How to Generate A Sticky Story Your Audience Will Love

What do you think is the most important element of your pitch?

After listening to thousands of pitches I can tell you that a “sticky story,” not just a story, but one I can easily remember. When you pitch someone it’s an opportunity to spread the word about your film to all their friends, right?

Yes, but only if they can remember it. “Made to Stick” by Chip and Dan Heath says that “too often you are cursed with too much knowledge.” Bringing that wealth of info into a simple sticky story is the key to the perfect pitch.

sticky story

Generate A Sticky Story Your Audience Will Love

A “sticky story” is one where you take all the knowledge you have on your film and transform it into a simple story, one that is easy to remember. The first rule is to keep it simple, find the core of the idea. You may have paragraphs of info; keep taking things away till you can’t take anything else out or you lose the essence.

Find the core.

Think of journalists who create lead copy for articles and you get the story in a few words, they prioritize. So can you.

This sticky story needs something unexpected; this is to be sure you get their attention.

You might ask a question that the film needs to answer. It can be a surprise like a shocking fact or a point of interest they will remember or a massive change in direction for the film.

You need something concrete, like specific people doing specific things or give them some facts. Concrete ideas are easy for people to remember and they create a foundation.

Credible information makes people believe your story. This can be a place for truthful core details and please make them as vivid as possible. We need to see your film from the pitch.

Emotion is next.

I say, “touch my heart and I reach for my pocket book.”

We communicate through the heart chakra, so touch me with your story.

You can do this through one of your characters, let me feel them.

When you pitch me your “sticky story,” I want to walk away with your film in my mind forever.

Then I can tell my friends that I invested or donated to your film and brag about it.

Remember, you have carried this sticky story for several years and your audience is just hearing about it. That’s why brevity and a sticky story are needed to transmit your knowledge.

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Carole Lee Dean is an industry legend. As an entrepreneur, producer and supporter of independent film, her influence has had a positive impact on filmmaking around the world. Most notoriously, 30 years ago, Carole took a $20 bill and created the $50 million a year short end industry. Check out Carole Dean’s upcoming event >> Intentional Filmmaking


How to apply “show, don’t tell” in screenplays

I have a fairly large collection of “pitching sessions from hell” stories, but there was one that stands out because I blew it—afterward.

This was early in my career, and actually the pitching session itself went great. The executive loved the idea and commissioned a script for a TV movie.

I wrote the treatment, which included quite a few vivid character descriptions.

He loved the treatment.

I wrote the first draft.

He didn’t love the first draft.

He said, “In your pitch and in the treatment, your characters really came to life. I don’t see these people in the script. They’re not really coming off the page.”

He was right. I’d focused so much on having my characters hit their plot marks that I’d forgotten all the great plans I had for them as characters.

Fortunately he didn’t fire me and I had the chance to put things right in the next draft. I found ways to bring back the nuances that had made the characters interesting in the first place. The plot worked better, too, because you understood more about why people were doing what they were doing.

Now I find two things useful to think about from the start:

1: How does the character reveal who he or she is?

2: What does the character try to conceal about himself or herself, and how does that come out anyway?

Maybe that second one requires a little explanation. Usually people try to hide what they consider their bad or weak side. A guy tells people he’s over his ex and it was the best thing for both of them that they split. How do we show that he’s not really over her? Maybe he parks outside place for a few minutes every night (how this is presented will tell us whether it’s wistful or menacing).

Another example: A woman makes a point of giving a homeless person money when she’s with her friends, but when she’s by herself she walks past him without a look.

When you work these things out, your script will be richer—and your buyer happier.

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Jurgen Wolff is a veteran screenwriter. You’ll find his screenwriting tips here every week and also on his website, Also get his book, “Your Writing Coach,” published by Nicholas Brealey.

How To Deal With Filmmaking Rejection

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Film Investment dollars are pennies Image via Wikipedia

A few months back, I detailed my experience pitching a project to a prospective investor. As of yesterday, my investor backed out of the deal. The explanation: the project is too risky. The truth is, the idealized imaginings of actually getting a project off the ground are euphoric. And nobody (not even me), likes it when a deal falls apart.

So while this type of rejection is an experience shared by all of us, it is important to take a minute and reflect – then, MOVE ON!

One way to mitigate this “all eggs in one basket” filmmaking approach is to always have other projects in various stages of development. This allows you to check one rejection off the list, and then adjust your focus on the next. And just because one prospective investor rejects one opportunity, there is nothing stopping you from finding someone else who has the completely opposite perspective…

The truth is, if you are not getting rejected daily, you’re not pushing hard enough. And my question to you is: “Why not?” Life is too short. Push harder!

Filmmaking Seminar Los Angeles

For Los Angeles based fimmakers looking to take their show to business, I recommend checking out the next  Norman Berns workshop.  In this full-day, hands-on instruction, you will gain experience on the following:





Your day will begin with an overview of the basics. Then you’ll spend A FULL DAY working with YOUR script, YOUR schedule, YOUR plan, YOUR pitch. You’ll gain valuable insight needed to dissect the logic of a shooting schedule, review production budget cost savings and craft business plans to meet investors needs. And you’ll also discover how to allocate state film incentives correctly.

Oh. And as a highlight, I’m going to stop by and share some tips on how to market and sell your movie without the middleman. I’m told this one day event is filling up fast. So reserve your spot.

When: Monday, May 9th

Where: Showbiz Software Store

500 S. Sepulveda, Los Angeles

9am – 6pm

Filmmaking or why modern moviemakers should not ask permission

I did it again. I refined a concept and wrote a business plan. I made the pitch. I got a warm reception and now months have gone by with radio silence. If you’re into filmmaking and you’re also trying to get projects off the ground – I understand what you’re going through.

The ongoing question I get: “How will this make money?”

While it’s safe to provide projections – any investor with any business experience will understand that each project carries it’s own risk to reward ratio. Your goal as a filmmaker is to help mitigate these risks as best you can.

But the reality is, you can only push so hard. You can only be patient for so long. And then one day you have to pack your proverbial filmmaking bags and move on to the next project… Or the next opportunity.

One of the biggest filmmaking (and life success lessons) I’ve learned is this – asking permission sucks. Try to avoid it – if you can.

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Also, if you’re new here, you might want to watch my video   >>