In a written pitch, should I reference other titles to similar-genre films or does that make it look unoriginal?
That’s a very good question. I don’t know where it originated from (but it’d be interesting to find out) but the classic pitch of “It’s … meets … “ has become a source of contentious pitching, some it of playful argument, some with more bug-eyed venom against the form.
It seems that most people like to pour scorn or derision on this particular style of pitch but in truth, it’s such a regular and handy way to describe a project because it serves as a neat reference guide for the person you’re pitching to.
Of course, you don’t want to go down the route of ‘The Player’ and choose oxymoron titles for your pitch (“It’s Out of Africa meets Pretty Woman”) as that won’t make a lot of sense and will see you out the door before your Diet Coke with a hint of lime has had a chance to kiss its ice cubes.
We had a chat about this style of pitching in Cannes (I say 'we', just a bunch of writers having a few beers) and we thought that it was okay to say 'Pitch Black' meets 'Mad Max' IN CONVERSATION but putting this type of description on official pitching documents should be avoided.
In conversation, casual charm and endearing comparisons are easy to generate as opposed to authorising the words on a page. (How many emails or blogger comments have you misread because you didn’t catch the tone?)
It's always best for someone to read your stuff and they say: "So it's Superman meets Alien" and you go: "Exactamundo" and they nod like they've cracked a secret code or something.
I had one exec describe my new horror as: "So it’s Donnie Darko meets American Werewolf in London" and while he thought this sounded cool, I had to say, er, actually the script is nothing like Donnie Darko meets American Werewolf. Although maybe I should start writing that...