You've probably never heard of a Hollywood producer named Bob Kosberg. Actually, most people in Hollywood have never heard of him. But to many corner-office rainmakers in the movie business, he's considered an odd sort of royalty. To them, Bob Kosberg is The Pitch King.
In the early 1990s, Kosberg and another producer walked into a New Line executive's office with an idea for a horror movie about a genetically enhanced guard dog that turns into a killing machine. Needless to say, it wasn't the kind of story that studio executives stay up at night praying will waltz through their doors. But once in the office, Kosberg capped his pitch with a now-famous one-liner: ''It's Jaws on Paws!''
He walked away six figures richer.
Never mind that the actual movie 1993's Man's Best Friend, starring Ally Sheedy and a slobbering mastiff was god-awful. The pitch deserved an Oscar. By reducing his concept to a single indelible tagline that everyone at New Line could instantly envision on the movie's poster, Kosberg not only cemented the deal but also left the executive with a smile on his face and a story to tell his buddies over lunch at the Ivy. That's why he's The Pitch King.
There's another name for what Kosberg does, and he doesn't much care for it. Kosberg is a hustler. He's not dangerous. He's not out to boost anyone's wallet. His silky-smooth shuck-and-jive is far more good-natured. If he honestly believes that he's sitting on the next billion-dollar movie idea (and he does), give him five minutes and he's likely to convince you, too. In a lot of ways, he's like one of those hyper late-night infomercial pitchmen who sell you something you didn't even know you needed...and maybe, quite honestly, didn't need. In that respect, Kosberg seems to have beaten Hollywood at its own game.
Recently, I met Kosberg at the bar of the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills. As he sat down, he immediately started pitching like Roger Clemens after a dozen cups of coffee. In no time at all, I could imagine every idea coming out of his mouth on a multiplex marquee. I also realized that Kosberg wasn't just pitching movies. He was pitching Bob Kosberg.
He pulled out a notepad of bullet-point anecdotes and accomplishments that I should include in this story. He also produced a youthful head shot of himself and mentioned that he was willing to help brainstorm headlines for the article if I got stuck. When asked his age, Kosberg went into sell mode again, asking if I'd just say that he's in his ''40s.'' (Like many of his pitches, that may be a tad hopeful.) Still, dressed in a natty blue blazer and expensive loafers, Kosberg, in the dim light of a hotel bar, resembles a younger John Kerry.
Kosberg says that he finds most of his ideas in newspapers. He reads more than a dozen every day. And when he sees a postage-stamp-size article about some small-town, man-bites-dog oddity, a light goes on in his head: That's a movie! Everything is a movie to Kosberg. And it drives him crazy that he's the only one who thinks this way. ''My antennae for a good story prick up and I grab it out of the air, or out of the paper, or off The Oprah Winfrey Show,'' he says, ''and I wonder why other people didn't hear the same thing I heard! Sometimes I think 'Am I nuts?! Am I the only one seeing these diamonds in the rough?!'''