You’ve got a great idea for a short film, but how do you approach potential funders or backers? We’ll look at how to create a film pitch presentation, designed to impress.
Using a Template
Using a pre-made template can help when creating a pitch. It takes some of the hassle out of designing, meaning you don't have to start from scratch.
It's important that you use a template that you can adapt and modify to suit. The Clean PowerPoint Template by SteelSlides, on Graphic River, is a great example of something that is incredibly flexible. It comes with a number of themes and different slide types, so it's easy to include, say, your financial projections, all whilst maintaining the same visual style.
What is the Pitch For?
Asking what the pitch is for may seem like a silly question, but you won’t always be pitching for funds. You could be trying to recruit staff or crew, or you may be trying to convince a venue to host a screening … . There are many possibilities.
You’ll need to tailor your pitch to your end goal, but it can help to have one template that you just adjust each time, rather than starting over.
Who is the Pitch For?
You might think asking who the pitch is for is the same as asking what the pitch is for, but the questions provide different information. Considering who you will be approaching takes into account your use of language. If you’re asking for money from business owners, then they’re most likely going to want to see facts and figures with your pitch. They’ll want to know why it’s worth their while to invest in your project. This sort of pitch would need you to put aside your personal excitement about the idea and look at it dispassionately. Ask yourself tough questions and have comprehensive answers, backed up with solid research; you can bet you’ll be asked for the details when you want people to part with their cash.
If you are pitching for cast or crew rather than money, you’d probably want to get your contributors to emotionally buy into your film and get excited about it. In this instance, think about the characters in your film. Even a documentary will have a "character"—if not a person, then a town or a way of life, for example. A problem I’ve often encountered is that we expect everyone to be as taken with our ideas as we are, but remember, your audience is coming to the project cold. You need to kick-start that enthusiasm, light a fire under them, and get your audience as stoked up about your story as you are.
How Will You Pitch?
If you can, it’s always better to pitch in person. There’s really no substitute for being there to answer questions and put your personality across in the pitch.
Presenting in person is not always possible though, so structure your pitch for someone who is coming to your presentation without you there to explain each piece. Think about whether your presentation says everything you need it to. Does it give all the information required in a succinct way?
You might want to include a short summary slide at the end to reaffirm the points you’ve made through your presentation.
Who Are You?
It seems obvious, but it’s easy to get caught up in pitching your idea only to forget to include information about you. Opinions vary about where to put your information; many film makers suggest it’s your first slide. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong place, as long as you include all the relevant information.
Based on my personal experience, I like to include a small "about us" section at the end. Hit them with the (hopefully great) idea, explain how you’ll achieve it, and then show why you are the one qualified to do it. It’s wise to include your business name and logo, and some contact information, on each slide just in case a slide ends up separated from the whole.
Who is Your Intended Audience?
Considering your audience has overlap with some of the previous points but at this stage, think about the audience for your final, finished project. You’ll have worked this out while you were planning the project, but it needs to be clear in your pitch that you know who your audience is—who this will appeal to.
Know your demographic: Does it have national appeal or local? Is it suitable for kids? Is there a gap in the market for your project or is your market oversaturated? Even if the market is busy, your project is not necessarily a bad idea. But you'll need to be able to justify why not if asked.
We're talking about the financial kind of breakdown, not emotional. Have costs (even estimated costs) for everything. Saying you need a particular amount just isn’t enough. You’ll be expected to justify every cost and to have done your research when it comes to getting quotes. Some organisations (like local councils) require three different quotes for work.
Remember to include a timeline, and again, be realistic. Do you have a particular date you’re aiming for, and is there a reason for that? Your film release might be tying in to a local event or specific date. Tagging your film onto an existing event can have added value because there may already be a crowd of people, and therefore a potential audience.
Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Keep expectations realistic or they'll come back to bite you in the end. There will always be things that you wish you could do, or that you try your very best to do, but they just don’t fit into your schedule or budget for whatever reason. This is to be anticipated, but certainly shouldn’t be happening frequently.
If you’re creating a film pitch, I think it’s safe to assume you’re a creative, media-savvy person. Treat the creation of the visual elements of your pitch as seriously as you would the content.
You’re a master of the moving image, so add some video to show what you can do. Keep the clips short and relevant.
Keep your bullet points direct and talk around them. Later, the bullet points should serve as reminders of what your pitch contained, rather than reading like minutes of a meeting. Include images where appropriate to break up any text, and inject humour into your pitch if it’s appropriate to do so. People do business with people; if you’re likeable and easy to work with, you’ll be a more pleasing prospect to a potential backer.
The importance of being prepared cannot be overstated: do not rely on someone else’s technology or system. I recently did a talk where I needed to use a PowerPoint presentation and was told to bring it on a memory stick. I try to be prepared for any eventuality, so I also took along my laptop and an HDMI cable. When I got to the venue, I discovered that their version of PowerPoint didn’t support my newer presentation. A quick switch to my laptop for output and all was well. Without the backup, I’d have really struggled.
It’s nerve-wracking enough doing a presentation; worrying about the set-up is an added layer of complication you could do without. Bring a backup method of presenting (where possible) and you’ll cover all your bases.
Tell a Story
Telling a story is good advice for shaping the content, but I think it’s important to also tell that story visually. The story is not just about your plot or documentary subject; your whole presentation should have a narrative. Think about how you’ll get into your pitch: Will you introduce yourself or will you wow them with your film skills in the guise of a clip? How will you end? Tailing off and waiting for your audience to realise it’s over is a little awkward, so think in advance how you’ll get out of your pitch. Is there a call to action? Do you take your potential backers through the emotional wringer and leave them bereft at the end?
Give Every Page Equal Importance
No page or part of your presentation should be filler. Give each section due care and attention. If the information is redundant, scrap it or replace it with something else. Even your "about you" section should leap out and grab your listeners' attention.
Keep things simple but effective. It’s easy to go a bit crazy with effects, whizzes, and bangs; the whole thing can become a mess and fall flat. Use your talents subtly, enough to impress but not so much that you look as if you’re trying too hard!
Using a template is great for consistency. You can still inject some variety into each slide, but the running theme and elements will be complementary. Stick to the same fonts and styles throughout. Try and edit your footage or photographs consistently too; if you can stick to a similar colour and tone for everything, it’ll help pull your whole pitch together into a sustainable and interesting whole.
Good Luck, and Remember …
Don’t give up if you don’t get backing; it isn’t a failure. If you’re not successful, ask for feedback and use that to improve and hone your pitch for next time. Sometimes, it’s just not the right time and learning to take that on the chin is part of the whole process.
If you’re successful (congratulations!), follow up on your pitch and get that deal in writing with contracts as soon as possible. Keep in touch with key people to make sure their interest doesn’t wane, but balance your contact so as not to be a pest.
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