It is common in the world of film to be asked to “pitch” a film in order to garner various kinds of support. As a professor at College of the Atlantic, I try to help students gain these skills. Whether it is an off–the-cuff “elevator speech,” a pitch in front of a panel, in a classroom, across the table to one or two people, videotaped for crowd funding, or a written proposal, the elements of a pitch remain the same.

The Documentary Video Studio class at the Camden International Film Festival's (CIFF's) Points North Pitch sessions.The Documentary Video Studio class at the Camden International Film Festival's (CIFF's) Points North Pitch sessions.

The Documentary Video Studio class attended the Camden International Film Festival’s (CIFF) Points North Pitch sessions, an invaluable chance to learn about the process of developing a documentary film and see first-hand how leading decision-makers evaluate projects. Six teams of filmmakers selected for CIFF’s Points North Fellowship pitched their works-in-progress to a distinguished panel of funders, broadcasters, distributors and producers. Each pitch lasted exactly 7 minutes, followed by 10 minutes of critical feedback.

From this we learned some basic elements that might be included in a pitch. Students were able to practice these skills by pitching their proposals for their final projects in the Documentary course.

In the Intermediate Video Studio course students are pitching to musician (and physician) Todd Kitchens ’06 and his band Port of Est. The goal: a music video for Port of Est’s “Valentine in My Headphones.” The class is using this opportunity to hone their skills in pitching, collaboration and team production.  Since Todd is not close by, we videotaped the pitches and uploaded them for his feedback.  From this we were able to shape the project ideas further to suit the needs of our “client”. 

Liam Torrey pitches and outlines his final project with a concept diagram.Liam Torrey pitches and outlines his final project with a concept diagram.

Here are some questions to consider in a pitch, each of these may be more or less important depending on the specific purpose or audience for your pitch:

What led me to this project and/or why am I especially suited to create it?

Why is this project important and why now?

What is my background that has prepared me with the experience and skills to succeed with this project?

What is the film about or story logline? This is preferably described in one or two sentences. 

What are the tensions in your story or for the character? 

What are the themes of the story/ what is the heart of the story/what is the emotion of the story?

What is the end point of the story?

What problems, issues, conflicts, or questions does your film address?

How is the story told? Sometimes genre and/or “comparables” are used to answer this question—it’s a neo-noir or it’s Grey Gardens meets Bride of Frankenstein.

How does your character(s) create empathy with the audience?

Animation stills from The Strange Eyes of Dr. Myes, featuring Michole Briana White; animated by faculty member Nancy Andrews and SL Benz (Lauren Benzaquen ’14).Animation stills from The Strange Eyes of Dr. Myes, featuring Michole Briana White; animated by faculty member Nancy Andrews and SL Benz (Lauren Benzaquen ’14).

This past November I spent a week in New York at the Independent Film Project’s  (IFP’s) headquarters in Brooklyn. Here my project,“The Strange Eyes of Dr. Myes,” was among ten projects chosen for support from IFP’s Screen Forward Labs in series development.  One of the culminating events was a chance for each project to practice a 2-minute pitch to a panel of  industry experts. For me, continually engaging in my own professional work keeps me current and able to bring real-world experience to my students at College of the Atlantic.