Pitch it.

    Posted on: Monday, October 15th, 2012

So, uh, I kinda have two ideas for documentaries that I think are pretty neat and, uh, I’d really like to find a way to make those documentaries this year.

We’ll have lots of people in town for the SJIWFF Industry Film Forum ready and willing to receive pitches — like Denise Wilson, from the CBC; Margot Daley from CORUS Original Programming – Lifestyle, Reality & Factual Entertainment; and Nancy Franklin from Shaw Media – Lifestyle Original Content, to name a few.

So, maybe I’ll sign up?

Ahem.

Cough.

As you likely know, Elsa Morena is a kickass filmmaker and real-deal industry professional. She’ll be pitching two TV show ideas during the SJIWFF Film Forum’s One-on-One Pitch Sessions. And according to her, I have to be more assertive about my ideas if I want them to go anywhere.

“You’ve got to just suck it up,” she says. “If you want to get yourself out there and get yourself known, you better be ready to get out there and pitch it. And you’ve got to have thick skin.”

Here’s what else she had to say about the art (and fear) of pitching.

So, what are you going to be pitching?
I’m pitching two things. One of the them is a multi-platform teen dramedy. The other is a lifestyle series, called Pimp my Profile, which is about marketing yourself online.

What sort of pitching experience do you have?
I’ve done the screenwriter’s bootcamp in PEI, and they do one-on-one fifteen minute pitches. I’ve also pitched a feature and I went to the Vancouver Film School, and we had a whole class on pitching. They teach you how to do the elevator pitch where you learn how to pitch for your entire feature in that thirty seconds you have to walk down the hallway to the elevator with someone.

What should someone pitching have with them? Props? Cash bribes? Cucumber sandwiches?
What I would bring is a one-pager for both series. For the teenage dramedy series, I have a series bible already made out, with all of the information about who the stars are, what the locations are, and some sample story lines.

Should you have most of your crew lined up, like who your producer will be, that sort of thing?
So far, the team is myself and my writing partner. Ideally I would like to write and produce, but yeah, that all gets worked out.

What’s the best thing a pitcher can do for their project?
Really know your product, know what it’s going to look like, know your target audience, and be able to answer as many questions as possible. It’s got to be a developed idea, it can’t just be an idea.

What advice do you have for inexperienced pitchers?
Do this to get yourself out there. For somebody who has never pitched before, just go and do it as an audition, just to practice. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback about how you could improve your pitch. And don’t be afraid of rejection. Sometimes it’s not that your idea isn’t great, you just have to know what the other person is looking for and your idea just might not be that thing. If nothing comes from it, don’t feel discouraged.

Also, practice pitching in front of someone else. Ask them if they understood everything clearly, if it was engaging, if it was it interesting, if you were rambling on too quickly, anything you can think of.

What are you hoping to get out of the pitching session, other than a deal? If anything?
Just the experience, being able to practice pitching my story, pitching my product. I guess sometimes you just need to be able to say it out loud and see their reaction, what they’re responding to and what they’re not.

What’s the worst that has ever happened to you during a pitch?
I was pitching a feature, and the woman stopped me halfway and said, ‘I’m sorry but, we don’t do these kind of features,’ and it was kind of awkward because I still had some time left over to pitch with her. It’s awkward when you go in there and you don’t know what the person is looking for. Make sure you know!

So nobody has, like, chucked a rotten tomato at you or anything?
No, I wish! That would definitely lighten up the situation.

Feedback: giving the good and avoiding the bad

    Posted on: Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

Following up on last week’s open letter to the St. John’s arts community, in which I argued the need for artists to challenge one another in the name of better supporting one another, I’d like to discuss the notion of artistic feedback from both sides: giving and receiving.

Giving feedback isn’t something that necessarily comes naturally to us, and receiving it can be a tough pill to swallow – especially if the feedback is of poor quality, in which case you shouldn’t be so much swallowing it as spitting it out before it poisons you.

But how do we learn how to give good quality feedback that is well received, and how do we learn to distinguish between feedback of good and bad quality when receiving it?

Two articles I’ve recently read aim to shed some light on this. Both are looking at feedback for screenwriting, but I think the points they have to make apply across all artistic disciplines.

In 10 Things to Remember About Constructive Script Criticism, Elizabeth Burns cuts right to the chase with her first and foremost tip: take your time. Give the thing you are critiquing at least a couple of passes, then carefully consider what you want to say and how you want to say it.

Anonymous message boards are the worst for this. With nothing to hold the author accountable, people are more apt to publish the first thing that comes to mind immediately after having viewed something. Knee jerk reactions are a poor form of criticism, so if your intent is to be constructive then consider heeding Burns’ first suggestion and take your time with it.

In Protect Yourself from Bad Feedback, Hal Croasmun details the five types of problem feedback that you should watch out for and avoid. In number two, feedback that keeps you mediocre, Croasmun warns, “it could be someone who keeps telling you that your writing is great so there’s no need to improve it, when you really need to.” (emphasis his)

I couldn’t agree more with that point. If all you ever hear is that you’re doing a good job, then there’s little opportunity for you to improve. People who protect you from constructive criticism aren’t doing you any favours.

Of course, we as artists need to let it be known that we are open to such criticism. If you are bad at taking feedback, then it’s unlikely you’ll ever be exposed to any of the good stuff.

For more on what Elizabeth Burns and Hal Croasmun have to say on how to give good feedback and how to protect yourself from the bad stuff, be sure to check out their full articles, linked below. There’s a ton of great stuff in both.

10 Things to Remember About Constructive Script Criticism

Protect Yourself from Bad Feedback

Have some thoughts of your own on how to give or receive feedback? Give it to us in the comments!

An open letter to the St. John’s arts community

    Posted on: Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Fellow artists,

There’s not enough success here for what we deserve.

Few here ever really make it; we mostly make due. If we’re lucky. If we play by the rules, which it turns out are actually fairly simple. So simple in fact, that you can distill them down to one rule. One word, even.

Support.

We here in the St. John’s arts community support one another. We help keep one another afloat. Afloat, but not aloft. Because that same support that keeps us floating? It weighs us down. It anchors us to the salty brine we’re all struggling to swim in and prevents us from actually rising up and soaring above it.

Too much pull, not enough push. That’s our problem. That’s our curse.

I say it’s a curse because I don’t believe it’s totally our fault. It’s the hand we were dealt as a historically isolated and impoverished people, and we’ve played that hand as best we could over the years in order to survive.

The problem is, we’re not that isolated and impoverished people any more. So we have to stop playing the game as though we are. We have to stop thinking in terms of survival and start thinking in terms of success.

No one has ever met with success while towing the line, unless you consider winning the lottery a success (which countless studies have shown: it isn’t). It’s time for us to stop pulling each other along and actually start pushing each other around a little. To challenge other people’s work, and to have our work challenged, too.

When I say challenge, I’m not talking about turning on one another. On the contrary, a challenge can be the greatest kind of support if it’s given with care.

Often the last thing we want to hear is the thing we need to hear the most. Anyone willing to give you the opportunity to hear that thing is on your side. And last I checked, we were all on each other’s side here.

So let’s start supporting each other in ways that will push us, lift us, encourage us to rise above ourselves. Let’s make that support we’re so apt to give one another a challenge and see where that takes us. I’m willing to bet it’ll take us pretty far.

***

RELATED: Aimee Wall’s two part article for The Independent, Criticism and the (small) city: part one and part two.

New site, new blog

    Posted on: Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

We’re gearing up for the 2012 St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival (we’ve got incredible announcements about this year’s festival coming up in the next weeks and months. Muahahaha.) and that gearing included a big website overhaul by M5 interactive.

Voila. Pretty nice, hey?

Now that the site is done, we’ll be back to our usual blogging activity, but we’ll be doing most of it on the blog at our schmancy new site. Stay tuned for more Bechdelling the Box Office, reviews of women-directed films available on Netflix, profiles of other fabulous Women’s Film Festivals around the world, and interviews with local filmmakers.

In the meantime, here are a few things to tide you over:

– Deanne Foley’s hilarious feature film “Beat Down” will be playing in Empire Theatres across Atlantic Canada this fall. More info can be found here.

– Jordan Canning had an incredible summer. Her film “Not Over Easy” was in the CBC Short Film Faceoff finals and “Seconds,” another one of her amazing shorts, was a finalist in the TIFF RBC Emerging Filmmaker Competition. All in one summer. Keep your eye on this blog, as we’re putting together a great video interview with Jordan about finding confidence as an artist and all that good stuff.

– If you’re looking for movie suggestions, Anne Thompson at Indiewire has put together this list of the best female-directed films of all time.

Here’s a neat Tumblr celebrating feminist men. The second page links to a great NPR interview with rapper Killer Mike about women, feminism and raising daughters. Killer Mike’s latest album, R.A.P. Music, is really, genuinely incredible and not just because he raps about respecting women, respecting his wife and kids, and being a man. Check him out, he’s worth your dollars.

12 Minutes of Raw Footage from the 2012 Tely10

    Posted on: Monday, July 23rd, 2012

Footage starts with the winner and goes unedited for 12 mins. Shot on Lemarchant Rd by the top of Lime Street. This is probably about 4 minutes from the finish line at Bannerman Park.