An excerpt from Reals’ script review for Freaky which will be available 11/16/20:
Writer / Director Christopher Landon has made a career out of “Give Me The Same, But Different!” pitches.
Don’t believe me? Let’s take a quick peek at his resume:
According to his IMDB page, Mr. Landon did some shorts in the late ‘90s, then wrote Disturbia, followed by multiple unnecessary sequels to Paranormal Activity, then hit it big with Happy Death Day (and the inferior sequel) and now he has written and directed Freaky.
Here is the way that I assume he approaches a pitch:
First, he decides he wants to do a horror script / film. This is likely because, as both Hank and I have said many times before, horror sells. Plus, having the ear of Jason Blum probably doesn’t hurt, either.
Then, he picks out a beloved older feature film, such as Groundhog Day, Rear Window, or Freaky Friday, and forcibly shoves his tiny square peg into that film’s round hole.
Give Me The Same: It’s Groundhog Day!
But Different: Except It’s A PG-13 Slasher Now!
(Happy Death Day)
Give Me The Same: It’s Rear Window!
But Different: Only This Time It’s A PG-13 Shia LaBeouf Vehicle!
Which brings us to his most recent Frankenstein’s Monster of a film: Freaky. And we can follow this exact formula to figure out how he sold Mr. Blum, and a haughty team of execs, on the pitch:
Give Me The Same: It’s Freaky Friday!
But Different: Except It’s A Slasher Now!
Sound familiar? It should, because he’s been doing the exact same thing for over a decade.
Even in the Paranormal Activity franchise, he did nothing more than add one new element to each film, then filmed it on a shoestring budget, almost guaranteeing a profitable release.
Let’s take a look:
Paranormal Activity 2:
Give Me The Same – It’s Paranormal Activity!
But Different – With A Family Now!
Paranormal Activity 3:
Give Me The Same – It’s Paranormal Activity.
But Different – But It’s Set In The ‘80s!
Rinse and repeat.
Now, this sounds like I have some sort of problem with Mr. Landon (The “tiny peg” joke was a little harsh) when, in fact, I have the utmost respect for this style of pitching and think it is something that we can all learn from.
Remember, a high-concept story is simply an idea that can be easily and quickly pitched to (and appreciated by) anyone, even a 10-year-old child. So, being able to take a well-known story, and graft a horror element onto it is something that is very clearly appreciated in Hollywood.
I would recommend that we brainstorm ideas for new scripts in this way, as it certainly could not hurt, and at the very least will provide a bit of pitch practice (which we could all use!)
Let’s try it now!
Give Me The Same – Think long and hard about this. What’s a story that everyone knows? What is a story that can easily be adapted to many genres and molded as needed?
Little Red Riding Hood!
But Different – How can we make this concept stand out? What can we add to the story to catch people’s attention?
What if… hmmm… I got it!
What if Little Red Riding Hood was a juvenile delinquent on the run, and the Big Bad Wolf was a serial-killing pedophile?
Genius! Genius, I tell you! We’re going to make millions…
Oh, wait. That’s already been done. Huh.
But you get my point.
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