Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Do you have a onesheet for your screenplay?

Do you have a onesheet for your screenplay? A onesheet is not required but is becoming the most used marketing tool for screenwriters especially when pitching the idea. You should always leave behind something to remind the producer or studio exec about your concept. Why not a onesheet. Think of it as the movie poster for your screenplay.

Below is an article I found that really tells you how to put one together. I found it interesting because I was normally leaving behind just a standard synopsis. I think the onesheet will make the idea come alive. I'm certainly going to give it a shot for my own projects. Instead of sending the word doc type of synopsis, I'm going to send producers my newly created onesheet and see what happens.

Write on!

Onesheet Wonders
by Debé Scott & Signe Olynyk

One item you will want to consider bringing to the pitchfest is a document called a 'onesheet'. This single (or double-sided) document is a great marketing tool that condenses your concept onto a single page in a visual way. It enables the agents, managers, and producers that you meet with, to be instantly reminded of your pitch by having a quick glance at your onesheet. Many of these executives see upwards of 30-40 people at a single pitchfest, and you want your story to be remembered. Combined with a great pitch and a brilliant script, a onesheet can be the difference that sells your project, or lands you a new agent.

Onesheets are a common 'sell tool' in the industry, and can be compared as the 'poster for your script - in miniature'. They are used for all genres and formats (film and television) including feature films, television series, reality shows, children's programming, game shows, and just about anything else you can expect to see on the screen, tv, or web.

They do not have to be expensive, but they must be professional and void of typos. You will also want to be careful about overloading the page and presenting too much information - less is always more when it comes to onesheets.
Remember, when you pitch, you are asking the executives at the PitchFest to option your work, represent you as your manager or agent, or to hire you for writing assignments and internships. You must put your best foot forward, and a great onesheet can be a big step towards your success as a professional screenwriter.
Your one-sheet should include:
* Contact information. Be sure to include your name, title, address, phone number, email address and website. If your document is double-sided, be sure to put this information on both sides so your executive can find it easily.
* A great title
* Logline, Genre, and where possible a Tagline or Teaser.
* Brief synopsis of the project - aim for about 25 words.
* Visuals such as photos, or have images in mind to convey to a graphics artist. The visuals should communicate the tone, theme, setting, and premise of your concept in a single image if possible. Remember, a picture paints a thousand words.

Layout of your one-sheet
My first 'onesheet on a budget' consisted of cutting out pieces of colored construction paper into various shapes, gluing cutout text boxes and photographs into them, and then making color photocopies of the compilation. Today, there are many user-friendly and easily accessible software programs such as Microsoft Word or Publisher, OpenOffice, or Scribus to help make your job easier. If you are more computer savvy, you may want to consider other desktop publishing software programs such as Photoshop, CorelDraw, etc. You may also want to consider hiring a graphics artist to help you achieve the look you want.
The costs for onesheets vary, but you can usually hire a graphics artist for around $60 an hour, and it can take anywhere from half an hour to an average of an hour and a half with revisions to complete a simple onesheet. I've found that most onesheets cost me around $75 to complete on average, including about ten color copies on cardstock.

Color attracts attention, so be sure to use white paper, a strong font for the main text, and make sure the design doesn't swallow the text. You also want to make sure it is not too 'busy' and that the most important information 'pops' from the page.
Onesheets also come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes. You may want to consider making yours into postcards, or 'half page' sizes so that you can get better value for your money. This means that when you print your 8.5 x 11 page, you are actually getting two onesheets per page instead of one. Simply design a half page onesheet, duplicate it on the bottom half, print out, cut in half, and voila! - you have two onesheets.

You may also want to be creative about the shape of your onesheet, and not stick to the typical 8 1/2 x 11 page or postcard size. Think about your project and see if there is a design that would lend itself to the theme. For example, a writer I know once pitched a tv series for a cooking show, and had round onesheets created that showed a pizza on the one side, and a bowl of pasta on the other. This onesheet didn't cost the writer a lot (partly because she cut the rounds out herself after they were printed), but she could also have considered using the confines of the typical 'square' shape of a postcard or 8 1/2 x 11 page. For example, if she had printed a square menu board on the one side, and perhaps a square baking tray of cookies or lasagna tray on the other, she may have saved herself some money and time. Either way works. Just use those creative juices and see what ideas you can come up with that best suit your budget and the overall concept.
Another thing to consider is making your onesheet double-sided. You can make one or both sides color, or one side color and the other side in black and white to control printing costs. Either way, it is worth considering because you are handing the executives a document that will have two sides. If one side is blank, you have potentially wasted an opportunity to 'wow' them even more. Using both sides can also help to 'spread out' the information so that one side isn't too 'busy' with details and visuals. Always repeat your contact information on both sides so that the executive does not have to search for it. Make everything easy for them whenever possible. Most onesheets are printed on a cardstock or photo quality cardstock.

At the pitchfest (or in any studio pitch meeting), when you speak with an producer or agent, casually hand them your onesheet as you begin your pitch. The onesheet is a great ice-breaker, but make sure you don't read directly from it. Use it as a tool, to get your project noticed; so as to remind the person with whom you met. Remember, they are going to see dozens of people, and having a onesheet will help you to stand out from the rest.

Now a word of advice about when to give the onesheet to the person you are pitching, because there are differing opinions on when to hand it out. Some people recommend giving the onesheet AFTER the pitch meeting - because the onesheet has the potential to distract them from fully listening to your pitch. Nothing is worse than trying to pitch someone who is preoccupied 'reading' your onesheet when you know you only have a few moments of facetime to pitch them your project. But your verbal pitch should also be so engaging that it would be nearly impossible for them not to give you their full attention. Easier said than done?
My advice is to REVEAL the onesheet in the first 30 seconds of your pitch, by gesturing with it, and either having it in your hand or lap while you pitch. Or place it on the table in front of you, but rest a hand on it until you are ready for them to review.

Also, never force a script, onesheet, marketing tool, or any other item on an executive. They are often so bogged down with scripts and material that the last thing they want to cart around is more paperwork. I will often have all my onesheets in a plastic sheet cover, and will keep that in my hand or lap until I've conveyed the main concept of my script. At that time I will hand them a sheet, and tell them they can keep it if they like, or send one to them if they prefer. This serves two purposes. One, there is a visual identification. They've seen it and when another is sent with the requested script (always include a onesheet with the requested script if possible), there is an automatic 'I've seen this before, oh yeah, now I remember' reaction when they see it the second time. And two, if they do not take a onesheet, then it will save you a little bit of money because onesheets can be expensive to print, etc., and you will still get an opportunity to wow them with it when you send it to them later.

One last note about onesheets. On Monday morning when the execs return to work and their producer bosses ask how the pitchfest went, they will often show the various onesheets and scripts that they collected at the event. Having a onesheet is an easy 'cheat sheet' for the exec to describe your project, and allows them to recall you, your project, and whether it is a project they want to pursue further. It is the movie poster for your script. It is visual, and communicates the idea in seconds. I also helps them to re-pitch it to their supervisors. Whatever you can do to help make their jobs easier is definitely in your best interest.
That being said, a onesheet is always optional. It is not a requirement to have one. It is just a sales tool that can help to communicate your concept in a visual way. And as great as a onesheet can be, it will never replace a great story or a brilliant pitch. The most important things you can do is have a great concept, a well crafted script, and a decent pitch. A onesheet is just icing on the proverbial writer's cake.

Bay area dubbed the "new" hollywood!

Just found out that there's a new organization formed about 6 months ago in the bay area called the Northern California Screenwriters. The Bay area is deemed the "new" Hollywood! Woohoo!! Screenwriting expo and pitch fest coming March 2010 in Napa Valley. I hope I'm in the country so that I can attend! Go to http://www.norcalscreenwriters.com/ for more info.