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 story – Make sure you have developed your idea properly before you attempt to pitch it. Too many people make the mistake of pitching an issue or the background research. Commissioners (and viewers) want to be enticed by great characters and a compelling narrative, so work out the Who, What, Where and Why of your idea. And importantly, why are YOU the best person to make this film?
2. Target your pitch – Whether you are pitching your idea to a production company or a TV channel, research them first. What kind of programmes are they known for? What have they recently made/transmitted? And who is the right person to pitch to at the company? Find out who the head of development is and send a professional but friendly email asking if you could talk to them about an idea and say why it might be of interest to them. It always helps if you can find a personal connection and get someone to make the introduction.
3. Shoot some tape – It’s increasingly difficult to stand out if you don’t have something visual to show. It proves you have great characters, good access and can point the camera in the right direction. It doesn’t have to be flashy in the first instance, just good enough to persuade someone to give you some development money or resources to shoot something more professional.
4. Network – Commissioners commission people not ideas. You have a much better chance of getting a commission from someone who knows you, so build your relationships. Attending industry panels and networking events is a great way to get to know the commissioners in an informal setting. Even if you don’t actually get to speak to them, by having seen them speak you will be able to get the measure of them before meeting them in a pitch situation, and you might also pick up some useful intelligence that you can use to strengthen your offer.
5. Persevere – The pitching process can be long and frustrating; some programmes languish in development hell for years before they make it to the screen. If you are truly passionate about an idea keep at it, and persistence might just pay off. If not, at least you will have built relationships with commissioners and other people who might be able to help you get your next idea off the ground.
Get more pitching tips in Greenlit: Developing Factual Reality TV Ideas From Concept to Pitch by Nicola Lees