Info You Can Use: Pixar Pitch

Yesterday I linked to a recent post by Barry Hessenius about gatekeepers and he mentioned that Hollywood had developed a pitch system where people without the connections to get a real meeting were afforded a short time to pitch an idea.

Apropos to this, Daniel Pink made a short video about six new pitches for selling yourself, ideas, etc.

He talks a little bit about how email subject lines are really pitches and makes some suggestions about rhyming pitches (which I can see will be effective you if you don’t go full Seuss). He also notes that questions are much more active and engaging than making statements.

He uses the example of Ronald Reagan who famously asked if his listeners were better off now than they were four years prior. Pink notes that this can get listeners filling in the blanks to convince themselves in ways your statements can’t connect with them.

He takes pains to make the point that the word pitch may imply something is traveling in a single direction, but in reality pitches today are interactive. You invite someone else to have a conversation about something with you.

The pitch I liked the best was the first one he introduces, The Pixar Pitch. This one is most suited for the arts because it is all about storytelling. Pink says this is the formula Pixar uses while planning and plotting their movies.

It runs something like this:

ONCE UPON A TIME____________, EVERY DAY___________, ONE DAY____________, BECAUSE OF THIS_____________, BECAUSE OF THIS_________________,
UNTIL FINALLY_____________________.

He notes that we don’t see life as a series of logical propositions, but rather a series of episodes and so making your case in this manner can create a powerful connection with your listeners.

This formula can be the basis for press releases and marketing materials. I took a look at the trailer for Pixar’s Finding Nemo and it follows this formula pretty closely. You don’t even need to know the formula to have your inner narrator describe the scene to you “Once upon a time there was a fish named Nemo and his dad, everyday they happily swam together under the sea until one day…..”

Obviously, newspapers would get a little tired of you if your press releases explicitly used this formula for every show, and if you can clearly see a more compelling approach to use, go with that, but the formula can under gird what you are trying to communicate about events.

If you are having difficulty getting your ideas to connect with people, don’t you think it is a good idea to check out Pink’s short video and see what might resonate with you?

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

I am currently the Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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