What's a One-Pager (and Why Do Producers Want It?)
A one-pager may be the key to you booking a gig in Hollywood, but what if you don't know what that is or how to make one?
I was talking with Ryan Koo, No Film School's founder, and we both discussed how many producers we've been meeting with, and many pitches we've been going out on, all ask us to put together a one-page summary of the project. These one-pager ideas help separate you from the rest of the cattle and distill your movie or TV idea down to something shareable.
Now, I get how depressing the cattle call sounds. Guess what, it's worse in person. But that's why we're writing this post. I want to teach you what the best one-pagers look like, give you a template to work off of, and look at a few one-pager examples to make your next TV pitch or open writing assignment go as well as possible.
So let's get started.
What is the meaning of a One Pager?
A one-pager is an overview of your movie or TV idea. They're used to promote your point of view for the project and set you apart from the pack. You want to stand out to the higher-ups and have your idea be so easy to understand that they want to pay for it.
So, what goes into making a one-page document that advertises film and TV ideas?
One Pager Format
I can't believe I have to say this but your one-pager needs to only be on one sheet of paper. Not double-sided, not 11 x 17", just one, normal, 8.5 x 11" piece of paper.
But should you put on this one piece of paper?
You one-pager must include:
- Your name and contact info
- The Logline/Genre
- A section about why your vision matters (keep it brief!)
- 3-paragraph story summary
- A closing sentence about why you think this idea will succeed in the market
This seems like a lot to get into one page, but it can be done. Just make sure you're giving the 10,000 foot view. When you save it, try to send it out as a PDF. That keeps your ideas somewhat uneditable. But if you're sending to reps for notes, Pages or Word work too so they can propose edits.
If you're using your one-pager as a leave behind, just print it out.
The most important part of a one-pager is that you keep them wanting more. And you get them to pay for it.
One Pager Template
Below is an example of a one-page template that will show you how to format your document. You can make me these in any screenwriting software or another word editing program.
One Pager examples
Turns out it's hard to find a bunch of professional one-pager documents. And the ones I've written are all owned by companies. One thing I was able to find was the text from the original Girls one-pager from Lena Dunham. Read it below. (And you can check out an image of the document here!)
"Sex and the City depicted women who had mastered their careers and were now being driven crazy by the tick of their biological clocks. Gossip Girl is about losing your virginity and gaining popularity, in a world where no one is old enough to vote or has to worry about making a living. But between adolescence and adulthood is an uncomfortable middle-ground, when women are ejected from college and into a world with neither glamour nor structure. The resulting period of flux is heartbreaking and hilarious and way too human. It's humbling and it’s sexy and it’s ripe for laughs.
Products of the recession, these girls are overeducated and underemployed, sure that they're too smart for their positions as assistants, nannies, and waitresses but not necessarily motivated enough to prove it (or even do their jobs well enough to advance.) They have that mix of know-it-all entitlement and scathing self-deprecation that is the mark of all great Jewish comedians and many 24-year-old women with liberal arts degrees.
They have varying degrees of ambition, but have been raised to achieve. They know they want to be successful long before they know what they want to be successful at.
They're the last children of baby boomers, and the first generation to have moms who know how to text message ["HAVE U HAD AN HPV VACCINE YET? DO U HAVE HPV? LUV, MOM'] These moms probably enjoyed more swinging sex lives in their twenties than their daughters could ever dream of.
They've been on Ritalin since they were twelve and on birth control since they were fifteen (even if they didn't start having sex until college)
They're just as likely to sleep with their 40-year-old boss as they are to make out like eighth-graders with a 20-year-old they meet at a loft party.
They're not looking for romantic partners with money or clout. Just guys who make them feel thin, funny, or superior.
Some of their boyfriends have turned out to be gay. Others have turned out to be Republicans (these girls aren't necessarily political, but they want to make sure abortions are a possibility. Always. After all, who can remember condoms every time.)
They still text at least one of these said exes when they're drunk or sad.
They've been raised to fuck unapologetically and then apologize for it.
Grad school is their fall-back plan.
They are the Facebook generation, and ironically enough they are isolated by all the connectivity available to them (and prone to Facebook stalking and drunk-IMing and booty calls via twitter and deciphering text messages like they're ancient hieroglyphs and blogging pictures of all the food they eat).
They are navigating the transition out of college-level codependence on their girlfriends, but will still call to announce that they got their period or saw a man masturbating on the subway or saw a man who looks sort of like a kid they went to camp with (could it be him? And if so, is he on Facebook?).
They're beautiful and maddening. They're self-aware and self-obsessed. They're your girlfriends and daughters and sisters and employees. They're my friends and I've never seen them on TV."
Why do one-pager ideas matter?
These are very important documents. I know we talked about leave-behinds, but I also like to use a one-pager to prepare for my pitches. It helps me distill the idea down to the very important details and deliver it to people in a succinct manner. I also love using them to figure out if my ideas even are worth writing. Sometimes I send them to my manager to see if he thinks there's a market or run them past producer friends to see if it's worth developing with them.
Regardless, the industry likes one-pagers, so give them one page to suss out whether or not they want to help you with the next 120.
What's next? Learn your elevator pitch!
Learning how to write an elevator pitch is a skill you can’t put a price on. Why? Because we’ve all been there when lightning strikes and that excellent idea comes to life in our minds. Maybe it’s the greatest movie idea in the world. Maybe it’s an idea for a TV series or a piece of branded content.