Here's The Pitch

What's the secret to pitching your documentary idea? Rebort watched a panel of commissioning editors put five filmmakers through their paces to learn more.

Vancouver International Film Festival Television Trade Forum
29th September 2002

Here's The Pitch
1: Spinning The Wheel.
2: 100% Woman
3. Ties That Bind.
4. Deal Of The Month.
5. The Mouse That Roars.

So youíve got a great idea for a documentary. Now how do you sell it? This was the premise for a public "pitching" event at the Vancouver International Film Festivalís annual Film and Television Trade Forum on Thursday 26th November.

Five documentary makers were given five minutes each to pitch their projects to a panel of three commissioning editors: Nick Jones, Head of Programming for Channel 4 and FilmFour; Richard Klein, Commissioning Editor for BBC General Factual Programmes and Ray McCarthy, Commissioning Editor for Regional Programming for Irelandís RTE.

Although more formal than a real world "pitch" situation where the commissioning editor would typically establish a dialogue with the filmmaker, the format provided welcome insights and some salutary lessons in how to win support for a project.

As was reiterated in not just this seminar, but throughout the events held at the forum, the idea is the thing. In the case of documentaries that means strong stories with unique angles, particularly when selling in foreign markets such as here where Canadian projects were being pitched to broadcasters from the UK and Ireland.

The projects covered very different subjects: illegal street-racing in Canada exposed from both the victims' and drivers' point of views; a transgender athlete struggles for acceptance in the competitive world of female mountain-biking; a 28-year-old with multiple disabilities strives for independence; Canada's "Erin Brockovich" fights the evil corporation that is poisoning her town and has ruined her life; the small nation of Tuvalu whose land is sinking under rising oceans takes arms against a sea of troubles.

The varied nature of the projects, all one hour or feature-length documentaries, also threw up a number of issues specific to each particular project. When the applause had died after each pitch, the panel didn't mince words in their analysis.

First up - boy racers and their victims

More VIFF coverage