Answering These Expert Questions About Your Film Can Really Strengthen Your Pitch
Whether you are pitching your film to a potential funder in his or her office or to a panel in a public forum, your pitch requires the same level of preparation to hit its mark.
At Points North Pitch, held at the Camden International Film Festival, 6 documentary filmmakers (or filmmaking teams) pitched their feature-length works-in-progress to a panel of 12 delegates -- funders, broadcasters and producers -- as well as an audience of about 350 at the Camden Opera house. After each filmmaker gave their 7-minute pitch and showed a trailer, the panel provided 10 minutes of critical feedback on the pitch, trailer, and potential for the film.
Below are some of the questions that the delegates asked filmmakers after their pitch, and although Points North Pitch is exclusively for documentaries, these questions will help you to prepare for whichever kind of genre you're working in.
Why are you the best person to make this movie?
What is the reason that you decided to tell this particular story? Share your enthusiasm and your empathy for your characters in your pitch. "The panel wants to understand where you enter the story and what you bring to it." said filmmaker Jordan Fein, who pitched Three Rising Towers with his directing partner, Hunter Baker, at Points North. The team told the panel that they spent three years getting access to their story.
Why should we fund this now?
Identify (or create) a sense of urgency about your film. Keep it contemporary in some way and structure the film, your pitch, and trailer so that it is relevant to audiences.
How will your film be different than others that same topic?
Find a way to make your film stand out. Filmmakers Carlye Rubin and Katie Green identified this in their pitch for No Place for Children, their documentary about families with sons in prison. They differentiate themselves from other films about prison by highlighting the families specifically.
What are your strengths and weaknesses as a team?
Your pitch should showcase your strengths as a filmmaker. For instance, filmmakers Suzan Beraza and David Byars pitched ¡No Soy Puta!, a documentary they are shooting in Haiti and the Dominican Republic with a clear goal for their trailer. "We wanted the trailer to show that we could handle the vibrancy and cultures (that are in the film)," said Beraza. It is also good to acknowledge gaps in your team and where you are looking for resources to fill them in.
Can your trailer stand-alone? (Hint – the answer should be yes.)
Your pitch should not explain your trailer, but add more details about your film and process. Your trailer should stand-alone so that it's easy for someone to pass it along to others.
What is the heart of the story? What is the central conflict?
Byars who pitched ¡No Soy Puta! with Beraza recommended that filmmakers "get outside feedback from people not familiar with your story or film." What may seem obvious to you may not be clear to the panel.
Filmmker Jeff Unay gives his winning pitch to the audience at Points North Pitch.Credit: Photo by Spencer Worthley
Why did you choose these characters? What makes them compelling?
"Speak about the personal connection you have as a filmmaker with the characters," recommended Jeff Unay, who pitched his film Greywater. This film is the personal story of a man who uses cage fighting as an escape breaking a promise to his family to stop.
What are you seeking with your pitch?
Identify the resources and budget that you need and your timeframe, keeping it in line with the scope of your film. The panel advised filmmakers to include money for impact and to pay yourself. Your time is important.
Would you do a short?
Sam Morrill, Creator Relations Lead at Vimeo, asked this to one of the filmmakers pitching, thereby highlighting the importance of knowing the audience for your pitch. There may be a story within your film, which could lend itself to a different format than your originally thought.
Unay went on to take home the Points North Pitch Award for his pitch about Greywater, which included a $10,000 post-production package from Modulus Studios, three consultations from Tribeca Film Institute, and participation in the Tribeca Film Institute Network Market. Unay says, "When someone gives you an audience, it means they care about your work," and it's true -- but it's your job to explain to them why they should care. These questions should help put you on the right track.