Filmmaking day 5: Producing and Pitching

(For the quizzers : What film is this from?)

What do you want to do after this course – is a question that pops up regularly at the networking evenings in the Actors Centre in Covent Garden.
I still don’t really know the answer to this question to be honest. And the last time someone asked me what my “genre” was. Do I have a genre?

The genre question returned yesterday. It was the Producing & Pitching day.

They don’t colour the world pink at LFA (London Film Acad.). This experienced producer (Bob Portal) came and told us about how to raise money for your film, and about how little chance you actually have as a first time film maker to get your film financed at all. They coloured the world black yesterday, and the whole class was ready to quit it all after his session. We wanted to go home, we wanted to give up, we were depressed, and we all wanted to be garbage men in stead. We wanted to be anything but film makers or Producers after his horror stories.

So that much we learned. And I don’t want to be a producer either, as Producers, even though they are on the set a lot, spent a lot of time with lots of papers. And lots of pens…
They need to fill in huge amount (and I mean huge!) of forms, hunt for money, read tax rules and regulations and generally do a lot of pen and paper work. The fun part of being a producer starts when a film actually gets made, they are on the set a lot, working close together with the director, because they need to guard the budget and they are also involved in casting. But there is too much not fun work attached to it.

Producers also read scripts, and decide if they want to make your script into a film. They consider things like genre (here it is again), “is this a film people would like to see”, can we sell it to other countries, how much will it cost to shoot this film (is it a 1800 costume drama : expensive, or a current day story situated in London : relatively cheap), can we cooperate with other countries on this film (and get money in from other countries film funds – done a lot), which actor would fit in, what do we think we can earn on it etc.
So they are basically the people you need to convince with your script. So your script better be good, and the first pages better be grippingly interesting, because normally they don’t read more than the first 5 pages before they decide to read on or throw it out. Yes, most of it gets thrown out. If you are lucky you can pitch your project directly to a producer. That means you go to his office, and you get a few minutes of his vulnerable time to convince him that your script and film idea really is something he should consider very seriously. We practised pitching with this producer, which meant we had to sit in the spotlight in front of this hot shot producer, and just as bad, in front of the class, and tell him about the film we would like to make. I nearly had a nervous breakdown.

Tell me your story Ingrid, you got 2 minutes. Genre?
Uhm, Rom-com drama like.
Well it’s about bla bla bla etc. (I am not going to reveal it here – my script isn’t copyrighted yet – yes add big portion of irony here)
Right, that sounds interesting. Why don’t they go all the way?
What do you mean?
Why don’t they actually fall in love?
I wanted them to be good friends. Come on man, she is this —- girl and he is this —- guy, he is so way out of her league. That would would only happen in film. Oh, we are in fact talking about a film. Yes, right, OK I can let them fall in love I guess. (What power one has as a scriptwriter – if only I could script write my own life).
What film does it compare to, atmosphere wise ?
Well this one and this one.
Ah, I knew it. And who do you want to play the main character?
Bill Nighy.
Good choice, but he is in everything at the moment isn’t he.
Yes, he is, it’s about time. But I knew you were going to say that, so my alternative is Anthony Head. Kevin Spacey might do to, even though I prefer a British cast.
Well cinema would be good, BBC Drama (TV) would be an option too.
Richard Curtis.
Oh, well I don’t think he normally does scripts he hasn’t written himself, does he ?
No I guess not.
So ?
Well I need to have a talk with him then. (I thought I might as well joke my way through it – the class was laughing and I decide it was a good time to leave the now even hotter chair).

It was scary as hell, but it was fun, once I was off the hot chair again. I hated sitting in the spotlight.
It was amazing how broad our choice of projects was. I was the only one wanting to make a rom-com feature film, and I want that because I love them so much myself. But the others chose things from documentaries to drama to horror and SF films. Horror seems to be very popular among new film makers, I don’t like horror, I am a love fool.

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