Industry Report: Produce - Co-Produce...
BLON looks into the necessity of pitching a good story package
Ole Wendorf-Østergaard, a producer at the Danish Film Institute, talked about how to sell a movie pitch in the most efficient way
Passion is good. But passion alone won’t sell good content. Ole Wendorf-Østergaard, who works as a producer at the Danish Film Institute, has seen both sides of the coin, applying for funding while working with directors such as Lars von Trier and being in the position of distributing it. As he told the audience at his workshop at the 2022 edition of the BLON Animation and Games Festival, to be successful in the pitching market, merely having a good idea is not enough. The purpose of the package is, amongst other things, to sell the idea of why the project should exist and why the intended investors should be part of it. It is not only about the career of the filmmaker, and his or her goals, but who is involved, how the project fits into the profile of the investor and what kind of success one can expect from it.
One such element, as Wendorf-Østergaard continues, is having a clearly defined audience and a unique selling point. The project can’t just be an idea; it has to be fully defined with goals and a market in mind. That means that any package should have a properly developed production schedule. “You should talk about the project as if you have already made it,” Wendorf-Østergaard elaborated.
The most important part of a package, however, is not the schedule, but the cover page. This first glance can already sell a project to the investor and entice him or her to have a closer look at it or discard it. Besides a planned film poster and a catchy title, it conveys whether there is already financing, ergo market approval. The fact sheet following the cover page should, however, not mention any monetary demands, as this could come off as “another filmmaker looking for money”. The early part of the package, according to Wendorf-Østergaard, should only include fact sheets, finance plans, and anything that shows that this is not an amateur film.
Wendorf-Østergaard also warns of repeatedly just summarising the plot in the synopsis, the producer’s and the director’s notes. “You make conversation here,” he reminded the audience. The director’s note should include why this project is important, why it can only be him or her directing, and why that matters. It should always be personal and show where the person is coming from. The producer’s note should be more technical, explaining how they are planning on making this movie. It should also sell the investor his or her part in the project, and why this is beneficial and important for his or her company to fund.
In his view, selling the film does not mean, however, selling it as “the best script ever”. Rather, it should establish where the project fits into the career of the filmmaker, and what it is the production is looking for. “You are not meant to have everything ready,” Wendorf-Østergaard further explained; “Rather, if you are a smart production, you know where you are and you know what you need.” Spreadsheets are a good way of mapping out the status quo and the next steps in terms of production, and a budget sheet and financing plan are also a must. This is where an estimate and an idea of how much financing would be needed can finally be included in the package. To round it off, the CVs of the people involved are also an essential inclusion. It's only if this whole package convinces the investor, according to Wendorf-Østergaard, that can one even consider having him or her read the actual script.
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