Pitch meetings are standard in the movie business. You go into a room full of potential financiers to sell them on your idea. You've got three minutes, maximum. It's a tough crowd, so you learn certain ins and outs to up the odds that they'll buy your pitch. Define your characters clearly. Describe the whole arc of the story. Have an "up" ending. Wherever possible, use examples of other movies they may have seen and liked, especially ones that made a bundle at the box office. If your movie is about a secret agent who hides out in a high school to find a killer, you might want to say: "It's like Mission Impossible meets Clueless."
But pitching doesn't just happen in the movie business. Ideas are sold in all walks of life, and frankly, some leave me scratching my head about how they were ever initially pitched. Take the idea that Jewish guys like me refer to as: "Ouch... that idea." Male circumcision. I'd like to have been in on the meeting where that was pitched (and sold!) to the ancient Israelites. Can you imagine? I seem to recall from the Bible that God told Moses, or someone like him, to do it. I mean, I can easily imagine Moses saying to the Israelites: "God has commanded me to lead you forth from slavery. You know, like The Dirty Dozen meets Lawrence of Arabia." Who's going to argue with that? "Hey thanks, Mo. Sounds like a great idea. How much you think it'll cost?"
The 10 Commandments pitch was probably a tougher sell, especially given the part about laying off your neighbor's good-looking wife, though by then Moses had essentially rescued everybody from the Pharoahs, which in Hollywood is known as having a Monster Hit on your hands, so I could see them going along with him pretty readily. He probably just held up the tablets and said: "From now on people, it's gonna be like The Unbearable Lightness of Being meets Papillon."
But circumcision? Even if it wasn't Moses who did the pitch, it certainly wasn't some guy from the American Medical Association with a bunch of charts to justify it medically. No siree. It was some old guy, from ancient times, when science was in its infancy (not to mention blade-sharpening).
So what was the guy's approach, because American Gigolo meets Edward Scissorhands was not going to fly with the desert-wandering crowd. They'd been through enough. Did the guy just one day go: "Hey, I know everybody's been talking about maybe stoning Jacob to death for hitting on Mrs. Esau, but it just so happens I spoke to God last week and he told me that what we really should be doing is chopping off every guy's foreskin." At first everybody was probably like: "What's a foreskin?" because it's not as if anybody had ever seen this as a separate entity. Men have always thought of their packages as supremely indivisible; sort of an all-for-one, one-for-all situation.
So I figure the guy probably tried to explain himself by pointing to the end of his penis, since pointing was an important means of communication back in biblical times, and everyone was like: "Wait a second, are you saying God wants us to cut our shlongs off?"
"No man, no. Would you relax?! He only said to cut off the flap at the end of our shlongs. Not the whole thing. "
"Oh. Phew. That's so much better. Of course, I'm not even gonna dignify something so clearly insane, but in the name of the Talmud and open scholarship and all that, may I ask why you think God wants us to cut off the skin at the end of our shlongs?"
"He didn't really say why. And you know God. He doesn't take kindly to being asked why. Hell, half of Cairo is still pulling locusts out of their asses and that was four plagues ago! If you want to ask Him why, you're on your own."
What else could have motivated such a practice among the ancient Hebrews if not the fear of punishment from Above? It surely wasn't the reassurance of anesthesia, which is a Greek word meaning: "Maybe we'll invent painkillers as soon as we invent ancient Greece, in another thousand years or so."
Though some today insist (perhaps wrongly) that circumcision is more hygienic, no one even knew what bacteria were back in Moses' day and even if they had, wouldn't circumcision still be a personal choice? Why the whole everybody's-gotta-do-it mentality? I've heard the argument made that the Jews started circumcising their males to differentiate themselves from the others, but the ancient Egyptians did it too, so if that were the case, it would mean the Jews did it because they also thought it was -- what's the word? Cool?
I suppose we'll never know exactly how the first circumcision pitch went, though its outcome may partially explain why all these millennia later, so many of us are drawn to the movie business. As a wiser Solomon than I might put it, when it comes to big ideas, better to get in on the pitch than to wait for what shows up at a theater near you.
Michael Solomon is an award-winning filmmaker and the author of "Now It's Funny... How I Survived Cancer, Divorce and Other Looming Disasters."
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