I love the first run after a pitching workshop. Hopefully it marks the beginning of a distillation process that brings folks back to why they wanted to do a project in the first place.
This is a business, doc or fiction, feature or short, screens or the web. If you’re not looking for a return on your work then you’re presumably hoping for somebody to go and see it, y’know, above and beyond family, friends and the already converted. You need resources, funding, and collaborators to get your message out there, and that’s the bottom line.
At least, it’s one of the bottom lines. The other is staying true to what it is you want to say and how you want to say it.
One project we worked with in Lisbon made me think of Upstream Color, Shane Carruth’s beautiful 2013 feature. It’s got nothing to do with the content, but the feel of it stuck with me, like some sort of descendent of Tarkovsky. Upstream Color is a ponderous journey that answers very few of the questions it raises, at least directly. It unapologetically lives in the imagery and structure of dream, and I know I’m not the only one who walked away from it and found it walking along with me. It’s hard to imagine what would have been the film’s pitch, or even its screenplay or treatment, and that I think gives it a personal stamp that might piss you off, but which you can’t ignore.
The Lisbon doc had a similar feel, gorgeous and without a traditional narrative structure. Watching the trailer I couldn’t connect dots in a literal way, but I got it from a place that keeps that imagery, that story, in my mind.
As I watched the pitch, listening to the filmmaker describe the film in industry language, it suddenly made the project feel more… common. Not because the filmmaker had nothing original to say; on the contrary it’s a sublimely original project. But trying to package the language into what’s immediately understood I felt as though the project was given a disservice.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s all fine and dandy to get up in front of a room of decision makers and tell them what they want to hear, and get them to back your project, but ultimately if you coherently but balls out pitch your vision, abstract though it may be, you might just connect with partners who plainly see that you mean what you say. There’s no recipe (I’m aware of) on how to pitch an unorthodox project in a conventional setting, but I figure it’s got something to do with pitching it in terms that mirror the kind of feeling you’re trying to convey, especially when the project springs from someplace beyond the rational and closer to your own core.
Part of this is probably wishful thinking, but not completely. There’s a place for personal visions, even when money rests at the heart of a lot of the process.