that’s down to the modern notion of the Pitchfest – where you have to get up in a public arena and tell your story to a blank faced panel in front of hundreds of people.

You’ll be relieved to find out that these things are more show-biz than really how deals are made. The vast majority of the time scripts get picked up behind closed doors, after pitches that are more like conversations than anything else.

This book tells you how to approach those conversations, and how to structure what you say so that you have the best chance of selling your story.

Look. If you have anxiety about pitching your story then it’s often easier to bury your head and pretend it never needs to happen.

But pitching is part of this game, and if you carry on as a writer you can bet your life that at some point someone powerful is going to turn to you and say – ‘so what are you working on at the moment?’

And THAT is the precise moment you will wish you had got your pitching down pat.

My book might be challenging, but it’s simple, it’s real world stuff and it WORKS.

Get more details – and take advantage of the 40% introductory discount – by clicking here.

Pure Cinema

I want to refer you to a short film that someone showed me on Facebook this week.

Dating back to 1988 apparently, it’s an extract from a feature called ‘The Bear’ by Jean-Jacques Annaud.

This extract is just over 3 minutes long, and if you haven’t already seen it I urge you to take a look.

There is no dialogue, and just three animals, yet it has incredible pace, and tension, and tells a perfect short story.

I think it feels like pure cinema.

The lack of dialogue, and the lack of human players, does make two things stand out very sharply.

Firstly, I’ve always thought that a good way to approach dialogue is to try to write your story without it, then, when the characters can’t get what they want any other way, allow them to talk. ‘The Bear’ definitely proves that as far as I’m concerned.

Secondly, what’s also fascinating is how the story is told in the cuts between the shots.

By which I mean that so much of the intention of the players in the story is inferred by the audience by the order of the shots as they play out

Pick any part of the film, and imagine changing the order of the shots – and imagine how that would change the meaning of what you see.

This ability to cut between shots, and direct your audience’s attention very clearly by doing so, is a major part of building up meaning in your script. And is a major contributor to the idea that there are three versions of any script:

– The script you write.
– The script you shoot.
– The script after the final edit.

Major changes can take place at any of those three stages.

Every time I watch a film editor at work on one of my own projects it leaps out at me how much story telling they have to do in their own right – and how it is possible to COMPLETELY change the meaning of a scene as you edit the shots together.

(Just for the record, telling story in the cut is something you can’t do when you are writing for the stage. Cuts just don’t work very well on stage. I found this out the hard way when I started writing for the theatre a few years back!)

If you want to go into this business about telling story with sequential images some more, I can recommend you track down a short book by David Mamet, called “On Directing”. He really explores this way of thinking, and it’s incredibly illuminating about what you need to put on screen, and what you can – and should – leave out.

He has a constant drive to get as much meaning out on screen with the mimimum effort, and his examples are terrific. (One exercise that stayed with me was just how much information you could convey by the simple act of getting an actor to stand up at the right moment!)

It’s quite hard to get hold of, and I think Amazon have a few copies left, but apparently it’s contained in the collected volume “A Whore’s Profession: Notes and Essays”. It’s well worth a look.

  1. As always, a really helpful and thought-provoking blog (and thanks for the link to the short film, which kept me on the edge of my seat throughout). Overwriting dialogue has always been one of my own tendencies so your post is particularly pertinent as I near the end of draft one of a very ‘wordy’ feature script. I now intend to approach my rewrites from a completely different angle, asking myself what dialogue, if any, is actually needed in each scene to move the story/characterisation forward rather than spending months polishing redundant dialogue. On a separate issue, do you have any plans to hold a future course outside London, e.g. in Cardiff or Bristol?

  2. Good stuff Tracy, let us know how the stripped down script feels.

    And no, sorry, we’ve only got London seminars booked for the forseeable future (into the Autumn now). But obviously we’d love to see you at one of those!

  3. I’ll certainly do my best. And thanks again.

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