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What Script Writing and Event Producing Have in Common

I was browsing around the movie section of a bookstore (because if you’re going to take a break from movies for books it should be for books about movies) and came across (what turned out to be) a staple handbook for screenwriters called Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. Reading through his first chapter, my mind exploded with implications for event producing. He concludes his first chapter this way:

Well, whether this is old news or new news, the “What is it?” Is the only place to begin this task of ours. The job of the screen writer, especially one writing on spec, must include consideration for everyone all along the way, from agent to producer to the studio exec who decides what gets made. And that job starts with that question: “What is it?”

Along with a good “What is it?” A movie must have a clear sense of what it’s about and who it’s for. It’s tone, potential, the dilemma of its characters, and the type of characters they are, should be easy to understand and compellling.

In order to better create a good “What is it?” The spec screen writer must be able to tell a good one-line or longline –a one- or two-sentence grabber that tells us everything. It must satisfy four basic elements to be effective:

1. Irony. It must be in some way ironic and emotionally involving — a dramatic situation that is like an itch you have to scratch.

2. A compelling mental picture. It must bloom in your mind when you hear it. A whole movie must be implied, often includeding a time frame.

3. Audience and cost. it must demarcate the tone. The target audience, and the sense of cost, so sbuyers will know if it can make a profit.

4. A killer title. The one-two punch of a good longline must include a great title, one that “says what it is” and does so in a clever way.

This is all part of what is called “high concept,” a term that came about to describe movies that are easy to see. … while high concept is a term that’s not fashionable, it’s a type of movie all Hollywood is actively looking for. You just have to figure out a quicker, slicker way to provide high concept ideas.

Finally, this is all about intreaguing the audience, so a good way to road test an idea is to get out from behind your computer and pitch it. Pitch your movie to anyone who will listen and adjust accordingly. you never know what valuable information you can learn from a stranger with a blank expression.

I know he’s talking about movies, but to me, this is the dividing line between events that are ready for production and events that aren’t.

Over and over and over again I hear tales of lament: Nobody goes to community group. A retreat didn’t get sign ups. They couldn’t get anybody to go hear that great speaker or attend that concert or show up for that simulcast.

Consistantly, all of those failures can be traced back to the fact that they didn’t have a compelling logline that was interesting enough to the people reading it for them to interrupt their lives to participate.

So, to would-be event producers everywhere: What is it? And who cares?