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Communicating Project Info in Your Professional Pitch

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 5/18/2011

Production companies and distributors want to invest in well put together projects, so you should be able to adequately communicate to them what is special and important about yours.

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    The Topic

    You want to have the film/documentary topic, working title, and three sentence description. The topic of your project should be able to be stated in one sentence, and only describe what the events in the film are. It does not deal with the sub-points or details that the film encompasses. The working title is not one you have to stick with, but again, it is meant to be something that the executives reading it will remember. The three sentence description is the most important part of this page because it will show them that you have a clear understanding of your topic and how your film will be produced. It is said that “if you can’t tell the story in three sentences you can’t tell the story,” and executives often follow this guideline. Give all the major plot points with some context, but do not go in depth into any of the characters or their motivations.

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    Production Positions

    The last thing you need to do on this opening page is to list all the production positions and who they are. This is where you label every person on the project with exactly what position they have. If you have a small crew many people may be doing the same thing, which is fine, but you need to have it properly labeled for the company.

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    Specifics

    Many people who produce company books want to reiterate the company name and goals on every page, but this is unnecessary. The second page should include primary production aspects for the project. If it is a fictional narrative project that you are trying to put together this would include things like potential actors and field location. As a home digital video producer it is much more likely that you would be pitching a non-fiction documentary project, which has much more specific information that should be included. You should have two or three characters that you would like to focus on in the story. They should be central to the arc of your documentary project and have depth that will highlight the main themes and issues in your film. It would be best to lay down some attributes they exert, but do not go into too much detail.

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    Research

    The next thing you would need for the second page is to have two contacts for interviews, research, or other footage. These should be contacts that have already been made before the company book was put together so that you can prove that the project is essentially already under way. You should clearly label their name, occupation or qualifying title, contact information, and any rules or restrictions that they have identified for you. These contacts should include a few secondary research sources like internet sites or periodicals. Documentary projects require extensive research and it will prove your preparation to the executives you are meeting with. Give as much detail as possible about the items you are using for this research so that those you are pitching to can check those sources themselves. Some home producers also like to list a few research resources that they have scouted out, such as historical societies or libraries.

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    Take Away's

    The last thing you should include on this final page are the “take away's,” which are the emotional or intellectual responses you would like the audience to walk away with. Make these clear, whether it is to know more about the topic or to sympathize and identify with the characters. This is the primary part of the pitch so far because it will tell the producers you are speaking to exactly what is important about your project.

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    Tech Info

    The following section of the company book should be packed full of technical and production information. You need to include the intended running time, which should be decided to reflect what kind of slot or distribution the organization you are pitching to intends to use. Total running time must be congruent to their expectations; otherwise they will usually eliminate your project as a possibility immediately. This needs to be paired with the intended air date, which will give them a good idea of what to expect and set your production schedule in stone. The format of the film, which will be digital video, must also be declared on this page. Make sure to include the organization you are preparing for as the client, and this will make it appear as though this company is first on your list. You may also want to include film format type and any aesthetic information that is going to be pertinent to the look of the film and the type of video equipment it will require.

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    Genre

    Many producers like to include the genre of the documentary or narrative film they are shooting on this page. This should not be too specific, but it can often give the producers a quick guide to how you are approaching the project. If you are producing a documentary this can include genre descriptions such as Historical Documentaries or Contemporary Actuality Documentary. In this case you may want to find projects that will be similar to yours in certain respects, such as aesthetic choices or topics. You can then give them precedence for what the film will look like, why it will work, and who will be interested in it. You do not have to draw direct comparisons, but allowing them to understand that this type of film does has a track record will help them to visualize how it will work. If you want to show general clips of similar film types you can, but it is better if you do small test segments in the same genre yourself. This way you can incorporate a showing of your own work while communicating about this other feature. This can act as a dual genre test and director's reel screening. Only do this very briefly as their time is important and the last thing that you want to do is bore them in any way.