Yesterday I finally started my semester in LA program through Columbia and today, I’m being given a stiff dose reality – a skewed, twisted version of Hollywood reality. The kind where, honesty, there is no reality because anything goes. Opposites exist within inches of each other and they thrive off one another in a way that only the movies can depict. In fact, it’s reminds me of a stroll through Manhattan – a city where the classes and races stand side by side on a street corner everyday. It’s where the rich co-mingle with the working class while being interspersed with the poor and homeless. That is Manhattan. Here, there’s a similarity but it exists in a different way and I’m seeing it through the light of two very different Hollywood personas.
On this second day of class, I’ve been given a lesson in opposites. The extreme difference between academia and the professional world. The difference between an LA working day and a Chicago working day. The temperature difference. The dress code difference. And the difference between being a man with a professional passion for story and a professional passion for ideas.
Today we had two speakers. Both were informative. Both had legitimate things to say. But you could not have put two more polar opposite people together. One is known as “The Idea Man of Hollywood” and the other is . . well, he wasn’t an “idea man” as he was . . . hard to define. Let’s move forward with their nuggets of inspiration, shall we?
The Idea Man of Hollywood
Bob is a fascinating specimen. He embodies a lot of what you think Hollywood is . . . No, not cocaine and Scientology meetings. He was a fast talker – like a whirlwind of speech. I honestly don’t think he ever took a breath — like a dolphin, he took one deep breath, plunged his head in the water and went on a gatling gun charge of advice and opinions. See, Bob doesn’t make movies. He doesn’t write them. He doesn’t necessarily produce them. He’s not a director. Bob is an idea man – he gets ideas or takes ideas, develops them into spitfire pitches and sells them to producers. He’s sold over 500 pitches. FIVE HUNDRED. He was kind of like this, but without the aircraft carrier:
Here’s a few of his gems:
“State your pitch as a High concept in one sentence: an intriguing idea, stated in a few words, easily understood by all.”
The question: “Can you pitch an idea that hasn’t been told before?”
“You need to read EVERYTHING that permeates pop culture.”
“Much harder to be an original thinker than a writer.”
“Start buying rights to properties now. You will have a advantage over everyone.”
You see, Bob does nothing but pitch and when he does, he’s go quantity over quality, pitching 15 ideas in 5 minutes as opposed to one in 20. Here’s his process:
— Tell the high concept up front. A one line pitch up front is all you need.
— Visualize the movie — Use you enthusiasm to show the film – help the listened visualize with you.
— KNOW the hook (high concept)
— Stick to the plot. Don’t discuss in the story or deviate from it.
— Pitch the poster.
— Don’t read your pitch.
— Don’t hype.
— SUMMARIZE – 1 or 2 minutes.
— Always get to the next . . . and then this happens and then this happens and this happens . . .
— Get the theme in one line.
— Don’t say the words “Like” or that someone “goes”. It’s annoying and unprofessional.
As well, he was pretty adamant that we all go out and start buying/optioning properties ASAP. Owning the rights to something give us all a leg up on the competition . . and makes us look more professional.
The fact is, Bob was a polarizing figure for this class. He’s brutal honesty and his ability to turtnm art into a commodity was hard forsome people to stomach. I, on teh other hand, found his philospohy to be one of staggering honesty and genuis. I think that I can never be Bob Kosberg – he’s this tornado of energy and confidence. What I can be is someone who takes what he has to say, pyull hose nuggets of knowlede form his speech and use them . . . everyday, just use them.
A Man About Passion
Rudy was the cool down lap we needed after the hour and a half sprint Bob gave us. He spoke slowly and deliberately. Rudy is a producer. That’s it. He has immense respect for the other postions in filmmaking, but he likes producing. But he’s done so much more. Look at this career.
Rudy started his career as a writer for The Village Voice in the 70s. He then went on to start Spin magazine. HE STARTED SPIN!
He knew Norman Mailer and collaborated with himi n a film about Henry Miller with Gore Verbinski as the director. Lived in NYC in the same neighborhood as Miles Davis and would see him everyday. He produced The Hurricane and is now producing a biopic about Bob Marley. He also made a biopc about Stanley “Tookie” Williams – the founder of the Crips. Jamie Foxx played Stanely and they both worked to get Stanley a reprieve form the death sentence. Rudy witnessed his execution. That is quite a career.
He asked those of us wearing multiple hats why we wanted to do that. Not as a challenege, but purely out of curiosity. He was calm, collective and insanely inspiring. What Bib was to Ideas, Rudy was to process. What Bob was to chaotic intesity, Rudy was to composed focus. Here’s some great things about Rudy:
“Writing is the spooky art.”
“Directors are of a singular mind.”
“The most difficult thing in filmmaking is to capture the shared vision of the crew.”
When pitching, use another film as a template for a current film – using tone, theme color, space, etc. “Sugar Hill used Once Upon a Time in America.”
“The disconnect between departments is what can derail a film.”
He’s been working on making an Arthur C. Clarke book into a film for years now – hired 3 top tier writers to get the screenplay done. They all failed because they wanted to write their film and not the producers – which is ultimately what you need to do when you are a work for hire.
“Begin with passion or you will never finish.”
“As soon as the studio said yes I knew I had made a mistake.” Referring to the Henry Miller film – when hey got the green light, a producer said he was excited about teh film and that he loved the period of Miller’s life when he dated Marilyn Monroe . . . that’s Arthur Miller, not Norman.
Finally —- “Characters need not be sympathetic but compelling.”