You may have heard a screenwriter say they gave their “take” on a project, but what does that entail?
In short, a “take” is a version of a pitch. The difference between this version and ones that you’re likely more used to is that the original idea you developed comes from the smallest germ and a take is based on either IP or a franchise — an already written script that needs a rewrite, or an open writing assignment.
Why Producers Need Your Take
Some of the most well-known opportunities to give you take on a project come from open writing assignments (OWAs). Every agency has a book populated with hundreds and hundreds of projects that are in various stages of development and looking for a writer (and sometimes another attachment) to perfect the script so that it can get a greenlight for production.
Agencies collect information on these projects and consider who they have on their client list with a writing voice and resume that could match what the studios and producers need. If the producers want to meet with a writer, they’ll set a meeting where the writer gives their pitch on the material and how they would like to approach it.
Outside of OWA’s, studios could meet with writers when they’re in need of a “script doctor” to punch up a specific aspect of the script, whether it’s the plot, character work, or something else. Another option could be that a studio or producer reached out to a writer they’re interested in for a specific project, sometimes sending them the current version of the material or any other pertinent information, so the writer can put together their ideas. These meetings clearly have a more targeted purpose than a “general,” and you also have a stronger opportunity to make your case than with an OWA, which could be struggling to pick up steam for that greenlight. When the studios and producers want to meet with a writer about a specific project, there’s momentum there, making it a great opportunity for a writer to snag a great gig.
How to Make Your Take Stand Out
Once you have the materials you need and the meeting set for a project, it’s time to come up with your take. The first step is to immerse yourself in the material and any information on the project that your representation can glean from talking with the producers, or any information you received if you had an initial discussion with the producers. They may have a full draft and the set pieces aren’t working for them, or they want to completely change the protagonist. They may also be adapting a major piece of IP, in which case, you’ll need to know everything you can about that material.
As you research, ask yourself what do I like about this material? How can I connect emotionally to the material? And what makes you the best writer for this project? These are the same questions that you would include in your pitch of an original idea to sell the project. Every writer that the producers meet with will have excitement (or at least pretend to be excited) for the material, but what always makes a great sales pitch is a genuine connection. It’s not different than every influencer online selling products who make sure to include that they personally use the product. The personal connection makes things more believable, and the more specific you get about your connection and what you bring to the project, in a clear and concise way, has the best chance of hitting a powerful nerve with the producing team.
What You Include in Your “Take”
Now that you’ve made a case for why you deserve the project, you need to know what to include in the actual “take,” or pitch, which is simply exactly what you would include in a pitch of an original idea. You tell them the story through your eyes, what you like, what you don’t like, potentially how it should look and feel, who we’re following, why we’re rooting for them, the journey we’ll go on with them, and the themes the story will delve into. This will all be verbal, but you can include visual or written components if it helps you. Especially, if it’s a television series that you would be showrunning, a deck or mood board could be beneficial.
Make sure that you’re specific in your ideas and how you take them on the journey. You don’t want it to feel like a brainstorming session where you’re reacting to what they say they need, but instead, you drive the conversation as the storyteller.
Now, you absolutely don’t include in the pitch things anything that you the WGA would have you get paid for, meaning a script. It can seem like a good idea to do work to make a good impression on a producer, but writers have a union for a reason, and it’s to protect writers from having their work stolen or used without getting paid. You want to love this project enough to win over producers in the pitch, but not so much that you do all the work, and then could be heartbroken if they pick someone else.
Practice this on your own
You can actually practice making your own take on a concept. How many fans debate online how they would change a storyline or what they wish a film had done instead of what ended up on screen? Act Two podcast hosts, Tash Huo and Josh Hallman recently challenged each other through a game of creating their own takes of adapting feature films to television shows, another opportunity where a producer could want to hear your take. Huo is particularly adept at this, having recently landed gigs on the adaptation of the comic Red Sonja and the film/video game-to-television series adaptation of Tomb Raider.
Fan Fiction is another sort-of form of writers creating their own takes, they simply take it to a completed written form and put it out to an audience. So, why not try it as a brainstorming technique either on your own, with friends, or in your writers’ group, and then you’ll be ready for the “big leagues” when those producers call.
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