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Writer's Edge: Pitching a Screenplay Using the Framing Technique

A framing technique is when you use two films to indicate what type of movie you are about to pitch. An example would be Apollo 13 meets Die Hard. That helps lead the listener you're about to pitch to expect an action-thriller about astronauts involved with some kind of terrorism.

Do not mistake a framing technique for a logline. It is not. It prepares the listener for the logline but doesn't replace it. The technique is given in the following order when you're pitching: framing technique, title, genre, then logline. This readies the listener to a story that is about to be introduced in terms of genre and subject matter.

pitching a screenplay

In order for this technique to work effectively, the writer has to choose two films that relate to his story. Unrelated or obscure movies serve only to confuse the listener and make it seem that you don't really know what you're talking about.

An example of a confusing framing technique was one used in Robert Altman's film, The Player. Despite the fact that the film captured the essence of what happens behind the scenes in Hollywood, the framing technique used by a couple of writers pitching to a producer was severely flawed. This is what they said: "It's Out of Africa meets Pretty Woman." If I heard that, I would be puzzled about what was going to be pitched to me. If you can't come up with two films that relate to your subject and are recognizable to most people, then leave it out completely. Better to omit it rather than appear unknowledgeable.

You don't want to preface your logline with something like this: “It's Pulp Fiction meets the Sound of Music.”

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