The documentary pitch, which is a short persuasive speech, is often presented to potential funders to describe the film project and convince them that the film is worthy of sponsorship. In this video, we explore the main components of a pitch, including the description, summary, objectives and general production logistics.
- Once you've decided on a documentary topic it's time to being to really plan it in terms of it's content and structure and to start explaining the film to others. There are several tools that can really help us out with this; the pitch and the proposal. First, the pitch. Now, the pitch, which is a short, persuasive speech is often presented to potential funders to describe the film project and convince them that the film is worthy of sponsorship. And even if fundraising via a pitch wasn't a large part of your initial filmmaking plans, I want to say that you may want to consider it.
There are hundreds of thousands of dollars available in grants for these types of film projects. And if you become skilled at selling your idea, you can take advantage of this. You can also tweak many of the tips that we talk about here for other types of fundraising platforms like crowdfunding campaigns. Whatever your approach, finding a way to package your film as a saleable product is often an important way to get the ball rolling. For the Project RELO film, I won't officially be presenting a pitch for funding since that's not the direction we're going, but I will develop the pitch anyway so that you can see it in action.
Now, before developing the pitch, it's good to research the potential funders that you're pitching to in terms of audience, goals, and background. Find out what types of films they've previously funded. Assess what you can to do to tailor your pitch to make it the most attractive for the pitch audience. The documentary pitch doesn't have an absolute formula but there are some basic elements that many contain. And because the primary goal is to sell the film, you need to really boil down the clearest and strongest elements.
So, first of all, there's the description. Try to describe the heart of what the documentary is about in vivid, colorful language. This should intrigue your audience so they want to learn more. So, it's got to be punchy and gripping right off the bat. Good pitches also talk about character. Everyone is interested in people and it's important to really show who you're film is about. Bring these characters to life in the pitch. After the attention grabbing description, you can provide a summary of the film's main concepts and creative goals.
Include a general overview of the story, style, structure. Don't get too bogged down in the details but you can provide some fundamentals. You'll also want to relay the main objective of the film. Outline what you want the viewer to do or think after watching the film. The description, creative treatment, and goal are the main components for the pitch. But you may also want to provide some details about the access that you have to the subjects, locations, and other materials of the film as well as who you intend to interview, what research you need to conduct, and why you are the right person to make this documentary.
In order to help sell yourself, you may want to show a short one minute reel of your past documentary work. Once you've answered all of these questions and maybe more it's time to refine. Try to summarize your ideas into a roughly one page written pitch. You'll eventually flush out your written pitch into an oral presentation which may also include visuals like charts, graphs, photos, video, props, and so on. When you're finished writing your pitch, have a friend of colleague read it over.
Then, ask them to repeat the basic gist of the film back to you. This can be very educational in terms of how the pitch matches up against your idea for the film. If there are areas that are muddy or disconnected try to figure out how you can make your pitch clearer before developing it for oral delivery. Now, above all, the oral delivery should be polished and crafted to fit your audience. It should be dynamic, punchy, and inspire intrigue. And it's short. For a 20 to 25 minute documentary, like the Project RELO film, we'll need to accomplish everything in under five minutes.
Many times pitches are delivered after some production has occurred. So, if you're able to include a teaser or trailer. Now at this stage of the process we haven't yet started production. But because the pitch can be delivered at many phases of the filmmaking process, I recommend refining it once you've done some shooting and can put together a compelling trailer. Showing actual work from the film does go a long way in convincing investors that you are going to make a successful film. The pitch is a great way to really summarize your film in a concise, punchy, informative, and persuasive manner.
And once you've written it out, practiced it, gathered feedback and refined it, it's time to deliver it orally, which we'll look at next.
- Developing a documentary idea
- Pitching an idea
- Writing a documentary proposal
- Planning and executing the research
- Conducting research and pre-interviews
- Developing pre-production materials
- Gathering non-production assets