Afrika Eye: Pitching Q & A

During my involvement with Afrika Eye Film Festival at the Watershed I was able to attend a workshop session where several industry professionals went over the art of pitching and provided feedback to people’s ideas. I chose not to pitch an idea myself as it’s not my script I am producing, however I felt it was a good opportunity to take note of what is going on in Bristol and tips to pick up on prior to pitching on December 4th. The expert panel consisted of producer Simon Bright ands directors Ingrid Sinclair, Kahlo Matabane and Scotnes Smith.

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                            [ Image Source: http://www.afrikaeye.org.uk ]

A trailer definitely speaks louder than a standalone pitch, especially if it can clearly and concisely demonstrate your idea. Kahol Matabane spoke about how he pitched his idea for a Nelson Mandela documentary and it was ignored for months, however as soon as he went out and shot a trailer then went to pitch again companies that weren’t interested suddenly wanted to get on board. As it was the day he sent out the trailer the BBC got in contact and picked up the idea later that evening.

When pitching you need to start with an interesting story, instantly grab your audience in the first 20 seconds. Starting with “This is my idea for a documentary…” won’t grab attention, you want to paint a picture and establish the scene in an exciting manner. However at the same time don’t draw away from what you are pitching, the idea of an ‘elevator pitch’ is still very much important. Scotnes Smith said about how he persuaded a commissioner to let him sit in a taxi with him to an airport so he could quickly pitch his film idea, as a result at the end of the journey the commissioner agreed to get involved in the project.

Bring into the equation why the subject is important to you, prove why you are the best at telling the story and express your passion. If you are detached from the subject then they could argue someone better suited for the project should be chosen instead. Finally leave your pitch with a suggestion that others are interested, therefore adding a sense of pressure and urgency for the commissioner to get in contact before others do.

In short here the key points I took away from the session:

  • Be direct/concise
  • Clarity of idea
  • Know what you want (i.e. six 30 minute programs)
  • Outline your audience
  • Why is the subject close to your hear/passion
  • Trailer speaks louder (if possible)
  • Have an elevator pitch
  • Leave suggesting other interest
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