History and the New York Television Festival are teaming up to search for program pitches featuring "charismatic male characters living in surprising worlds or with fresh points of view". Producers of fifteen shortlisted projects will pitch to History channel development executives. Five finalist will win $2,500 development money to shoot sizzle reels. The final winning project will get $10,000 and the chance to take part in the production of a pilot episode if History decides to further progress the project. This competition is FREE to enter. (Photo (C) TVMole)
So You Think You Can Pitch? is a popular competitive live pitch at Realscreen Summit in Washington DC (26-29th January 2014). Registered delegates can enter via the electronic entry form with a synopsis and clips. Prizes include a pass to the Realscreen Summit in 2015. Previous winners incluede Lunchbox Communications’ boxing docuseries The Stable. […]
Whether you are working for a global ‘super-indie’ production company or are an independent filmmaker with a passion project there are some simple proposal writing principles that will increase your chances of attracting channel executives and investors. These principles are the same wherever you are in the world, and whichever TV commissioner, funder or buyer […]
The Making of Mandela (1 x 60′) – Documentary celebrating the remarkable life of the legendary South African leader Nelson Mandela, a symbol of hope and peace not only to his own country but to the world. Narrated by actor David Harewood (Homeland), the film provides a true representation of Mandela’s personal story and the […]
The World Congress of Science and Factual Producers (WCSFP) is the go-to festival for TV producers working on the more serious side of factual programming (if reality TV or factual entertainment are more your thing try Realscreen in Washington DC or try WestDoc in Los Angeles, or Sheffield Doc/Fest for documentary and factual TV). WCSFP is a roving conference that is being held in Vancouver for the 2013 Edition. London-based TV producer Amelia Vale went to the congress for the first time in 2012 and here shares her tips for anyone thinking of attending this year.
Attending a big documentary festival, such as IDFA in Amsterdam, is something you should do at least once, and attending the major documentary market is essential if you have a film you are trying to fund. But it can be an intimidating experience if you are a festival virgin, and all the more so if you are going alone. But sometimes going alone means you are open to serendipitous meetings, able to change your schedule without consulting with your travelling companions and see all the films you want to see without having to resort to trade-offs and compromise. Still, it helps to have a plan before you go so you can take full advantage of the festival , so here are some tips to get you started: (Photo by TVMole)
Commissioning editors can receive up to 80 programme proposals a week; few will be read from start to finish. Many commissioners never read past the first paragraph, or even the title. On average, they make a decision within 40 seconds. Usually that decision results in the proposal being filed in the bin. So how can you make sure a commissioner keeps reading to the end of your proposal? Here are ten ways to make your proposal stand out and keep your commissioner reading to the end. (Plus get 10% off an exciting new course)
At IDFA in 2012, I spent five (glorious but sometimes bruising) days watching documentaries. Some of those films were great but many weren't. Here's what I wish documentary filmmakers were taught in film school:
Often when developing a film, it's easy enough to come up with an idea or a subject for a documentary. What's harder is to work out how best tell the story. What can be helpful, and should be part of your development process, is to look at other films to see what narrative techniques they used and to what effect. Choosing an approach early in your development process will help you to structure your idea, plan your schedule and budget more accurately and, ultimately, it will mean that you are better able to describe your film (i.e. pitch it) to potential funders. Here's the full menu of films I watched at IDFA 2012, roughly divided into narrative style; the films grouped at the top of the list I generally found most enjoyable and satisfying and within each group of similar films I've listed in order of preference from best to worst (my favourites are in bold). Of course this is highly subjective and some of the films I disliked intensely have won awards, so watch to make up your own mind. (Photo: Charles Bradley: Soul of America courtesy of IDFA)
Natalia Quintana, a NYC-based self-shooting producer with reality TV credits such as Hardcore Pawn, Say Yes to the Dress and What Not to Wear. She's just embarked on her first feature-length documentary Comics Are Everywhere! Here she shares her experience of launching a crowdfunding campaign and shares her tips for anyone considering embarking on the same journey.
Many new filmmakers worry that partnering with a production company will mean that they will lose control of their project, or even have their idea stolen. So what's the reality? What happens to an idea before it's officially greenlit, and what are the best ways of avoiding the pitfalls? This thorny issue was tackled during a panel at Sheffield Doc/Fest 2013.
There's something slightly discomfiting about people who think the only way to help is by pointing a camera at someone worse off than themselves; especially if they insist on feeling righteously aggrieved at being 'forced' into being an impoverished artist in order to save the world. Besides which, although there is a growing awareness from NGOs about the possibilities of using documentary films to raise the public profile of their issues, broadcasters (who have more money for funding) are pushing back, reluctant to fund films that push a particular agenda. Nick Fraser of BBC's Storyville documentary strand and Mette Hoffmann Meyer, Head of Documentaries and Co-productions at DR TV, Denmark are particularly outspoken about this, as you can see in this video from Sheffield Doc/Fest 2012. (Photo by HowardLake CC BY SA 2.0)
At Sheffield Doc/Fest 2013, a panel (produced by Sharron Ward of Katalyst Productions) discussed the thorny issue of what to do when you've got a great idea for a documentary, but don't have the channel contacts to get it commissioned. Jes Wilkins, Head of Programmes at London-based Firecracker Films presented a case study that proves that it can be possible to secure a commission without a track record, but underlines the fact that there are no short cuts.
One of the more interesting funding stories heard at the festival came from Andi Hector-Watkins who has managed to fund her documentary through a variety of non-traditional sources. Andi, a London-based ethnomusicologist and filmmaker, shares an office at Chichester University with cellist Laura Ritche who was taught by the world-renown Hans Jørgen Jensen, a professor of cello at Northwestern University, Illinois. On discovering that Hans Jensen is not only hugely influential, but is also a great character with a compelling back-story, Andi decided to make a film about him. At this point, Andi might have struggled to raise money for her film due to the niche subject matter (classical music), the lack of arts slots in the TV schedules, and the film's length, which is currently planned to be a 30' single (slots for one-off 60-min documentaries are rare; slots for one-off 30-min are nonexistent). Despite this - or more likely, because of this - Andi has been able to find funding in some unlikely places.
Everybody – well, everybody who went to film school / did media studies at university / fancies themselves as a filmmaker – has a TV or documentary idea that they want to pitch. Nay, MUST pitch, otherwise their life won’t be complete. I once attended a screenwriting class. I wrote a rom-com; the tutor likened […]
Seduced and Abandoned was one of the documentary films shown at Cannes Film Festival 2013, a year noted for its jewel heists as much as its films. Documentaries have been only recently acknowledged at Cannes; the dedicated Doc Corner was only introduced in 2012. A year later, documentaries make up around 10% of the films […]
“I thought it was going to be a documentary, but it was great!” (Cannes Film Festival audience member after screening of Seduced and Abandoned) Seduced and Abandoned is a documentary by writer/director James Toback and actor Alec Baldwin that explores the world of film financing; the film also doubles, in the words of Baldwin, as […]
It is generally accepted that the industry-wide pitch to commission rate is ten to one, and for some people even that’s optimistic. Here are some of the tried-and-tested tricks that will help you get your idea gets commissioned. (Photo by Hub☺ CC BY SA 2.0)
"The more idealistic you are about your work the more cunning and savvy you have to be about the business side" of it says, Ira Glass, presenter of NPR's This American Life. In this lecture to journalism students he describes what makes good journalism, and how to tell important stories in a way that does them justice. Some of his other observations include: Don't wait for permission to make the work you want to make... just start Be super-ambitious - keep trying things until luck kicks in and you find your story Amuse yourself - it's not enough just to be idealistic, you have to love your work if it's going to move the audience and ultimately make a difference to the world. Provoke a reaction - and humour is a good reaction. It should be your goal to make memorable work - people remember things that make them smile (Photo by JD Hancock CC BY 2.0)
The world seems to be split into two: Twitter Evangelists and Twitter Rejecters. Although I think it might be fairer to say that the world isn’t so much divided, as at the two ends of a continuum. Most people start as a Rejecter, but given the time and opportunity, will become an Evangelist and will […]
When you pitch a TV show you have to be able to describe it so that potential funders know what you are talking about. One way of doing that is to use short-hand words, such as format, reality competition show, or more recently occu-reality (shows based in the work place) and comedy-reality (real characters in real situations, cut for humour). One of the most contested genres is documentary with purists insisting that it is one thing (pure observation with no intervention from the director, perhaps) to others playing more fast and loose with the term, happy to include biopics, essay-films and character-driven narratives. Here, Asif Kapadia, director of Senna, one of 2011's best documentaries, explains why he doesn't consider it to be a documentary (and why I think it might be a super-hybrid-documentary).
All filmmakers have ideas. All filmmakers want to see those ideas realized. But not all filmmakers will do what it takes. Why not? Fear. A quite rational fear, as it happens, but fear nonetheless. Here are some of the objections you might be using to comfort yourself as to why no-one will help you make your idea and so what's the point in trying? I've added some suggestions of how to overcome these stumbling blocks whether they are practical or psychological. Add your own tips in the comments or via @tvmole on Twitter. (Photo by dryhead CC BY 2.0)
If you are gearing up for doing business at MIPDoc, MIPTV, orHotDocs in April, Cannes Film Festival in May, or Sheffield DocFest in June, you’ll want to make sure your project is in the best possible shape to attract potential buyers, funders or production partners, so here are some top development tips: 1. Develop your […]
It's tempting to believe that getting your idea commissioned begins and ends with a good idea. YOUR idea. But sadly, that's not true. What gets your idea commissioned is a relationship. More specifically a relationship with a commissioner. Even more than that, a relationship with the RIGHT of commissioner, that is the one with whom you have good chemistry. So what if you aren't fortunate enough to have fostered the right relationships? The best way might be to move house and get your kids into the same school as the target of your desires and nobble them at sports day. Failing that, there are some things you can do to make yourself more attractive to a commissioner during that all-important first meeting/reunion (should you be lucky enough to engineer one). (Photo by PV KS CC BY 2.0)
Industry intelligence, how-to articles and international pitching and funding opportunities – everything you need to get your factual TV programme commissioned.