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Where Our Selling Should Heed Screenwriter Learnings

Here’s a quartet of winning insights from the world of screenwriting;

They are that we should; focus on endloading, unveil the carnival of opinion, know who is the third and beware dilettantes.

I came across them after hearing the always entertaining London film reviewer, Jason Solomons. Upon suggesting Kenneth Branagh in the updated Murder on the Orient Express A-List ensemble “sounded like Peter Sellers”, he then tackled the issue of why you’d watch a movie when you already know the finale.

He suggested that the whydidtheydoit is more important than the whodunnit. The journey rather than knowing the ending is what the viewer likes.

After all, what could you possibly think might be different this time? “E.T. might stay. Hamlet doesn’t die. The Titanic won’t sink.”

Happily with a good movie there’s always things to do along the way.

Then he delivered this fascinating view on our strange relationship with ‘endings’, especially given that they tend not to exist any more to leave it all open ended for franchise sequel stretches;

there’s a saying in screenwriting:

there are two parts to every movie;

the ending and everything else

Is it also true that there are two parts to every sale? Let’s hope your buyers don’t snap back with “the signature and the firefighting”. Leaving broken promises out of this, you could mine the trope of ‘the problem and everything else’. Or go slightly cryptic, with ‘the open and close’.

You could even turn this into a qualification mantra. Isolating that one specific exhibited need that means you can pursue the deal. Even better, relate this to the unique element of your process. Knowing what our ‘ending’ entails may well require us to make our bid “endloaded”.

This led me to discover the experience of Oscar nominated writer David Hare. How’s this for solution selling parallel;

For every hour you spend writing a screenplay, you spend 10 hours defending it. Because you are the person who first proposes what the eventual film should be, you are likely to have to deal with 50 people who, usually from the best intentions, imagine something else. A film is a carnival of opinion, and if your view is to survive, you need the skills of an advocate.

A carnival of opinion. What a lovely expression. And so apt on a complex bid. How festive are the differing views you encounter?

The “Who is the third…” technique is also a belter. This is opposed to what he calls the “bell jar” approach, where each scene obsesses around its own themes. Rather, there is always someone else involved. No conversation is a stand alone, untainted event.

Finally, a great sales manager/consultant metaphor (see also tip 6 from this recent debut novelist ).

Producers fall into two categories. The great ones make suggestions to help you realise your work more fully. The annoying ones tell you at length how they themselves might have written the story, if only they could write. I have one simple rule. Only those who are invested in the outcome are allowed to give advice.

Spot on.

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