By Ryan Uytdewilligen
So you’ve typed the final words of your literary masterpiece and must now embark on the beastly journey that is capturing it on film. As if crafting a scripted masterwork wasn’t enough of a challenge, breaking into the industry by winning over busy producers is a whole other ball game that requires persistence, focus, and a winning pitch package.
Many have tried storming the gates of Hollywood and failed at the first rejection, while even the thought of pitching has halted many great projects. Nonetheless, getting your idea out there and presenting a pitch package to the people who can make that dream a reality is a must for aspiring filmmakers.
It’s arguably the hardest step, but there are smart ways to go about it.
EVERYONE’S LOOKING FOR THAT MAGIC PITCH PACKAGE TRICK
Everyone wants to know the most integral component to creating a compelling pitch. What’s the most important aspect that’ll get your idea off the slush pile and through the producer’s door?
According to producer, InFocus instructor, and Red Storm productions founder Erik Paulsson, it’s the script. With over twenty years in the business, Paulsson was quick to claim that “if you have a great idea that’s well executed, someone will be interested.”
Perhaps the inaugural lesson here is make sure the script is in as good of shape as it can be before you send it out. Give it to fresh eyes that are willing it give you honest feedback. Share it with collaborators you trust and want to work with. Dot every I, cross every T, and of course, have a really awesome, original, totally brilliant idea. Easy, right?
ASSEMBLE THE A-TEAM
The next component to getting your film made according to Paulsson is surrounding yourself with a great team of people. By attending festivals, workshops, film school classes, and getting on small film sets, you start to meet people who have visions and aspirations that will align with your own. In the independent film world, young aspiring filmmakers can start out with cheap shorts and build up experience which all adds clout when you are presenting and idea to a producer.
“Having people who you trust and have built a working relationship with is important, because along with the content, you are selling a team of people to work on it as well.”
So what should you include in your pitch package? What do producers want to see that will get their attention?
Some filmmakers have sent their entire script in hopes of hooking readers and letting the work speak for itself. According to most producers, this is a big no no! No one has time to read your script unless they’re interested. No one has time to wade through lengthy messages trying to decree why they’re the specific person for this project. A simply stated query that covers the genre, tone, log line, and basic goal for the project is all you need to get a producers attention.
As the famous quote goes, “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink.” Either someone will connect with the idea or not.
Don’t forget to include a little about yourself too. Contact info is immensely important but so is a small showcasing of credits you’ve been a part of. With any luck, you’ll be invited into the office and requested to give a detailed pitch on who you are and what your project is all about.
FORTUNE FAVOURS THE PREPARED
The office is where many freeze up.
Bringing a One Sheet that plots out the specifics of your idea can help articulate what you may struggle to say. Include brief budgetary estimates (certainly not a full breakdown), and include the team assembled with brief bios and credits. This helps clarify all of the major questions the producer may have.
As far as your own voice goes, practice before you pitch! Say the plot out loud to yourself and other trusted people who are willing to listen. Come up with answers to questions that may be asked such as potential talent, shooting schedules, locations, and most importantly, why you want to make it.
Of course getting to this moment is no walk in the park. Paulsson suggests an eight hour work day to allow persistence. He says there will be “lots of road blocks so not putting all of your eggs in one basket will help. Have other ideas ready to pitch or work on multiple projects at the same time because they all tend to move forward at different paces.”
While gigantic superhero sci-fi epics might be a dream for many, starting small and taking baby steps will help ensure a smoother start.
Querying through IMDB or networking and film events are great places to get your foot in the door. Have a low budget, manageable idea in mind and hone it until the originality and passion radiates off every page and collaborator.
Having patience is certainly an attribute that will help when pitching around ideas to producers, but confidence in yourself and your idea will instill interest and confidence in others who hold the key to your filmmaking future.
For tips on actually writing a low budget, manageable script, check out Little Budget, Big Impact: Creating An Affordable & Enticing Story. Or maybe you want to skip the whole process and start your own production company.
InFocus blogger Ryan Uytdewilligen was born in Lethbridge Alberta and is trained in both journalism and writing for film and TV. He has published two books – the first a nonfiction film history called 101 Most Influential Coming of Age Movies and the second a YA fiction novel called Tractor. He currently has a second non-fiction work underway and several feature films in development.