Film Funda: Pitching Your Film
“Pitching is, these days, almost a natural procedure of documentary realisation,” says Nilotpal Majumdar, Dean of the reputed Satyajit Ray Film & Television Institute, Kolkata, and also one of the leading minds behind pitching forum DocEdge Kolkata. “Today global financing for co-production has radically increased the realisation of creative, artistic and exceptionally personal films. Global television has undertaken the ‘holy’ task of producing a serious mode of author-led real life storytelling with the enormous backing of festivals, foundations and multi-platform transmedia. Storytellers and storyseekers meet face to face to understand each other with mutual curiosity and a commitment to the audience. Pitching forums thus attract stakeholders for innovative ventures and future initiatives. The world is chasing well-told visual stories.”
IndiEarth: How far does this model work in India?
In the Indian context, it is even more important as we do not yet have a defined documentary temperament in public television, we do not have a national or a regional foundation, we do not have an academy, we do not believe that documentaries can tell credible stories – we are not even aware that documentaries can be produced. Hence, no financial resources, no partners, no audience.
It is time for Indian filmmakers to come out of the serene mindscape of guarded creativity and be a participant in the market (a traditional abode of quality cultural exchange) for sensitisation and networking, for rejuvenation of creative energy, and of course for the realisation of your film that no one else can make!
IndiEarth: How do collaborators respond to filmmakers in this pitching scenario, and what kind of an encounter, to start with, should one expect?
By ‘pitching’ we refer to the presentation of film ideas to potential partners and collaborators – the prelude to a challenging voyage. It is during this context that filmmakers encounter their future partners – partners with diverse experiences who may even possess a greater passion and sensibility than the filmmakers! Truly.
It is therefore important to recognise collaborators who eventually become integral teammates in developing the project and making it happen. These partners are a highly empowered and accountable lot – creative, professional and fiscal, but who don’t only love doling out money. They experience immense pride to be part of a film, share in the responsibility of creating good stories for an audience to whom they are accountable.
In fact, you as filmmakers are not here to ‘look for money’ – you are here to incite sensitive souls to be as excited and motivated as you are – and to eventually find a partner in you.
IndiEarth: Who are the potential collaborators?
Foundations, broadcasters, independent investors, institutions, and at times, distributors are expected to be your potential collaborators. Each of them represents a diverse cultural and historic code, and has has unique policies on content, and availability of resources. Each fund has its own definitive mandate. It’s true – many of them will not fit into your story. However, there is a common factor – they are all yearning for an emerging film they would be proud to work on.
IndiEarth: What tips would you want to share with filmmakers?
The pitching ecology must be understood. The most crucial element is your film itself. Understand your film and keep refining the vision it deserves. Your potential partners are looking for a very high quality cultural product, and have limited resources to put in, as there are simply too many films, issues and, encouragingly, a lot of valid artistic expressions!
It is the at the beginning of your campaign that you find a target audience with diverse cultural, human and ideological interests. Therefore, frame your campaign as an intimate dialogue with challengers. Some of them may not be interested in spite of the creative and narrative potential of your film. However, think of this as a launch pad to introduce yourself as a filmmaker and bring to the international platform your closely nurtured discourses – whether you eventually find money or not. Good word spreads.
IndiEarth: What are some “Pitch Mantras” for an aspiring filmmaker?
Touch souls with your vision. Convince potential partners with your clarity, and intrigue them with your thought. The content is something you are infatuated with, something that you are deeply touched by. Keep this emotion tangible. You also need to understand that most subjects are already known. You need to discover your inner call. What is your unique personal positioning as a filmmaker? Your original voice! Also, show people you are not obsessed or biased, but driven by objectivity.
IndiEarth: Tell us some more about the objective of DocedgeKolkata.
DocedgeKolkata – Asian Forum for Documentary (www.docresi.org) – is a pitching-cum-mentoring workshop for the documentary filmmakers of India and Asia. Our prime focus is to ignite a robust sense of creative documentary in the hearts of participants and observers. It is a formal multistage platform and co-production window where handholding and sensitisation are prioritised. We invite acknowledged faculty like producers and filmmakers to work with participants, to improve and strengthen the original concept of their films.
The forum comprises:
– Robust incubation and mentoring components
– Intensive exposure to latest trends in creative documentary/storytelling
– Master classes by important filmmakers
– Knowing potential funders/broadcasters
IndiEarth: What are the stages to the pitch?
Stage 1: The Written Pitch
Log line: One line summarising your idea – simple, direct, clear.
Synopsis: Brief outline summarising the story or idea (half a page, max.)
Treatment: An exposition of the narrative arc that can include points relating to directorial style. The treatment is to be worked out with great care given to evoking the overall journey of the film along with character sketches, a narrative outline, dramatic moments and the culminating moment of the film. The treatment is essentially an encounter with the author in terms of style, camera position, overall image climate in relation to the space-character scenario and situations. Here, editorial priorities are to be defined along with audio components. It is text that helps readers visualise the film.
Stage 2: The Verbal Pitch
A filmmaker with a vision and stance is talking! Your original idea and intent will make a lasting impression.
– Maintain clarity on the subject and the thematic premise.
– Spontaneity is the key. You are not describing, but emoting sensibly what you have experienced and wish to share.
– If your heart does not talk, things sound like rubbish.
– Go for a simple (but not naive) personalised narrative to sustain interest, instead of a descriptive presentation.
– Always briefly incorporate a situation/moment from the film that you find most engaging and provocative.
– Harp on the uniqueness of the subject.
– Clearly portray your protagonist, highlighting elements that make him/her attractive, and evoke an interest in his/her journey.
– Know your film by heart – internalise your film with all its nuances. Identify the precise narrative objective and evoke the greater story.
– Know your subject. Why is it being talked about? Unless a very special reason persists, you would not be making this film, would you? What is that very special reason that drives you?
– Always conclude the pitch with your motivation and a culminating point – your personal connect with the space and your character, or with the issue at hand.
What Not To Do:
– Avoid proposing too many layers – it causes confusion.
– Do not try to make a statement – narrate what you see, what you feel and pinpoint your interpretation of observed life.
– Avoid superlative or definitive statements on the way you look at your film.
– Do not be a subject expert – be a storyteller.
– Do not underline names, places, geography and year/month unless they have a functional requirement in the narration.
– Do not be overburdened with your exclusively unique idea – your passion should be revealed, but clarity is what makes communication effective.
– You are not blabbering and desperately describing your film – you are quietly churning out your soul with regard to the film that you have inside.
– Avoid cross-references, polemics and ambiguity.
Stage 3: The Visual Pitch
Often, pitches fall apart because the clips displayed are not interesting. The clip is what immediately defines you as a filmmaker and talks about your ability to deal with the subject. A good clip is the key.
– 3 – 4 minutes of an edited clip will represent you as an author and speaks volumes of your creative and narrative command! It is not an assembly – but a highly strategic edited piece.
– The subject may be common, but the treatment is what makes your film original and unique.
– Maintain a technical standard. Try to show the best quality – proper resolution, professional colour correction, and intelligent juxtaposition make a great difference.
– Highlight unusual textures, and visuals – it has to be an unusual image experience, yet remain in tune with the subject.
– I always insist on emphasising one very interesting moment – it generates a greater interest and curiosity.
What To Avoid:
– Voice Over narrations unless you strategically use a very personal, intimate and evocative short text with effective pauses.
– Repetition of images – It should not look like a one-space one-time shoot.
– Sharp cutting and quick replacement of shots.
– Your character should not be in interview mode.
At The End of the Pitch:
– A Q/A and feedback session is crucial.
– Never deviate from what you believe in. Put forward your views gently but confidently.
– Be prepared to address unexpected questions and misunderstood notions. Your potential partners may have very important inquiries to better understand your intended film.