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Film Week: Emerging Narrative Orientation

I strongly suspect that the great folks behind IFP’s Independent Film Week did not inform the Emerging Narrative participants ahead of time of what exactly would be happening at orientation because they feared that then none of us would show up. (I probably would have begged off in some sort of pathetic plausible manner.) Whatever sort of social, mingling thing I envisioned did not materialize. Instead, the bulk of orientation consisted of all the Emerging Narrative participants taking turns standing at the front of the amphitheater, speaking into a microphone, and delivering our two-minute project pitch. Yes, this was ostensibly for our own benefit and practice – but speaking in front of a large group can be is nerve wracking, especially when it is then followed by a critique dished out by industry people. And yet…

In spite of all of my fears, my angst, my wishing I’d practiced my pitch for an imaginary large room (rather than an imaginary lone person)… It turned out just fine. I am a person who overprepares and then worries that I have underprepared. During my phone chat with the IFP folks a few weeks ago, they specifically told me to include some key points in my two-minute pitch: logline, audience, inspiration, and goals for Film Week & beyond. So that’s exactly what I did, devoting about 30 seconds to each of the four points. And yes, I practiced my spiel aloud – alone in my room, to sister and friends, and quietly during the train ride to New York City.

I learned a trick when I used to be a professional actor: I would overprepare an audition monologue until I felt like it was 120% – expecting that it would lose 20% or so at the actual audition due to nerves. I would also practice my audition pieces in various ways – sitting, standing, facing a window, facing the wall, with the TV on, etc. The goal was to know my piece so well that I could do it under any circumstance, no matter how strange the environment or how nervous I might be. These techniques really helped me today! Speaking in front of a large group was truly the last thing I wanted to do this morning, but the preparation paid off.

The other thing that made me feel very confident was my logline. For a few years, I have been associated with a number of writers groups – and individual writers and filmmakers – who have really helped me understand and construct a good logline. One of the industry people specifically mentioned this after I did my pitch – complimenting my logline, and encouraging everyone to have that great one-sentence description with precisely chosen words.

Over the last several years, I have been focusing as much on my marketing tools – loglines, query letters, look books – as I have on my scripts. I think it is imperative that artists understand – and then embrace – the marketing aspect of the business they are in: we are each, in essence, trying to find our audience – whether that’s a producer, financial backer, or theatergoer. We must be able to relate our projects in a way that resonates with other people. And we need to understand, especially when seeking the kind of financial backing needed to make a film, HOW things 1) get made, 2) get to market, and 3) become successful. Marketing, marketing, marketing.

So orientation may not have been what I was expecting, but it left me feeling like both my project and my preparation are in a good place. And considering I have 17 one-on-one industry meetings lined up over the next three days, today was a good start. THANK YOU Dan, Amy, Martha and everyone at IFP who have been talking/emailing us through this over the last few weeks!


This post was originally published at Zoje Stage’s personal blog, Alice in Actionland.

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