Monday, 5 September 2011

12 Pitching the Project

Image by kwschenk /
Pitching is the beginning, and often the end, of film projects. Steven Spielberg said you should be able to pitch one in three words. That might be an exaggeration, but commissioning editors are busy. They want a quick overview and details later, after you´ve caught their attention. A CE might ask you to email a synopsis first. The synopsis we write is usually one, maybe two, single-spaced pages (Times New Roman). We try hard to get it right: edit, re-edit, and make sure there are no typos. We wait a couple of weeks and then get back to them by email (never on Monday or Friday).  If they´re interested they make an appointment. The following are some of the rules we follow.

 01 Be on time: only a force majeur is an excuse.

02 Be prepared: we make a portfolio, which at minimum includes a designed cover page, the synopsis, the budget, a list of “sources of financing” and contact info. Our portfolios are always the same:  black plastic covers with clear plastic sleeves.  We remove all the sleeves that aren´t filled. One CE said when she saw it, “First impressions make all the difference.”

03 Dress like you mean business: neat, pulled together, good posture.

04 Be poised and confident: better to be quiet than make nervous small talk.

05 Be concise:  Know your project well enough to tell the story in as few words as possible. Be prepared to answer difficult questions. CE´s are masters at pointing out flaws but usually give good advise.

06 Don´t try and sell your project: if the CE says “No”.  Accept it and say you´ll contact him/her again when you have another idea.

07.  Follow up with a hand-written note (never an email)amazing how few people think to do this when it´s such a simple and effective way to make a good impression and be remembered.

When I read these rules they sound preach-y, but then I remember stories from CE´s about hopefuls who tried to sell their “Big Idea” without in-depth preparation. They usually flopped. During one Nordic Film Festival I was an observer at the pitching sessions. CE´s from Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland were there to comment on projects and make suggestions. Some of them were very tough. A Lapp presented a project in his national costume. They came down hard on him when the way he was dressed had nothing to do with the story. They pointed out weak spots in the structure of the projects and hammered away. One of our CE´s was there.  I couldn´t believe the questions she asked, because when we worked with her it was always so congenial.  Eki says in addition to a good idea, attention to detail, organization and preparation are the keys to catching the attention of a CE. And best of all: if the project gets the go-ahead it saves MONEY.   

Lesson 18: Follow the above rules

next week: 13 Story is King, Style is Queen

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