Industry Report: Jan Naszewski • Sales agent, New Europe Film Sales
Pitching: the secret to getting your film made
by Euromed Audiovisuel
- Isabelle Fauvel (Initiative Film), explains the concept of “pitching”, after her experience with the young Mediterranean professionals within the framework of the EU-funded Euromed Audiovisual Programme.
Euromed Audiovisual: You participated in Euro-Mediterranean training projects such as Aristote, Medimed, Medea and helped pass on the essentials of the art of pitching to young Mediterranean professionals within the framework of the EU-funded Euromed Audiovisual Programme. Could you explain where this term “pitching” comes from and what it means?
Isabelle Fauvel: It’s a term that comes to us from baseball. In the audiovisual industry, the concept basically involves presenting a project at any stage of development to possible partners.
Euromed Audiovisual: What is the aim of pitching?
Isabelle Fauvel: Pitching is about getting the idea, emotion and energy behind a film project across to potential partners (a scriptwriter can pitch to directors, an author to producers, to agents, to actors,…) up to financial backers with the aim of getting them on board as partners to help create the film or complete it. The aim is to attract interest in your project from programme directors, commissioning editors, distributors or possible co-producers. Generally, a film is pitched anywhere from when a synopsis is written to when shooting is completed.
Euromed Audiovisual: Have scriptwriters and producers always resorted to pitching?
Isabelle Fauvel: No. One of the first organised pitching events occurred in the early 90s at the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam. But when I started my career 23 years ago and nobody talked about pitching, we were always pitching without knowing we were doing it. In the end, we can feel relaxed about pitching if we think that we pitch even when we talk to a friend about a film he didn’t see.
Nowadays, you need to pitch from the very beginning stage of development of a project right till the end. That is why you have to be very aware of all the pitching rules established over the last 10-15 years at pitching forums around the world. You have to train. You have to be able to tell people in 5 minutes just what they need to know (and no more) for them to work out if they want to be involved. On stage, you have 15 minutes maximum. 5-7 minutes time for the project presentation and another 5-8 minutes for questions and answers. In real life you have more or less 3 to 5 minutes to hook somebody. The prospective co-financiers of a project generally hear several pitches during the forums. Given the short amount of time, you have to keep in mind the essentials of pitching. Don’t try to tell everything, it doesn’t work and you’ll never have the time anyway, find your angle and never read!
Euromed Audiovisual: What are the most important things that need to be in the pitch?
Isabelle Fauvel: Apart from the intent or motivation of the project, the profile of the production company and director, the budget, financial plan and the resources already obtained. You might have the best story but what actually counts is the way you act. You have to be yourself. Chemistry is sometimes more important than the film concept itself. If you are still writing you cannot make the same pitch as when you are already shooting or when you are in post-production. If you have a well-known actor or composer on board, you must mention them. Don’t wait for people to ask questions because often they don’t have the time. Try to put your best foot forward. Don’t try to tell the story in a linear fashion or you risk losing people’s attention. You need to have a certain distance from your project, that’s why it is good to train and pitch to somebody that is not involved in the project.
Euromed Audiovisual: What are the basic rules to keep in mind when pitching?
Isabelle Fauvel: Pitching is much more effective when you use paradoxes or when you talk about crisis situations. You can even mention just one scene if you think that the scene encapsulates the spirit of the project. Never give away all the elements. If the title is good try to use the title, it can be a hook for people to start listening. Then you can frame the story around the title.
Euromed Audiovisual: Do you think it’s difficult to pitch well?
Isabelle Fauvel: English is a better language for pitching because it’s more concise, full of concepts. Text which in English has 10 lines can have 20-25 in Arabic, French or Italian. For English-speakers it is easier as they have their own way of story telling, while we have to adapt our language to the short time available. But the cultural aspect also counts. Anglo-Saxons use less emotion and passion and body language, but have humour. Often what Mediterranean lack in conciseness we make up for in our passion and energy. Pitching is also about energy. You pitch with your voice, with your eyes, with your hands. Sometimes you have to stop a bit like the actors do, to create expectation. Standing and pitching is even better. People must remember you when you leave. As I said, it’s a question of energy. You have to keep the audience on the hook without being too focussed on telling the story.
Euromed Audiovisual: Do producer/director teams generally pitch together?
Isabelle Fauvel: Generally you pitch alone, but sometimes you can do it in a team. Pitching as a team is more difficult but more intriguing. You have to play on and share the communication of information. In general, the director is better at conveying the emotion, the motivation and content of the project, while the producer talks best about budgets, filming and the production schedule. Never make an off-the-cuff pitch, otherwise you run the risk to repeat yourself. But if you pitch alone, 70 % of your speech can be prepared and 30% can be extemporaneous.
As you could pitch at any time and anywhere, my advice would be to have your pitch ready as you have ready your passport when you travel. Learning how to pitch helps clarify your ideas and this will help in all sorts of situations: at breakfast, on a plane, at a party. You have to be prepared to pitch at anytime because you never know when an opportunity will present itself. Of course, pitching is just the beginning. It helps open doors. The real work comes afterwards with meetings, explanations, e-mails, phone calls, trips and …. Good luck!
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