Harun Rahman, the current president of the Malaysian Documentary Association (MyDocs), joined FFF and a group of aspiring filmmakers for a workshop on “How To Pitch Your Story” last Sunday. As a veteran documentary film-maker, Harun has successfully pitched documentary proposals to National Geographic, The History Channel and featured talents such as Michelle Yeoh in his documentary on orang utans, ‘Among the Great Apes with Michelle Yeoh’.
During the session, Harun was friendly, setting an informal tone and giving participants a chance to discuss. At the end of it, participants walked away with some valuable knowledge on how to prepare their documentary pitch. For those who couldn’t make it, our team at KOMAS FreedomFilmFest has put together four essential tips from Harun’s talk on how to successfully pitch your proposal.
Learn the difference between subject matter and story
Is there a subject matter you feel passionately about? Think it would make a great documentary? Before you grab your camera, take time to think about how you can tell a unique story about your chosen subject. For example, migrant workers in Malaysia are your subject. But, what unique story can you explore on this issue? Perhaps, you have met a group of migrant workers who have gone on a strike to protest their unfair working conditions. This is the story. Make sure your pitch highlights the unique story you are going to tell, especially if the subject matter has been covered before.
An essential part of a successful pitch is showing your funders or producers how you have unique access to the story and its subjects. Say you want to make a documentary about a famous musician. How do you prove that you have unique access to this person’s story? A film-maker who is friends with the musician’s personal assistant has a better chance of having their documentary about the musician made than a film-maker who has no personal connection to the subject. You also want to assure your funders that you will have footage that no one else has. Basically, you need to show that you can get as close as possible to the subject from an angle that no one else can.
Keep it short
When writing your documentary proposal, you want it to be short and to the point. Your proposal should not be more than a page long. So don’t waste time giving unnecessary background to the issue/subject you are going to explore. You should write two to three paragraphs about your unique story on the subject.
The elevator pitch
You should be able to pitch your documentary idea in two minutes. If you can’t summarize your documentary in two to three sentences, then you haven’t thought enough about what the essential story is. Plus, you never know when you’re going to run into someone who might be interested in funding your story. Click here for more information on elevator pitches.
If you’ve been itching to share your perspective on an issue, person or community through film, we hope this has given you some essentials to get started! We encourage experienced and beginner filmmakers to submit your ideas and pitches to FreedomFilmFest by 4th April 2015. Three selected documentary proposals will be awarded RM 8,000 each to create their film. Submission is available online on http://freedomfilmfest.komas.org. What are you waiting for?
By Deborah Augustin