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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The One Page Pitch - Adrian Mead

The One Page Pitch Doc is something that crops up in a lot of Adrian Mead's postings on places like Shooting People, so I was very keen to hear what he said about this on Saturday.

As Adrian says, no one is ever scared of one page. As a Reader, I can relate to this. Every time I get a load of scripts delivered, the first thing I do is check page count. If it's over 105, I get palpitations. For some reason, those extra 15-20 pages, take more time than the rest of the script put together. Or maybe that's just my imagination. But in any case: BIG SCRIPTS GIVE PEOPLE THE WILLIES (oo-er). One page then? Easyeeee. It's all in the psychology.

So what should make up your One Page Pitch Doc? Well, it should be continuous prose, for starters. Adrian was keen to stress that you should talk in visuals - in others words, choose your words carefully, using ones that have resonance and sum up the action of the piece. Also, simplicity is key. Much good advice. So often I find the problem new writers have in conveying the themes and even story in the script are to do with coherency - the infamous WTF? Draft: in other words, they've been too ambitious, make it too complicated.

What else should go in, then?

The title, obviously. What it actually is - is this a feature? A 60 min drama? A short? A series? Lots of writers forget to include this information, because they know it and forget that others won't. Make sure your Reader knows the genre and who your protagonist is. You should include your protagonist's goal ("wants vs. need" - sometimes these two don't always go together!) and indeed, what their obstacles are, including of course, the antagonist. Finally, sum up its theme in this section - what is it all about? Why are we watching this story, at this particular time?

Then - and this was the most interesting idea I found - jump straight to the end. If that first section was the set up, or Act One, go straight to Act 3. DON'T do Act 2, don't tell the story in minute detail. This is a pitch, not a treatment: hold something back. People who'll read this want the set up and how it ends...Everything else is superfluous. Hook them in, make them WANT to read your script.

And that's it. Very interesting. This is not the way I've been writing my pitch docs - I was taught a different way at university - but I'm willing to give this version a try. And if I get optioned out of it, I'm calling my next kid Adrian.

Or maybe not... ; )


Lianne said...

Hmmm, agree with you about reading that extra twenty pages. But when I'm writing my own stuff, the one-pager fills me with dread! I'd much rather write several pages.

Adrian's approach is good as I have left the ending open in the past, and have learned that this generally isn't liked - producers/agents etc want to know that you know what happens in the end. This might be why I've struggled with these documents, because I'll usually know the beginnning and the end, but I'm always a bit woolly on the stuff in between! I only left the ending a mystery because I thought that's how it was meant to be done. I'll definitely try Adrian's approach in the future.

Lucy said...

That's just it - I've heard it taught so many times, leave the ending open. I do know some Producers et al don't like this, but haven't heard that many... For me, it's a simple equation: my pitches that way HAVEN'T been optioned and Adrian's have, so sorted. I'll do it his way! I'm a literary "hooorer" as well! ; )

Lara said...

I will also be trying his approach! It's got to be worth a try.

Dom Carver said...

Someone asked a question about sending in a one page pitch with out the script being written, I can't remember what Adrian answer was?

Or in my semi-delirious sleep deprived state, did I imagine that question?

Lucy said...

No you didn't imagine it, and I *think* he said it was fine...dependant on the context tho, surely?

Is Adrian out there, anywhere??? Pls enlighten us...

Dom Carver said...

Yeah, I need enlightenment as I have shit loads of ideas I want to do a one page on and not enough time to write full scripts.

I want an option, or a sale, or even just a few pence in my begging bowl. I have nappies to buy, damn it!

Lucy said...

Join the club! And get to the back of the queue, punk... ; )

Dom Carver said...

Age before beauty, as they say. In which case I'll be first and second in the queue, so go find me an answer woman.

Lucy said...

In your DREAMS tonto, however - I have emailed Adrian, so we shall see what he says.

In the mean time, shall we build some kind of totem pole or idol in his honour? Suggestions??

Dom Carver said...

You could have his image tattooed on your 'incredibly toned and pert buttocks?'

Lucy said...

Don't be CHEEKY Dom! (Hah! like what I did there???)

Here's Clare Kerr's fantastically quick reply to my query re: pitch docs:

Hi Lucy
Adrian is chained to a desk somewhere in the Waking The Dead production office, so on his behalf I’d say it’s fine to send a pitch doc without the script being written. The document is to find out if there is interest in the idea, if there is interest be prepared to write a detailed treatment, and then a script.


Good Dog said...

Ah, the fear of the Spanish knight in training... Juan Page.

Geddit? ...Oh, never mind.

Of course the best way to conquer the fear, I guess, is write a very long one page - possibly one that goes to two or three pages - and then whittle it down.

Since the first draft script is never a first draft, I doubt everyone's one page is the first draft either.

Writing everything from essays to magazine articles, I always went over in the word count and then quickly tightened it up.


I asked him specifically about sending the one page on its own, especially since I wondered how long after they would start asking for more material if the idea was accepted. So yes, a one page can go on its own. (Which is what Clare just said).

And if anyone says otherwise, tell them Adrian says it's okay - and he's probably bigger than them - so yaboo-sucks to them!

And... can we please - pretty please - stop with Lucy's firm rump. I'm afraid to turn on my computer let alone leave the flat.

And... Adrian's writing a Waking the Dead?! Oh, yes!!

Lucy said...

People!!! Pls refrain from talking about my bottom!!!

I thank you.

potdoll said...

You can send a one page outline without having written the script - if you have a strong sample script to endorse your talent. This is common practice from what I've seen of stuff coming into the office - think I've heard agents referring to them as 'feelers.'

but not arse feelers like Good Dog.

MaryAn Batchellor said...

On Scrubs last night, I heard the line "I like that wagon you're draggin'". Argh! Wish I'd written that!!!

Good Dog said...

...arse feelers like Good Dog

This is going to hang over me for the rest of my life isn't it?!

David Bishop said...

Can we change Good Dog's name to Bad Dog by deed poll, in view of his tushy-touching tendencies?

On One-Page Pitch Docs [PD], here's some of my notes from the seminar Adrian ran in Edinburgh last year...


1. the title
2. the time and the place
3. the genre
4. the protagonist
5. the goal
6. the obstacles
7. the theme
8. “in the end by…”

Those are the big chunks of the spine, the essentials of the Pitch Doc. You completely miss the second act, skip over what happens. You can include a log line at the top.

Don’t try to reinvent the PD. It gets the conversation going, the chat going – that’s what it is designed to do. Keep it dead simple.

TITLE: don’t underestimate how important your title is. It’s the first thing anyone sees. If the title hooks readers from the start, they’ll be more likely to keep reading.

TIME AND PLACE: be exact – 1930s Ireland too unspecific, there’s a massive difference between 1931 and 1939 in Ireland. Where and when you set a story hugely informs the story, has a massive impact.

GENRE: Discussions about genre generate a lot of hot air. Movies are marketed by genre increasingly. There are two root types of stories, from which everything else sprouts – drama and comedy.

PROTAGONIST: the hero, the central character – buddy movie is a joint protagonist. Give them a name, a specific age – nail the age.

GOALS: What your character wants versus what they need. Only give your character one, clear goal in the PD.

OBSTACLES: these create conflict. You have to have three of them. They need a heck of a lot of things to keep them busy for 120 minutes or six episodes.

THEME: if you think Genre generates arguments, theme is much worse. You really need to nail your theme. You want something that resonates with the audience, that encompasses the issues that are important to people.

“IN THE END BY…”: This is the method by which the story and thematic elements are concluded. Don’t try and explain the whole thing – leave out the second act.

Adrian also said readers want a Pitch Doc with each script. A poorly written Pitch Doc is as bad as a poorly written script.

Do multiple drafts of your Pitch Doc [AM frequently does seven drafts of each PD].

Lucy said...

Wow, David - you're a star, thanks!!! Much better notes than mine...I must admit to being what teachers call an "audio learner" so I listen more than write when at these things. Which is weird now I think of it, considering I'm a writer!!!

And Bad Dog sounds about right...

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