I always say that you only get one chance to make a first impression. Of course, this makes me nervous whenever I meet someone for the first time.  As a writer, your first impression is going to be your premise.  Having that high concept with a killer hook that fits nicely into a 2 sentence logline. Terry Rossio points out that this only applies if you want to work within the Hollywood system. If you want to make an art piece that no one understands or if you want to make a small self-financed movie, this wouldn’t be important because you don’t need producers to attach movie stars or money from the likes of one of the streamers or movie studios.

Let me add my take as someone who has worked on art films and done self-financed projects. The premise and logline are just as important in these projects as in Hollywood. Everyone in the movie business likes to think they will one day succeed and be part of the system, so they try to practice. It’s kind of like the guy on food stamps thinking he needs to vote for a politician who will lower his taxes because one day soon, he will be making six figures. He forgets that right now, he needs those food stamps, so he should vote for the politician who will keep that entitlement going.

Film people respond to projects much better if there is a great premise, from first-time camera operators to budding starlets to old actors working part-time for more than a generation. The old elevator pitch applies to more than just getting funding for a movie; it is an important part of making a film. It’s important to attract the right crew and cast. Films are not a single-person operation. Even no-budget films need an actor and a cameraman. You probably need more than one actor and at least a sound guy. Then, you need an editor to do the final rewrite.  If you can wear all those hats, more power to you, but it’s best to be an expert in one thing instead of a master’s, no one.

I have produced a few films, and I can count on how many times someone said I wanted to be part of your project, but let me read the script first and make sure. They decided if they wanted to work with me based on my attempts to be an affable guy and the premise. There are two things I struggle with but stay focused on, like the plague. I generally like people, so being affable isn’t a bad thing. The tough part is that elusive premise. The one that is high concept and reels everyone in.  It goes back to making a great first impression.

When I go to the coffee shop to write many days, I’ll work on putting together a list of 100 film concepts, hoping to turn one into a high-concept film project with a great hook. And once that list hits 100, I’ll start a new one. And then, I’ll sort the ideas from best to worst. I’ll rewrite the list, trying to develop better concepts with better hooks, all looking to find the perfect premise.

I took a class once by the guy who pitched 12 Monkeys and got it made. All he did was pitch movie ideas to the studios. He never actually wrote one actual movie script. He wasn’t a writer. He didn’t produce. He was an idea guy. He knew how to work a concept into a great pitch by finding the hook. That is your calling card. If you can master the pitch, you can make it in Hollywood. You can probably also make it in the indie film industry. For that matter, you could probably make it in most industries.

Everything you do in the entertainment industry revolves around a great pitch. As a writer, you want to write to your pitch so when they read the script, even if it’s not the most well-written script they have read, you have d delivered on the concept so they can do a simple rewrite, which they will do regardless and send it into production. The least important skill in writing is word smithing. Delivering on the pitch is the most important after having that great pitch.  Now you have your calling card to fame and fortune.