Tonight I attended the pride and joy of the USC Writing Division's special events. It's called First Pitch, and it's a student run event that welcomes industry professionals, production companies, managers, and agents to sit in the large ballroom of the Beverly Hills Four Seasons and listen to the undergraduate seniors and second year MFA students pitch their hearts out.
I prepared my pitches ahead of time and went into the event with a few butterflies but mostly confidence. After pitching my first idea, the representative I pitched to asked me a question I wasn't quite prepared for.
"Who do you see playing each character?"
I instantly felt taken aback. Of course I had always imagined Jennifer Lawrence. But could I say Jennifer Lawrence? Was that too ambitious or too presumptuous? Why would Jennifer Lawrence act in a movie written by someone with no IMDb credits? Shailene Woodley could do it. She's not as big as JLaw. I should have said Shailene Woodley.
But I didn't.
I said, "Well, I'd always envisioned someone like Jennifer Lawrence. But the Jennifer Lawrence from Winter's Bone. You know, pre-Hunger Games."
Fortunately I didn't blow the pitch and the guy got the idea. I wanted an up and coming actress, but at the moment couldn't think of one.
It occurred to me after 10 rounds of pitching how important it is for writers to write compelling roles for stars to covet. Every actress hopes to have that one role that puts them on the map, that gets them an even bigger role. And to make my pitch even more appealing, I have to imagine what star would best fit the project so a potential buyer can see the potential commercial value. Having an established star with a particular brand can make a project immensely more successful and appealing. It also helps the producer or studio visualize the script in a specific way...a specific way I choose by giving them a specific actor or actress to consider.
There are even some stars whose passion for a role or attachment to a project can actually greenlight the project. I mean, who doesn't want to produce Leonardo DiCaprio's next film? If I write a role that calls for a grisly hero in an epic drama or thriller, he could be the man for the job...or his body type and mannerisms could be right for the part.
At any rate, it made me reconsider how to pitch my stories with stars and celebrity in mind. Not only would I consider a particular star's look, mannerisms, and previous works, but also how their celebrity status (whether admired, adored, or infamous) can contribute to vision of the project.