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10 ways to get your project noticed

Here are 10 ways to prepare for getting your film idea closer to finding an audience.

BECTUs recent panel on Marketing your Project, held at Ravensbourne College, heard from Christopher Hird, md of Dartmouth Films, Sarah Mosses from Together Films, which helps film makers to market their work, producer/director Lily Murray, director Jonathan Pearson and writer/producer and pitching expert Sasha Damjanovski.

 1. Have an asset, not an idea
"It's not enough to have an idea you have to have an asset." Christopher Hird's advice was not to present an idea without at least one of the following:
Unique access
Compelling talent
Rights to a successful book 

2. Skill up
For any initial project, you will have to be producer as well as director, probably writer, possible editor and take on a few other roles.

3. Plot a micro business plan of your life
As a fledgling director, you'll need to fit the aspiration to film with the day job. So work out when you're filming and how you will afford it. Schedule it in.

4. Park any squeamishness about selling 
"You're not selling yourself, you're selling your excitement about the idea," says Sasha Damjanovski, who runs workshops on how to pitch. He recommends practising on family and friends; if they glaze over then you're on the wrong track.

5. Shrink your idea to two sentences
"It has to be so concise," says Sarah Mosses. "If you can't condense it, then you don't know what your film is about."

6. Practise a two- to three-minute pitch
Nail your elevator pitch and prepare a PDF two-pager. So when you get the chance to tell it or send it to someone who matters, you can deliver just whats wanted and follow up seamlessly.

7. Work with an established indie
Identify a production company that works with projects like your own and take them something worth having. And dont go into stasis with fear that they'll steal the idea. "Come with something so well developed that they wont want to steal it off you," says Hird.

8. Be ambitious, but realistic.
If you need to get credentials with your first film, then make something close to home, in every sense. You do want to show your original thinking and personal style. You don't want an international travel budget. Many films dont make a profit, often they cost more than they make.

9. Keep back money for marketing
A film doesn't exist til someone sees it, " says Mosses. With fiction it's common for one third of the budget to be kept for marketing, but it's not just drama that needs a fuss made to get it seen. It's not down to distributors or sales companies, you need to earmark production money to get your film a bigger audience, 

10. Take care with tasters
More often than not an investor will want to see footage - a taster tape, perhaps more of the characters, some scenes. Make sure you don't spend too much time and money shooting footage that won't come to anything. It might be the best calling card, but it also might never get made.













Posted 17 June 2015 by Pippa Considine

Doc/Fest: What online commissioners want

The packed out Alternative Platforms commissioning session at Sheffield Doc/Fest got the low down on short form online commissioning from The Guardian¹s Charlie Phillips, Elliot Reed from BBC Three, Channel 4's Jody Smith and Jennifer Byrne from the Dazed Group. Vice didn¹t make it. 

Top line messages included a loud and clear: this is not TV, catchy titles are crucial,  the pace needs to be relentless and the films need to hook people in straight away. With budgets, they are all paying roughly £1K per minute for short form. Most of the short form is between three and 15 minutes, with a lot at the bottom end of that scale. The audience is mainly millennials and the commissioners like to collaborate with suppliers. Some want all rights in perpetuity, others are happy with a window. A few traditional indies are working with volume commissions. 

Channel 4  - multiplatform and online video commissioning editor Jody Smith explained that one reason for the strategy of commissioning shorts for All 4 was the shift from watching shows in snippets on mobiles. So why not make films that run for five minutes? They are looking mostly for docs about youth culture and sub cultures, often commissioning in series. The plan is for an in house team to film news reactive films, while suppliers are a mix of established indies including Firecracker, Watershed and Twenty Twenty, as well as newer outfits. Films will run on the Channel 4 platform which aims to be a new advertising revenue stream for the broadcaster.  

BBC Three  - commissioning editor for features and formats and documentaries Elliot Reed said that there was still a lot to decide about the channel, which is due to go online in January, if a celebrity-backed outcry doesn¹t force a U-turn. That said, he confirmed that much of the commissioning  - around 80 % - will be long form, with a significant chunk left for shorts. This will include web discussions, blogs, games and short doc series; he pointed to Vice as a reference point. While the BBC3 budget is being halved, he argued that this is less concerning for original commissions as there wont be the same spend on acquisition or repeats. They are still negotiating about what rights they will want to acquire.

Guardian - head of documentaries Charlie Phillips is looking for globally resonant contemporary stories, ideally something that the audience hasnt seen or read about elsewhere. Not just serious social issue docs, we also want funny and intelligent. They plan to commission about 50 short films a year and are paying between one and 10k each. The initial strategy is to publish across a variety of platforms in order to build an audience for the Guardian brand. Hes not really thinking in terms of acquisitions.

Dazed Group - video commissioning editor Jennifer Byrne is commissioning around fashion and culture stories, with a lot of personal POV. She finds that film makers keen to be on Dazed & Confused will often invest their own money on top of what she can pay. They also publish across a variety of platforms, including Vimeo where their films are often included in the coveted Vimeo staff picks. They are flexible about rights, often claiming a window rather than blanket ownership. She will consider acquisition.










Posted 15 June 2015 by Pippa Considine

Sheffield: What the Fact Ent commissioners want

Sheffield DocFest Factual Entertainnment commissioning panel heard from Liam Humphreys, Channel 4, Alison Kirkham, BBC, Andrew O'Connell, ITV and Sarah Thornton for Discovery.

The trends across the panel were for formats with the format taken out and real lives reflected and respected. There was a universal welcome for light touch mediation: presenters, including celebrities, are only interesting if they are immersed in the show. Gogglebox is still the show on everyone's lips.

ITV commissioning editor Andrew O'Connell showed clips from new shows Trip Advisers and Big Box Little Box where Gogglebox meets Watchdog. He said that ITV had more shows in the pipeline featuring ordinary punters, "real people with everyday stuff." He confirmed that ITV was doing Flockstars - celebrity One Man and his Dog.

Discovery/ TLC - vp lifestyle and entertainment Discovery Networks International Sarah Thornton showed clips from shows that were more traditional documentary than some of the docs on Sheffields docs commissioning panel. A turn-around from the Jodie Marsh body building clip that she showed last year. One commission - a self-shot film about miscarriages, came out of an approach made by a producer after the Sheffield session last year which was nade on the back of Thornton committing to spending more on female factual. Another show, Too Ugly for Love from Betty, is set for a second series. She didn't get grilled on her Katie Hopkins chat show, perhaps the wrong sensibility for a Sheffield audience. What she wants is shows that producers can see on TLC, she's open minded.

Channel 4 head of entertainment and factual entertainment Liam Humphreys said that the commissioning team at the channel had looked at other ways of morphing Gogglebox but decided against it. Instead, they've hatched Hunted from the same Shine team as The Island and they revealed that they are in the second of a five week shoot for a Michel Roux Junior format where the chef teaches catering skills to groups of disabled students. More evidence of the talent at the heart of the idea, rather than presenting. Asked about Bear Grylls' role in The Island, Humphreys said, "I don't think it would work if he was on the island. What he brings is credibility and context."

BBC - Alison Kirkham, head of BBC formats, features and events, who is currently acting controller of factual  for the corporation, had a food theme to her showreel. Eat Well for Less and Back in Time for Dinner are recent hits and she showed a clip from upcoming two-parter on spending with Anne Robinson, where an 'immersed' Robinson, dressed in designer black puffa jacket, shares a stew made from bin salvage with eco hippy Jedi in his reclaim camp in Berkshire woodland. "One legacy of Gogglebox is that people seem to like their lives reflected back to them, if told in an unpatronising way," she says. While Eat Well for Less is a format, Kirkham pointed out that it's only lightly mediated. She's looking for shows that borrow heavily from another genre and has just commissioned a couple of shows that she described as quite enty. Ideally characters in a BBC fact ent show will go on a transformative journey.

Posted 10 June 2015 by Pippa Considine
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