Thursday, August 31, 2006

Pitching Tips from AIVF

A circus hippo and its trainer from the Great Rayman Circus of India. I bet they know a thing or two about pitching.

Next Tuesday we have to pitch our project ideas for films...I found this helpful.

Pitching Your Best Foot Forward (more here)

The Pitch

Most AIVF (Association of Independent Video and Film) producers who pitch have a strong hook, and their pitches prove their research is very thorough. However, describing actual style and approach proves more difficult for most producers. A good pitch clearly demonstrates your vision of how your story will evolve in real time. It also states why your project is best suited for film/video as opposed to a photo essay or printed article.

Be clear about:
  • the story. stick to WHAT HAPPENS, where the story goes. Get to the conflict, the drama. Basically, the funders want to hear what they’re going to see for the duration of your film.
  • the style: verite, narrated, talking-head, etc.
  • the audience. Specify if the program is targeted to a specific audience or age; age group is very important, particularly if you’re targeting children.
  • the genre your program might fall into: i.e. educational, entertainment, scientific, etc.

Your initial pitch should:

  • Be limited to a couple of sentences. A pitch sums up what the project is about.
  • Tell the story first; detail characters, side stories, and issues last. Start your pitch off with its relevance to viewers, then progress with the story: i.e. "Eating disorders affect X amount of women over 40. MY PROJECT tells the story of a group of women who ban together to overthrow the diet industry."
  • Include the program’s structure. For example, character description is significant, but how do you see the characters and story fitting into a structure? How will it be formatted, envisioned?
  • Demonstrate you have command of the subject. Be clear on what the question is that you are trying to answer with your film. Know what answering this question will do for the audience and why it is important to them. Theorizing about the story and the film is fine, but it doesn’t convey what the audience will see on TV.
  • Talk about how you will handle and present all of the elements. Mention the style or approach you will take with the material (i.e. point of view, amount of narration, etc.) and don’t neglect technical aspects: what holds it together? interviews? archival footage? is there a narrator? host? is it shot in the studio?
    --Be clear about what footage you have besides interviews. How are you going to tell the story? If it includes archival footage or specific music, state where you are with rights clearances.
    --If there is a long, complicated back-story included in your pitch that is not the meat of the film’s story, tell how you will relay this background information in the film.
  • Include your credentials. The funders should be told who you are and have an idea of the experience you bring to the table.
  • Start with the specifics of the story. Beware of communicating high levels of abstraction. What is the story? Why does your story matter to us, and why does it speak to us all? Why should people want to see your film?
  • State your point of view. How are you connected to the story and why is it important to you? Convey what you per se (your experience, your relationship to the material) will bring to it. This should also prove to the channel that you are going to bring a unique perspective that no one else could.
  • Have a good lead-in: tying the project into a current event or issue that society is talking about. Tell why it’s relevant that you do this project NOW and why it’s especially of interest to audiences.
  • Specify if your film is about a current event or if it’s social commentary. The immediacy of the issue is important, as a network may not be able to schedule the film two years from now.
Most importantly, you should be able to distinguish why your project is different from existing shows. You should acknowledge any similar programs out there (now or in the recent past) and how your approach and form is different. Plus, comparing your project to something already out there helps the rep being pitched to picture it in their mind, and place your project within the context of current programming.

Decidedly, your pitch should tell the network why they should spend their money on you and your film.

Lastly, remember to stay focused. Don’t bring up your other project(s) unless it comes up in the conversation.

A Film By Jinty & Kat - Up Close And Dangerous

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Pitching Hell

Kiaora, You. In 6 days we will have a massive pitching session, proposing ideas for our thesis films. Each of my eleven (11) distinguished colleagues will throw out their latest and greatest idea for consideration. I'll add mine to the fray. We then have to deliberate and choose only six (6) ideas to make this year. Which means we will pair up on the six stories that are most compelling. Not everybody's idea will be realised. Pretty scary stuff when you think you might have to kill your darlings, as they say.

I like this filmmaker's journey through pitching hell. It gave me inspiration:

Here are a couple of pics Alastair took of me, one shooting a seal at Victory Beach and the other with Elton Smith at Orokonui Sanctuary. Thanks, A!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Happy Birthday Bassie!

Happy Birthday Ramzy!

Happy Anniversary Mum and Dad!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Flea and Kat's film debut, by Julia Kelbling

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Complain, Complain, Complain

Grrrr, You. Apparently last year’s students felt the course was not challenging enough. So this year all the instructors have gone into Kill-The-Emerging-Filmmakers-With-Two-Tons-Of-Assignments-Overdrive. Tomorrow we are filming snails in elaborate sets we are designing on a dime. Friday we have a massive research paper due. A week from now we are pitching our thesis films in front of a critical audience. Ideas anyone? We have a feature article due in there somewhere, I can’t even keep track of which day.
All my friends and family back home are like, hey, have you been skiing? Toured wine country? No. Word to the wise, if you plan to come on this course from overseas in order to travel around the country, book a separate trip. Time is the most precious commodity you have, and it evaporates faster than a tear can dry. Please note, I am the only one complaining. That is because my distinguished colleagues are cut from superior cloth. They are a pack of over-achievers who laugh in the face of adversity. I endeavor to steal a page from their book and get on with it. But I really just had to vent. That’s it, that’s all.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Brown Paper Packages Tied Up With String

Bonjour, You. I received my favourite thing today – a fat care package in the mail! What a treat! Thanks to my godparents Lyne & Jake The Snake and Mum & Dad! I just fell into all the things I miss so much from home – labeling tape, face cream, er… more girl stuff. Awww, Mum - Flea was very pleased with her toy. She carries it around in her mouth all the time and nudges me in the leg, as if to say, “pull, pull, NOW!” We love the sheets. So soft. Although Flea does not like me pretending to be a ghost. Woo-hoo for the people we adore overseas! Merci mille fois, je vous aiment et vous me manquez beaucoup. Bisous.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Dress Rehearsal And The Real Deal

Hello there, You. The last two days have been exhausting but enlightening. Under the watchful eye of cinematographer Paul Donovan, we’ve been learning all about filming wildlife. Thursday was a dress rehearsal in class, with Peter Rabbit graciously loaned by Denise from The Pet Warehouse. Friday was a field trip to Victory beach. Poor Katie had conjunctivitis, so she couldn't come, but the rest of the crew was there. We hoped to see Hookers Sea Lions and Yellow-Eyed Penguins. Aside from an old bull sunning himself in the grass, I was disappointing to see so few sea lions. Getting up at the butt-crack of dawn and slogging through miles of sand for a big view of a cold, empty ocean is a bit frustrating. Hard to make a sequence, let alone a story, out of nothing. But this is the nature of wildlife filmmaking, Paul says, you never know what you are going to get. Patience is a virtue. Then we did see something very rare: a fearsome Leopard Seal. Their territory is usually Antarctic waters, but occasionally they have been spotted around the South Island. This one seemed to be a sick juvenile, gauging by its size, lethargy and the bites on its back. It was being annoyed by a thick cloud of flies, and had viscous slime pouring out of both nostrils. Once in a while it would crack open a whiskery muzzle to bare sharp teeth. Jinty, my classmate from Moeraki, said she knew someone who had lost a leg to one of these monsters. I left a voice mail for Jim Fyfe, Programme Manager of the Coastal Otago Area Office, over at DoC to let him know the animal was there. He’d had a report of a Leopard Seal the previous week, and I wondered if it was the same one. Maybe I’ll find out next time I visit DoC.
Observation pays dividends in wildlife filmmaking. Alastair noticed a well-worn penguin path and suggested we build our hide strategically facing it. Of course, he ended up with the National Geographic shots. The penguins basically parked in front of him and preened for about nine hundred hours. Talk about making your own luck! There are great benefits of being under the tutelage of someone with as much experience as Paul. He constantly gives you tips on how to accomplish the best images while putting the welfare of your animal first. For example, he made sure we got our hides built well before the Yellow-Eyed Penguins made their way from the surf to their sleeping grounds in the knotty grass. He also made us wait until after dark, when the penguins would be settled in, before packing up and leaving. Hopefully, by respecting Paul’s golden rules, the penguins won’t remember us, we’ll have great images in the can, and our footprints will be washed away by the next tide.

Photo Essay - Dress Rehearsal And The Real Deal

This photo essay covers two days, from shooting a bunny in studio to filming wildlife on Victory Beach. Many photo contributions are from Alastair Jamieson and Jinty . Thanks guys!

Sarah and Julia relax the star.

Mark creates the perfect close up.

Reviewing our material with our instructor, Director Of Photography Paul Donovan.

Off shooting we will go, a shooting we will go...

Can you spot the sea lion?

Pip tests out her hide.

Dwayne warms up with a well-deserved cocktail, I mean, coffee.

I spent a lot of time behind binoculars (a gift from Catherine and Bill, thanks!)

Bojun and Louise suggest a plan to move location.

Filmmakers on the move, heavy packs and all.

Filmmakers take stock of a dangerous Leopard Seal.

Fearlessly, Jinty risks life and limb to get the perfect shot.

Sarah moves in gingerly towards the dangerous killer.

Alastair abandons all security, laying himself out as a leopard seal snack.

Nick coaxes an Oyster Catcher into shot.

Nick sprints back to get his shot. Maybe he needs an assistant!

Louise, the hardest working girl in show business, laughs despite the lack of sleep and cold.

Can you spot our hide?

Our hide!

Bojun eagerly anticipates Yellow Eyed Penguins while Paul offers shotmaking advice.

Jinty in full concentration...

I am freezing, but refuse to abandon my post, in the spirit of true guerilla filmmaking tradition.

It's getting dark. Sarah and Paul are hungry...are the penguins asleep yet? Can we go home?

Can you spot Sarah? She just took the last shot.