Even before you start pitching your project, the buyer is deciding if they want to be in business with you. Even though writers hate to hear this, you have to sell yourself before you can sell your project. One way they decide if they want to be in business with you is your personal pitch: what you tell them about who you are, how you’ve been successful (without being arrogant) and why you’re memorable. Most often you’re sharing this info about yourself during the “small talk” phase of the meeting. This is one of the main things I work with my clients on.
An important part of your personal pitch is what I call in my book, Hollywood Game Plan, your “Personal Logline.” Your Personal Logline is a few sentences that transmit what makes you unique and compelling as a person and as a writer. You’ll use this personal pitch in everything from meetings to starting new jobs to networking events. An effective Personal Logline makes a listener lean in and want to find out more about you and sparks interest in working with you. It consists of four things:
Who are you?
Very briefly, it’s where do you come from and what’s your unique point of view in life? Did you grow up in a small town as the child of farmers? Or did you live abroad when you were growing up? The purpose of including this is to see if there’s any personal point of connection with the person you’re talking to… which is an excellent starting point.
What do you write?
What kinds of things do you like to write and are good at? What’s your sweet spot as a writer? Dark character drama? Coming-of-age broad comedies? Grounded dramedies? Be as clear and specific as possible. And choose a lane. You’ll just confuse people if you say, “I writer horror and half hour comedy.” They won’t know what to do with that conflicting info.
What makes you different from other people doing it?
What niche do you fill with your unique POV and experience? How does your life experience and world view differentiate you from all the other writers they’re meeting and reading? Why are you uniquely “qualified’ to write about these topics, concepts, and ideas? What makes you the writer they remember after they’ve met with eight other writers?
Crafting a compelling Personal Logline is one of the things my clients find most challenging. But we work on it together and they always come up with something that sets them apart.
What gives you credibility? Show your successes (but in a humble way).
This is a risk-averse business. “Buyers” of all kinds, producers, executives, agents, etc. want to be in business with someone who has already had some success, even if it’s only one thing, outside of show business, and small. If you’ve been successful at something in the past, their thinking goes, there’s a better chance you’ll be successful at what they’re looking to hire you for.
Don’t forget to practice.
Now that you have your Personal Logline, practice it until it feels completely natural. It should be succinct and entertaining without feeling overly-rehearsed or prepared. Here’s a hint on how to do that: write it out word for word, and then translate that into bullet points and practice it on your friends. Get feedback and hone it. With the bullet points you’ll give it room to breathe and sound natural.
Here are examples of great Personal Loglines from two of my CBS mentees:
My name is Stephanie,and I come out of the world of politics. I served as the press secretary to a number of elected officials including LA Mayor Eric Garcetti and Senator Barbara Boxer. I wrote speeches and developed press conferences for them to help them tell their stories through words and pictures. While I was doing that, I realized that I had my own stories I wanted to tell. Now, I write light character-driven dramas that focus on family or relationships that are like family. I participated in the CAPE New Writers Fellowship and I’m excited to be part of the CBS program.
I’m Steve. My father was a bookie and loan shark. My mother was a minister. As a child I was raised in a world where vice and vision overlapped. So, of course, I write comedy. Typically, comedies that explore family dynamics and social issues. In my other life, I was writer and creative director of some famous ads you've probably seen before and a creative strategist at Facebook.
(Both of these writers have been staffed every season since they graduated from the CBS Program.)
What’s your Personal Logline? Let me know @CaroleKirsch!