Pitch reels. Sizzle reels. Mood/tone films. Multimedia lookbooks. Whichever name you prefer, these pitching tools are becoming more prevalent. Recently, we posted about Joe Carnahan's sizzle reel for Daredevil that inevitably was not the chosen vision. And of course, our own Ryan Koo shared his lookbook for Manchild here on NFS. Now, thanks to Slashfilm, we get another example of a pitch reel for a major studio project, The Hunger Games, from filmmaker Kevin Tancharoen (Fame (2009), Mortal Kombat: Legacy web series) with a substantially darker tone than Gary Ross' finished film.
Video is no longer available: youtu.be/hcXf90kB1cI
In his Slashfilm interview with Peter Sciretta, Tancharoen explains the current expectations for directors pitching their visions to studios:
Trying to pitch a vision to a room full of people is always very difficult verbally. In the past two years, the pitch reel has significantly become more demanding since technology allows for people to make mini movies in their own homes. It’s almost expected for a director to show some visual materials, but the need to impress has become elevated.
Like Carnahan's Daredevil pitch reel, Tancharoen's Hunger Games pitch reel plays like a theatrical trailer, immersing the viewer not only in the style and tone of the proposed film, but also the story itself. Tancharoen even goes so far as to pitch a potential cast so studio executives can start to put faces to the characters.
From a screenwriter's perspective, while we may not think about creating pitch reels for projects, pitching is a necessary skill for all aspiring screenwriters. While pitch reels may be considered the director's domain, screenwriters may want to consider creating pitch reels for their own projects to help producers and executives see their visions.
Make sure you check out Slashfilm's complete interview with Tancharoen to learn more about his process of creating a pitch reel.
Have you made a pitch reel for one of your projects? Share your experiences with us in the Comments.
Link: Slashfilm - Kevin Tancharoen's Hunger Games pitch trailer and interview
[via The Story Department]
These are much more prevalent (strike that - full on industry standard) in reality television. You can't sell a show without one.
September 24, 2012 at 12:20PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
If you can afford to shoot and put together a true 4 minute demo by calling in some favors for cast / crew and are able to pull together a reasonable budget (ideally under 5k - food / rentals / honorariums), that is absolutely the best product to shop an idea in broadcast TV. Of course if that is not attainable for you, these look-books are a great alternative, but remember: broadcast execs don't often want to use their imagination, so the more you show them, the easier it is to sell!
September 27, 2012 at 5:04PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
Throughout the movie I notice SO many clips from other movies. Clearly this is chopped together just to give the whole feel of how they want the movie to come off. But when making a "pitch reel" do they really use other movie chunks?
Movies I noticed:
The FIfth Element
Any more people notice?
September 24, 2012 at 12:25PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
Yes that's the idea, you take clips from other films and other work that best represent what you're trying to do.
September 24, 2012 at 12:36PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
Also saw tv serie Skins was in it.
September 24, 2012 at 6:26PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
It has to be very time consuming to watch so many movies, select and edit all the clips (I would rather spend this time by making my own clip :) I am not sure if this approach can work... different movies has different styles and the result could be rather mishmash... but it probably works somehow :) The Daredevil teaser had its own style.
September 25, 2012 at 6:05AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
It is very common for ad agencies to make these shorts for new business pitches. They are called "ripomatics", although sometimes original material gets filmed to intercut with borrowed shots. In addition to ripping shots off of DVDs, Image Bank and other stock houses used to provide research as well as footage for these ripomatics.
September 25, 2012 at 9:31PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
whats up with hollywood making films from shitty mainstream books? whats next, a 50 shades of grey film?
September 24, 2012 at 12:32PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
September 24, 2012 at 12:41PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
You say that like it's ridiculous, but the reason they build off existing franches is so they don't have to sell a new idea to people. People like going to see movies they know are going to be good... so if they liked the book, then they'll go see the film without much convincing. Make a movie nobody knows anything about and they have to do a lot more selling to make people think it's good and worth their money. And don't kid yourself, it's all about money.
September 24, 2012 at 12:59PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
September 24, 2012 at 2:55PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
I mean, god forbid people actually have to THINK about films they are gonna see! Jesus.
September 24, 2012 at 3:30PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
John, I'm having a hard enough time imagining a world where everyone thinks like you. Could that be a film? =)
September 27, 2012 at 5:08PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
I was told the other day that the figure for producing pre existing properties as opposed to original scripts in Hollywood was at 92% last year. But that of course includes book/comic/video games adaptions etc - and also your total recall recalls ofcourse too.
September 25, 2012 at 6:34AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
I saw this woman in the Metro reading 50 shades of grey on a basic Kindle, a device that can only display 16 shades of grey, she didn't look very satisfied. Better the movie.
September 26, 2012 at 5:37AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
Will it be black and white?
I joke...I don't even know what that book is.
October 3, 2012 at 3:05PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
I really like the concept of these pitch reels. Before Carnahan’s Daredevil reel, I hadn't heard of the concept, but I think they are a very creative and effective way of pitching your vision.
September 24, 2012 at 12:47PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
I'm a big believer in these types of reels. I currently have two running for films I am trying to get off of the ground. With Kickstarter and Indiegogo, they are going to become the norm for launching your vision on screen. Give them a look if you have a second at
Both shot in one day, total budget for both around $2000 dollars, but the response and following we are getting has really been great, and I feel going into our last 30 days of Indiegogo, it will pay off. Besides they are just fun as hell to shoot and cut. Thanks guys. Love this site!
September 24, 2012 at 12:57PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
Where do property rights come into this.
Isn't this what a lot of people are being told off for doing on youtube. Creating remixes/montages of films and using unlicensed tracks?
I have no issue with this and I think it's a great mood reel but it almost seems like double standards to me. Are the filmmakers not held accountable like others?
September 24, 2012 at 1:00PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
It's standard practice - I don't know what the exact legalities are, but this is what everyone does, so if you did your own and it was taken offline, that would certainly seem like a double standard.
September 24, 2012 at 1:24PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
This is a real grey area. The courts use a "transformative test" to see if it falls under the Fair Use Act - "The use must be productive and must employ the quoted matter in a different manner or for a different purpose from the original. A quotation of copyrighted material that merely repackages or republishes the original is unlikely to pass the test"
September 24, 2012 at 3:08PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
Ryan, thanks for posting the info about "transformative test".
Also, another thing to keep in mind, many of these pitch reels/trailers aren't posted on YouTube. Directors use them in internal pitch meetings to add to their presentations, which also usually involve printed look books and the good ol' verbal pitch. The pitch reels aren't typically meant for public consumption.
This particular pitch reel only surfaced on YouTube via Slashfilm this month, and Tancharoen mentions in his interview with Slashfilm that he hopes it provides educational value to viewers. Don't know if that helps with the gray area or not.
September 24, 2012 at 4:30PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
The educational side is harder to argue for Fair Use. Forgot why but I do remember it not being as broad as one would think - “Quotation of excerpts in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment; quotation of short passages in a scholarly or technical work, for illustration or clarification of the author’s observations; use in a parody of some of the content of the work parodied; summary of an address or article, with brief quotations, in a news report; reproduction by a library of a portion of a work to replace part of a damaged copy; reproduction by a teacher or student of a small part of a work to illustrate a lesson; reproduction of a work in legislative or judicial proceedings or reports; incidental and fortuitous reproduction, in a newsreel or broadcast, of a work located in the scene of an event being reported.” Sounds broad but could really bit you in the ^$$ if you don't stick strictly to these guidelines.
The internal presentation part I'm not sure which way it would fall, because they are an "audience" and it does have vague "commercial" intentions, however there are no monetary damages to the original author that I can happening. Either way, the original author would have to be a real dick to sue anyone for such a inconsequential infringement, that is, if it's even an infringement.
Disclaimer - I'm not a lawyer but I did research all this for a documentary I produced. We wanted to use a company's commercials to highlight how they are misinforming the public. We concluded that we would pass the "transformative test", but barely.
September 24, 2012 at 10:39PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
I like this version a lot better than the boring one I saw in theaters
September 24, 2012 at 1:06PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
Can anyone explain why this is much more of a standard than what this exact same director did for the "Mortal Kombat: Legacy" pitch? (Or was that video not a pitch, just a teaser of what's to come?).
I found myself continually distracted by the recognition of other films rather than being able to stay focused on the potential film this director was trying to show.
September 24, 2012 at 1:36PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
Clarification: what I mean is why not get some money together and put together a pitch trailer and your own actors, locations, etc.? This is a cheap way, yes, but it didn't seem to do anything (for me, at least).
September 24, 2012 at 1:38PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
Yes, money, time, resources. If you watch enough of these you know what to look for, it's more about the feeling of the visuals and the visuals themselves. So you can't watch it for artistic merit - since the film will never look like that. It's all about getting what the movie will feel like - hence the name sometimes given as mood or tone film.
September 24, 2012 at 1:53PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
I work in film financing and I occasionally see these and or lookbooks that are created solely of pictures from other movies and fashion photography. I think if it can help tell the story you're going for and give the look then it's a worthwhile endeavor. Best to use footage that's not too instantly recognizable or iconic, unless truly necessary. Otherwise it becomes the classic Movie X meets Movie X pitch (ie everyone knows Batman was a hit, but what is your movie?)
I like to see the director's style through someone elses images. You can also use the footage and do stuff to it, like darken, blur, slow down, color or some other way of styling it.
September 25, 2012 at 5:55PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
With that said, I've definitely been in a situation where a poorly put together version of a sizzle reel or lookbook actually made me lose interest in the project because it made the director lack vision.
September 25, 2012 at 5:57PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM
I find these things incredibly distracting.
Yes, producers/backers aren't generally known to be creative artistic people, but to me all it shows is that you can edit found footage together into something that schizophrenically resembling a trailer...not that you have some sort of vision. To me, it seems more likely that you *don't* have a vision, so you're trying to grab onto someone else's, and for uncreative people you are trying to sell to, you're forcing them to picture more than I think they can picture---it's too abstract.
Look books are great...I think it's great to have a morgue (of stills) to give people an idea of the feel of the look of the world or whatever. (for LA Confidential, Curtis Hanson had a bunch of photos he brought into the pitch showcasing stuff from the era, the 1950's...but all things that looked contemporary---they were period things, but just period things that looked current in 1999 or whenever it was). That was the defining look of the film. (There are a bunch of photographs, and postcards of paintings and things from this pitch on the DVD or bluray extras.)
It just seems sort of pointless to me to repackage other people's materials...especially to the studios...if they see a bunch of stuff by all these big directors...they can just get the big directors themselves to do the movie instead of someone trying to rip off other people's signature looks.
It does seem smart (for the uncreative execs) to have the casting idea footage...those quick shots of the actors might sell it more in imagery than in words telling them who you'd picture in the role.
October 3, 2012 at 3:33PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM