I haven’t taken many classes on pitching. Wait. I’ve never taken any classes on pitching. Pitching is meant to be a precise, pressurized maneuver that either takes your project to the next stage or closes another door in its face. It is the subject of much study, stress and numerous overpriced workshops. Naturally, one always feels some amount of pressure before a pitch–similar to what I experienced as a dancer prior to going on stage each evening. Regardless of how many past meetings were nailed or how many accolades were received, one rarely goes into these “performances of passion” without those all-too-familiar jitters.
But here I am at Strategic Partners – one of the world’s preeminent co-production markets – involved in back-to-back, one-on-one pitching, seeking financing and/or partners for my current projects. This is pressure at its most acute. Indeed, one of the biggest mistakes a producer can make – especially when speaking with investors or partners – is to goof up his or her pitch. Without a clear idea of what makes a project special and worthy of being made, investors will not invest, production will not happen, and an artist’s voice will not be heard. Big time pressure. The pitch is an art. A science. An industry requirement. Whether a writer, producer, or director, a filmmaker must know how to best articulate their story, as well as the reasons why others should enable the telling. Sound terrifying? It sometimes is. Yet I look across the sea of meeting tables where I know I must make my mark…and feel strangely at peace.
So why does it seem so easy right now?
Is it because I have finally fully internalized the four pillars of great pitch delivery? Unlikely. Is it because I’ve done this a zillion times and secretly see this as another challenging, yet exhilarating part of my job? Uh…kinda, but don’t tell anyone. Do I simply have more passion – or a renewed passion – for my projects? Not exactly.
I’ve come to realize that the hardest part of this process is the first piece: finding projects that you truly love and that you can’t wait to see. Ones in which the only way to see anything like them is to make them yourself. It has to be about much more than just working as a producer. If you love your project, pitching becomes immeasurably easier. Indeed, I am not here with an overflowing roster–just a few films that I fell in love with, and that I need to see made.
But that’s not it. This time around is different. Not only am I to spend the next several days–in Halifax and then New York for Independent Film Week–talking about some of my favorite films (that just happen to not yet be made), but I am surrounded by people who also want to see them made. This is what I have found in TAP (Trans-Atlantic Partners), and the answer to what makes pitching easy: a room full of partners and friends – not competitors. There is no air of secrecy or superiority. There is no sense that we are vying for the same finite pool of resources. There is no ego. We have pitched our projects and vented our frustrations. We have studied one another’s distribution plans. We have discussed one another’s marketing plans. And yes, we have even looked at one another’s finance plans in depth! We have, together, created a nurturing environment that feels not unlike a chorus of dancers who – though normally may be competitive – once onstage, all find themselves working together towards a great performance.
Yes, we all know that good feedback can help to identify strengths and weaknesses in a project. In general, developing comfort and skills in verbally describing one’s projects among peers before releasing them into the industry is helpful. Workshops such as this help to yield the clarity, simplicity, and practice that is needed to distill your complex, nuanced, multifaceted project into the base reason of why you love it so much. But something else is evident here at TAP: a spirit of collaboration and a truly nurturing environment that I have yet to experience elsewhere. It is this spirit and incredible support, brought forward by a unique group of passionate producers from around the globe, that has reignited and clarified my passion, and has made a potentially stressful event so surprisingly pleasant.