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Cineformation – Pitching 20th November 2008
Pitching: the terrifying ordeal of trying to persuade a producer that your idea for a film deserves their money – in about two minutes or less. This was the subject of November’s Cineformation event, held at the Watershed during the Encounters Short Film Festival. An open call for anyone willing to test their pitching skills before a panel of supportive – but realistic – producers and communications experts produced a room full of brave souls willing to have a go, their numbers swelled by a healthy number of current and future film makers attending the festival.
The four panelists were Chris Moll of South West Screen, Paul Appleby of the BBC, Vicky Brophy from Bristol’s Wonky Films, and Melissa Kidd of Coaching Creatives. All four stressed that any criticisms they gave were meant to be creative, intended to help boost the participants’ confidence and ensure that their pitch was up to the challenge. Suitably reassured that this was not going to be as quite as stressful as Dragons Den, the pitchers got stuck in.
Throughout the night, no two pitches were exactly alike, which made the exercise fascinating to observe. The pitchers adopted a variety of tactics: some concentrated on the plot dynamics, some on the atmosphere of the story, and one was a performance pitch done in the character of the story’s protagonist. All the pitchers acquitted themselves with honour, and the panel was able to supply a range of helpful tips and advice. These included:
Watch your body language: Melissa’s advice concentrated on the physical aspects of persuasion. A clear, confident diction was essential of course, but she suggested that excessive hand gestures were off-putting. One of the pitchers read from prepared notes, but all the panel warned against doing this, as confident eye contact with the people you are hoping to persuade was critical. Another pitcher used a laptop, which was excellent for displaying storyboards or character sketches, but could easily turn into another physical barrier between the pitcher and their potential investor.
Don’t miss out the ending: Paul was particularly keen that a pitch should include a mention of the story’s length and conclusion, so that the producer knows how the characters finish up. This relates directly to the feelings an audience carries away with them from a film, something any producer cares about deeply
Don’t leave yourself out of the pitch: “Make sure you tell me what has driven you to do this particular story,” Chris urged the pitchers. “I want to hear why this story is so important to you that you’re standing in front of me now.”
Get their attention: The brave individual who delivered his pitch in character from the moment he walked on stage earned a deserved round of applause, although the panel agreed that it wasn’t an approach for everyone to try. “It’s always a risky pitching approach, but it will get you noticed and creates space for a dialogue with the panel,” said Paul. “You need an excellent understanding of your audience to make it work, but then that’s exactly what you must have before any conversation about your film can start.”
Pitch the story, not the plot: “Try and avoid making the storyline sound complicated, even if it actually is,” said Vicky. “Don’t risk confusing your listener with a host of difficult names." If the story has an obvious connection to other films (“It’s Bourne Ultimatum meets Old Boy” was one part of a pitch the panel responded to very positively) don’t let the connection be made by the panel; get in there first and deflect it. Explain what you have done with the material that is different and original.
Understand what you want to get out of the meeting: What specifically do you want to leave the room with? If money, then how much? If collaborators, then in what roles?
You’re there to build a working relationship: “Make sure you know what you are going to leave them with, whether it’s just a business card or even a complete script, so that the relationship doesn’t stall as soon as you walk out of the door,” urged Chris. He also emphasized the importance of having a second or third idea in your pocket, ready to produce if needed. “When your listener says ‘No thanks. What else have you got?’, that can’t be the end of the conversation, You are not just there to pitch your story. You are pitching a future working relationship every time you begin speaking. Don’t forget that pitching is actually a dialogue.”
Perhaps next year’s Encounters festival will screen the fruits of the panel’s advice.
(Tim Hayes 24/11/08)
18th November – The Forum, Cheltenham
27th November – The Innovation Centre, Exeter University
Fee £45 including lunch
Are you an advisor, coach or mentor working with artists and creative individuals?
Arts Compass is a practical training course to develop advisors’ skills in helping artists and creative enterprises navigate their way to
business and creative success. It offers you a chance to develop your skills and knowledge in a fun and relaxed environment and network with peers from across the region.
You will come away from this course with innovative methods for artists’ professional development planning and for supporting the growth of creative businesses, an understanding of the economic impact of the creative industries in the South West, and an introduction to developments in key issues affecting creative businesses. The day also provides an overview of the range of support agencies, advice services (generic and art-form or business-specific) and training opportunities available to creative businesses locally and nationally.
The course is suitable for anyone working with creative businesses and artists in an advisory capacity, whether formally or informally.
To receive further information and a booking form please contact Maddie at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0117 915 0190.
Booking deadline for Cheltenham: 11th November
Booking deadline for Exeter: 20th November
Places for this event are strictly limited and booking is essential.
Cineformation is looking for Volunteers, Camera People, Editors, Podcast Experts and Journalists.
We need a creative bunch of people to help film our events, editors to edit video podcast and an expert to help make them available on itunes. We also need journalists who can attend events and report on the events so that those who were unable to attend can read about the event online.
The commitment will only be a few hours a week (depending on your availability) and you will of course be credited for your work.
If you’re interested in getting more experience and you’d like to get involved in what we do, please contact Menekse as soon as possible.
So, it’s the end of an era, both Lizz and I are moving on from Cineformation this week, so thank you to our fantastic guest speakers, all those who have attended events & everyone who’s supported Cineformation over the last two years. We couldn’t have done it without you.
But do not fear, Cineformation will continue to host events every month at Watershed, so keep checking the website for details.
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Dave Cropley (of fishboy films and DJ cropmaster flex fame).
Sunday August 3rd.
Upstairs in The Lansdown on Clifton Road from 7pm.
£3 Entry for non-members.
The iconic lounge legend that is DJ Phatwa will once more ensure that all intermissions are accompanied with foot-tapping, head noddin, body bobbing musical goodness.
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Monday, January 17 2011
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