Lifetime and the NYTVF have launched the third annual Lifetime Unscripted Development Pipeline providing indie producers and production companies with the opportunity to develop unscripted programming with the cable network. In its third year, the initiative shifts focus to casting, seeking tapes that highlight unique characters and stories set in a world that is new to the audience. As with previous iterations of the Unscripted Development Pipeline, 15 semi-finalists will have their submissions reviewed by Lifetime executives, as well as invited to participate in the 2014 New York Television Festival as Official Artists. Five finalists will then receive development funding from the network to produce additional tape, with one winner awarded $10,000 and the opportunity to participate in the production of a pilot presentation based on their concept.
IDFA Forum offers producers the opportunity to pitch their selected projects to leading professionals in the global documentary industry, including commissioning editors, funds, financiers and distributors. This year, in addition to the Central and Round Table pitches, they are introducing two new pitch categories to increase opportunities for producers and financiers alike. All pitch categories focus on introducing the projects to industry experts, shaping the path your project will follow as well as its potential for success.
Kick Start, an initiative offering practical and financial support to Welsh independent production companies aiming to secure international contracts and source opportunities for factual programming, has been launched by Rights TV, S4C Commercial, The Welsh Government and Creative Skillset Cymru. The focus of the Kick Start programme is to provide practical assistance to Welsh production companies in order to maximise their opportunities at major international markets, such as MIPCOM, MIPTV and RealScreen. The funds provided are intended to help production companies employ experienced development staff to drive the creation of a commercially valuable slate of international programming. In addition to monetary investment, successful applicants will be mentored throughout the process with legal advice from Rights TV and will be offered guidance from a US-based talent agent who will give confidential advice and guidance to the producers. (Photo CC BY Stuart Madden)
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 Truth About Over-The-Counter Medicine w/t (1 x 60′) – Britain spends an astonishing £2.3 billion on over the counter medicines every year to beat common ailments from headaches to colds to indigestion, but do we really understand how these products work? And are they worth the money? Using entertaining stunts and demos involving members of […]
Following on from Good Pitch... advice from observing what commissioners and buyers responded well to in public pitches at Krakow Film Festival's Dragon Forum 2014 and Sheffield Doc/Fest's Fast Track to Features 2014 here are some tips on what not to do in a pitch. Negative feedback can generally be put into one of two categories: that which relates to the idea for a film and that which relates to the physical delivery of the pitch and description of that idea. If you watch a lot of public pitches you may notice that those who get to pitch first are given constructive feedback preceded by some encouragement and positivity about some aspect of the project. Those filmmakers unlucky enough to be pitching last, at the end of the day, or both, may find that the decision makers are fatigued and therefore a little less diplomatic in their critiques. (Photo (C) TVMole)
If you are planning to pitch your documentary to funders you'll no doubt spend much time on displacement activities such as dusting and doing the washing up rather than knuckling down and actually preparing your pitch. Nobody likes pitching; it's an uncomfortable, exposing and potentially embarrassing experience - especially if you are unfortunate to be pitching your project at one of the big forums such as Hot Docs in Toronto or IDFA in Amsterdam. Never been to a forum before? Scroll down to see what that actually looks like (and weep). But if you are going to get your film financed you'll have to pitch it at some point, there's no getting out of it so you may as well get used to it. At IDFA 2013, Danish producer Sigrid Dyekjær came to the rescue with her inspiring pitching tips in a session called The Future of the Art of Pitching. Sigrid Dyekjær is the founder/co-owner of Danish Documentary Production and was due to pitch some of the projects she used as case studies at the IDFA Forum later in the festival. (Photo (C) TVMole)
Here's a list of some of the most memorable documentary films I saw, 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 you'll have to make up your own mind. Some films could easily be placed in a different category but I've put them in what seemed to be the most prominent storytelling style for that film. However, whether you agree with my selection or not, we can learn from the different narrative approaches chosen by the filmmakers you may find inspiration to help you develop and shape your own films. Having a clear idea of how you are going to tell the story will help you pitch your idea to potential funders (and ulimately the audience) more effectively, and also help you keep on track schedule- and budget-wise. (Photo: Jingle Bell Rocks! courtesy of IDFA)
IDFA in Amsterdam is always my chance to concentrate fully on watching films over anything else and typically watch around 25+ films over the course of several days. This focused immersion in documentaries is guaranteed to be thought-provoking and often throws up several interesting themes or trends; here's a round up of my top three favourite films from IDFA 2013 with an attempt to articulate what makes them successful. I've chosen these documentaries on the basis that of the 22 films I saw these were the ones I found most enjoyable and that have stayed with me, and I would definitely watch them all again. But beyond being enjoyable, what can we learn from these films that could help us when developing and pitching our own films? (Photo courtesy of Dogwoof)
Sophie Robinson is a London-based producer/director with a host of science TV credits such as Horizon, Meet the Ancestors and Your Life in Their Hands. She’s just embarked on her first feature-length documentary My Beautiful Broken Brain here she shares what she's learnt from launching her first crowdfunding campaign.
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)
Industry intelligence, how-to articles and international pitching and funding opportunities – everything you need to get your factual TV programme commissioned.