The Batman Trailer (Or How Not to Write a Pitch)
Posted by Shoshana Brown Aug 15 2012, 12:01 am in Batman, movies, pitches, Shoshana Brown, The Dark Knight Rises
Just after the latest Batman movie came out, a friend asked me if I wanted to see it. I wasn’t sure, so I opened up my web browser and pulled up the trailer. There were explosions. Chases. Fights. And a few more explosions. The trailer was over two minutes long, but by the end I still had no idea what the movie was about.
I didn’t want the entire story of course—then there’d be no point in seeing the movie–but I did want to know a few basic things. Like, what does Bruce Wayne want? What’s standing in his way? Basically, I wanted to know that there WAS a story. Because explosions, as cool as they look, do not equal conflict.
It got me thinking about pitches–those 1-2 paragraph blurbs we put in our query letters or on the back cover of our books to entice editors, agents, or readers to start the actual manuscript. It’s not a whole lot of real estate, but if you use it wisely, it’s enough to hook the reader. Agent Kristin Nelson suggests looking at the first 50 pages of your manuscript to zero in on the catalyst that starts the story, and using that to form your pitch. I also find it helpful to start with something like Holly Bodger’s logline template.
Of course, there are some people who don’t have to bother writing pitches. That NY Times Bestselling author you love might have a picture of herself on the back cover of her book rather than a blurb. Why? Because people will buy her book even if it’s about a sentient plant who falls in love with a shape shifting guinea hog. Maybe that’s what the Batman crew was thinking when they put together the trailer I hated—that people would see the movie no matter what it was about once they saw that bat sign. Or maybe they were appealing to that portion of the population, like my friend, who was more interested in explosions and fighting than Bruce’s internal conflict.
And, in the interest of full disclosure, the trailer did get me to the theater—I was sold as soon as I saw Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Okay, Hollywood. Maybe you know what you’re doing after all.
What sells you on a book or a movie? Anything in particular you like to see in your back cover blurbs or movie trailers?