Saturday, June 24, 2006

Niven Busch Speaks -- Pitching Strategies

I'm on a Niven Busch spree this weekend. Here's his anecdote about a writing team that had a lot of success selling script ideas in the 1930s, for a wonderfully specific reason... There was a writing team called Towne and Baker. Gene Towne and Grahame Baker. I don't know if they're still around, but they had a unique, technical routine. Towne wasn't much as of a writer, but he was the idea man, and he'd start to tell the story to the producer. And pretty soon, the producer would be listening and if Towne detected any sign of approval in the producer, he's start to direct his remarks to Baker. And Baker would be very negative. So Towne would get more and more excited, and more and more dramatic, and Baker would be apathetic. And the producer would start to work on Baker. He'd say something like, "What's the matter? Don't you see the motivation?" and on and on. Baker would say, "Well, I don't know..." so the producer and Towne would both work on Baker to sell him the story, and by the time they got through selling Baker, the producer had sold himself. So Baker would say, "Well alright, I like it," so the producer would go back to his desk and write out the check. But anyway, that was one of their refinements. Next time there's a pitch session, get two story people up to do it. And have them use the Towne and Baker method.


Anonymous said...

Among Towne & Baker's credits were the Fritz Lang classic You Only Live Once, the Eddie Cantor comedy Ali Baba Goes to Town, Frank Borzage's History is Made at Night, and the 1940 Swiss Family Robinson with Thomas Mitchell and Freddie Bartholomew.

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