May 2, 2016 at 9:58AM, Edited May 2, 10:26AM


Approaching/pitching organizations (pro-bono or paid)

Hi all

First time poster but long-time reader on the NFS forum.

I would say my experience/skill-level is somewhere in the lower-intermediate range at the moment. I have a reasonable handful of commercial projects under my belt, a few short films that have screened in some festivals and a scattering of personal projects like most people on here I'm sure.

At this point I'm more interested in patiently finding organizations with a vision/project/etc. that aligns with my own passion than continuing to take on any commercial contract that comes along (as tempting at this point in my career as it is). I've been short-listing organizations in Toronto (where I work) and I'm curious how others go about proactively pitching projects? I.e. do you often find it's best to cold email, do you simply request an in-person meeting or are you more explicit about your intentions right off the bat to work on a particular project, etc. ? I realize there's no cut and dry answer, it depends entirely on the type of organization or potential project, but really I'm looking to hear about any strategies which have worked well for any of you in the past.



Great question, one I'm constantly asking of myself as well.

My opinion, is that film & video are known for having great impact in communicating with an audience, but not always at the top of an organisation/business' to-do-list. So cold calling or simply saying 'hey, lets chat about video' won't have the best return on your time if they're not already wanting a video.

So, in my opinion, you help create that 'want'.

Make a spec video, specifically for them. Create it in the style and way that you want, and then send it over to them. Yep, it takes time and effort, but they can actually connect with something, instead of a case study from another brand.

There was a guy in the UK who made a video about his Toaster and what it meant to him. He sent it to the manufacturer, and they commissioned him to make this:

I'm currently growing a business myself and I'm yet to have that 'perfect project' or ideal client, so I'm taking a leaf out of his book and creating a vid for someone I'd love to make a video for.

May 2, 2016 at 4:42PM

Nick Kelly

Thanks for that thoughtful response Nick!

You bring up a fair point - helping visualize a want that the prospective client may not even realize they should have. I come from the design/communications industry, and from my years in school we had it beat into our heads to avoid spec work like the plague. The argument went that it devalues our work and opens the industry up to more exploitation, since clients can take or leave any idea that's thrown at them on the hope they might like it enough to pay. I realize this isn't the same situation but it's a hard point to avoid for me.

Have you had any particular success with this? I've lined up a few meetings this week and I'm hoping to better understand those organization's needs and convince them where video could help them out, but I realize that's not as strong as actually showing something concrete.

May 3, 2016 at 8:37AM

Sean Stiller
Filmmaker / MFA Documentary Student

Not a fan of spec work. For one, there is always the possibility that they'll pitch your concept to another production company. Secondly, if they like the spec video, they might assume that since you made it with no budget that they should be able to buy it (or a alightly more polished version) super-cheap. Sure, you still get paid, but it sets a bad precadent for any future work via that client or referrals.

Another reason is that I have frequently been asked how my previous work was used. Do you really want to point to a portfolio of rejected work to sell yourself.

As for how to pitch, you can sell yourself without actually selling anything. Email the PR manager (or similar role) at one of those organizations. If they already have some videos, ask if they have a particular marketing agency or production company they use. 'Briefly' say who you are, that you appreciate the work that they do, and explain that you're looking to become more involved in projects like theirs.

If they don't have any videos, again, email with a quick blurb about yourself and say that you have a personal interest in taking on more projects in their field, but first, you're really hoping to get an honest opinion about what kind of services organizations like theirs really need, don't need, special considerations, etc. If you get a conversation going, you either just put yourself on the list of candidates, and/or walk away with valuable information.

June 26, 2016 at 9:32PM


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