Summary from Blog #4 – The main Objective of Blog #4 was about packaging your perfect script into a marketing product that will appeal to potential investors.
Blog #5 is about telling the world that you have a great film project. Now, since it’s your calling card (short film) it’s unlikely it’ll make money – so you can’t tell potential investors that it’ll be financially rewarding. What you can tell them instead is that this calling card will open up doors to the world of filmmaking, which includes your intent to produce and direct the feature film version of that short film (if it applies to the project, of course) – in other words, this short film is your entry point in your filmmaking career.
As an independent filmmaker, you will most likely need to prepare two pitches (not counting friends, family, and relatives):
- A pitch for people and organizations in the biz
- A pitch for private equity investors – not in the biz
There are many books, websites, conferences, etc., promising to make you an expert “pitcher.” The reality is that it will depend on whether you, as a person, can generate a positive “likability factor” with the investors. In other words, the potential investors must like you – yes, it’s very subjective, but there’s some logic in this “likable” factor. For instance, the investors must feel the passion you have and, of course, they must believe somehow that you will provide a return on their investment. True, with a short film, it’s unlikely they’ll see their money back. (I write from experience – but those who invested in my short film are now on standby for my next feature film project’) Aside from these intangible elements, the rest of the world can provide you with multiple approaches to pitches.
Instead of paraphrasing what’s already out there (do a Google search and you’ll be faced with many choices on how to pitch a script/film project). I myself have not followed any specific techniques in pitching my film or media projects. However, I did attend one script pitch conference and one script coaching session a few years back. I did get a healthy number of requests for several of my scripts (52% pitching average). One led to the production of the short film version of Out Of Focus (www.outoffocusmovie.com).
For the remainder of this blog I’ll share with you what has been working for Three Horizons Productions so far.
Don’t pitch on your own (at least, for the “big” meetings)
As we all know, filmmaking is a collaborative process, and pitching is not any different. Don’t think you can do it all alone. Several brains are always better than one. With my core team, we complement each other very well and as such our pitch is very compelling.
For instance, as the writer/director, I will prepare the initial pitching ideas and sequence of events into one pitching document. Next, the core team will get together so we can share more ideas, challenge each other, and practice role-play. I will then update the pitching document with all the good ideas we generated as a team and then everyone will run with the document, customizing it to their own personality.
Below is the content of the pitch document for my current film project, The Kiss (I call it “Pitching Hints and Tips”):
PITCH SCENARIOS – Even though most of the content will be similar, you still need to identify the types of scenarios applicable to your situation, which will require you to customize your pitch.
For instance, for The Kiss, we have several scenarios:
- Cold calls to production/distribution companies
- Business acquaintances through networking events
- Follow-up calls/meeting with production/distribution companies we met at trade shows, conferences, etc.
- Introduction calls to cast and crew
- Cold calls to financial institutions, small business organizations, etc.
PITCH CHEAT-SHEET – This section is equivalent to a high-level executive summary and includes the following:
- Overview of your production company
- Casting strategy (in our case we have a Letter of Interest from an A-List talent)
- Core team/crew
- Script reviews
- Financial status of the project (e.g., seed money you may have, strategic business alliances you may have established with local production companies)
- Key marketing elements (core, secondary, and niche audience)
- Key financial stats (e.g., estimated negative cost; your own equity; weekly/daily run-rate; tax incentives available; break-even scenario; expected return on investment)
- Key production stats (e.g., start/end dates of the production; ETA for distribution)
- What other films compare to your projects (e.g., provide the financial and production data for each comparison you have identified)
THE STORY/SCRIPT ELEVATOR PITCH (this one’s solely up to you):
- What is the story about?
- What happens in the story?
SALES AIDS (e.g., you will need your funding documents available upon request; refer to Blog #4 for a list of these documents). Other sales aids we are currently using are listed below:
- Introduction Letters from our Executive Producer
- Templates for Email Introductions (various scenarios)
- Risks/Rewards/Strengths/Weaknesses Quadrant
- Marketing One-Sheet
- Awards and Accolades
- Production Budgets (various options/scenarios)
- Financial/Investment Waterfalls
- List of Talent Interested in the Project (including Letter of Interest)
- Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA)
- Facilitator’s Fee Agreement for a Third-Party Referral
- Internet Links (e.g., your production company website; links to your crew; imdb profile of the talent interested in the project; links to demo reels, etc.)
- Team Names/Contact Info (name, title, email address, phone number, Skype ID, etc.)
OTHER PITCHING Q&A (a sample of these Q&A are listed below; you may have lots more):
- Why are you pitching this project versus other projects? (e.g., less risky, not as many VFX)
- What else do you have? (they will always ask that question – regardless of how compelling your current pitch may be)
- Wouldn’t it be better to invest in big movies with the studios as opposed to investing in independent movies?
- Isn’t filmmaking a competitive market with little chance of returns?
- I only invest in what I can see, touch, feel
- Your production company hasn’t done any feature film yet, it seems risky to invest in your project
Don’t pitch until you are ready – really ready
This means that you must have done your research as discussed in Blog #4 (Package your Film Project). If you have your funding package, then you’re ready to synthesize the content into one pitch presentation.
Below is the content of the pitch deck for The Kiss currently being shopped around to a diverse group of investors. The deck is the synthesis of the Business Plan, Marketing/Distribution Plan, Crew and Cast Information, and Financial Statements.
- What can make this film successful?
- Script reviews and coverage
- Marketing elements
- Story elements
- How can this film be profitable?
- Business and creative goals
- Bios of core team members
- Potential cast
- Strengths and weaknesses
- Financial and investment scenarios
- Next steps
The deck includes graphics that illustrate the story, with charts and other graphs that visually support the marketing and financial details. We use the deck for formal presentations to investors. In addition, we play our demo reels and if requested, our short films and documentaries.
Now… go pitch, filmmaker!
Now, you are ready to pitch. Start pitching to those who are unlikely to invest in your project – great training ground for you. If you mess up, no big deal. Learn from your mistakes, take note of the investor’s concerns, negatives, etc., and update your pitch document. Now, go for a second round with another unlikely investor. When you feel you’re ready and you’re becoming a natural at pitching, move to the next level up: the production/distribution companies that are seriously looking for new script/film projects.
I know what you’re thinking. How in the heck do I find investors? Not easy, but not that difficult either. Here’s a list of our potential investment sources:
- Business acquaintances
- Production/distribution companies (great sources are : imdbpro, trade journals, and film markets)
- Seasoned crew members
- Equity investors through searches on the web and reading business journals (Go BIG Network may be a good starting point)
- Capital funding firms specializing in film/multi-media productions
If you can’t afford an on-line CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system, build a quick Access database or a simple Excel spreadsheet to keep track of all your contacts, action items, responses, etc. THP has just started to use www.salesforce.com, but this solution can become quickly expensive for a larger number of users. We’ve kept our current licensing to a small number of user licenses to keep costs as low as possible. We’re still looking for alternative CRM solutions that are open source and will allow all of us in the team to have a user account without the fairly high licensing cost of Salesforce.
Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up
Whatever the type of investors you have contacted, whatever their responses to your pitch, follow-up with an email, a postcard, a letter, whatever – but follow-up. Show your appreciation for their time and their valuable advice. Keep them on your networking list. Perhaps, your current project wasn’t right for them, but the next one might be – and these investors will always know other potential investors. As part of your pitch and follow-up always ask for a referral or an introduction to their business network.
Stay tuned for BLOG #6 (Assemble Your Team) to be released next week.
If you have missed the entire series about indie filmmaking, contact us and we will send it to you. Also if you are interested in receiving the templates described in the series, let us know and we will make sure you receive them.
Three Horizons Productions is a team of independent filmmakers who want to develop, acquire, and produce multi-media projects that showcase inspirational themes, compelling stories, and provocative characters to entertain or educate international audiences.