What follows has to be one of the greatest movie industry stories I've ever heard. It's the story of how legendary director James Cameron was able to persuade the executives of Brandywine Productions to green light sic-fi classic Aliens by writing a single, ingenious word on a chalk board.
'How is this possible?' you might ask. Well, I'll let the movie's executive producer, Gordon Carroll, tell you:
Cameron was young. He had just directed Terminator. Cameron had called a meeting to discuss his “next project.” Everyone knew Cameron had written a treatment for Alien 2 that nobody would touch because Alien was not a massive financial success. Alien 2 was not on the table.
The plucky young filmmaker was clearly riding a high of success after the roaring success of The Terminator. He wasn't going to let anything stop him.
We expected a professional pitch from Cameron, an outline and a treatment of what he had in mind with a cursory budget; perhaps a couple assistants to run a slide show. Instead Cameron walked in the room without so much as a piece of paper.
He went to the chalk board in the room and simply wrote the word ALIEN. Then he added an ‘S’ to make ALIENS. Dramatically, he drew two vertical lines through the ‘S’, ALIEN$. He turned around and grinned. We greenlit the project that day for $18 million.
Amazing! The audacity of such a move is simply mind-blowing - even more so for the fact that it actually worked. Of course, Cameron was completely right. The film went on to gross between $131.1–183.3 million.
Take note, budding directors - THIS is how you pitch a movie.