Monday, July 23, 2007

Los Angeles Pitch Festival -- deja vu

In August, 2006 I went to a Sunset Script conference here in Washington (blog entry on Sept 13 here). The last part of the conference consisted on working on and presenting pitches to representatives from several production companies. The link is here, look for Wed. Sept. 13.

Today, Monday, July 23, 2007, in The New York Times, Arts Section p B1 in print version. David M. Halbfinger has a story “Hollywood Hopefuls (Dream On) At Pitchfest”, here (may require visitor registration and purchase) about the 11th Annual Hollywood Pitch Festival in Los Angeles, where about 200 writers paid $395 a piece for an opportunity to present an “on the lot round one” style pitch for an original story idea.

There is always a tendency for studio executives to claim that the need obvious hooks, conflicts, and the fabled “Three Part Structure” of a beginning, middle and end. (Remember, the first task "On the Lot" was a pitch, but from one of five possible assigned loglines.) There is a tendency for many ideas to seem like manipulations, even though they sometimes actually work when made. The film I talked about in the last blog (“Chuck and Larry”), a big budget production from Universal with big stars (Adam Sandler, who was reportedly at the pitch, as was Leonardo Di Caprio), sounds like a “setup” but it actually worked much better than I expected. There is also a tendency for very intriguing films, often appearing in the independent market, to break all the rules and still work. A British Lion film from 1944 that I rented and watched yesterday, “A Canterbury Tale” (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger) was like that. It was all over the map with a loose, open-ended “road trip” (“Pilgrims Way”) story, yet the abstract dreamlike mood it created by mashing World War II with ideas of interpersonal synergy from Chaucer’s poetry produced a fascinating end product. They don’t make that many films like this any more. A good college freshman English theme assignment would be to write a pitch for that movie. Another good exercise is how to pitch the New Line hit musical "Hairspray," (Adam Shankman) a remake musical about desegregation (in 1962 Baltimore) that is really funny and seemed to have a good opening. (By accident, this film also made an indirect statement about same-sex marriage. And don't forget Stanley Donen, Fox, Staircase, in 1969.)

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