As part of IFP’s Independent Film Week, three filmmakers were chosen to pitch their concepts for a web series to a panel of four industry professionals. The panel was composed of Josh Poole, Director of Development for Above Average productions, Adam Goldman, writer and director of web series “Whatever this is.” and “The Outs,” Ingrid Jungermann, writer and director of “The Slope” and “F to 7th,” and Randi Kleiner, CEO of SeriesFest and Trifecta Studios. The panelists dissected the three pitches presented to them and provided several tips on how to craft the perfect pitch to get your web series made, which we share with you below:
Practice your pitch.
When asked how they could prepare for a pitch, the panelists suggested that filmmakers should remove themselves from their immediate communities. Talking to people who wouldn’t normally hear pitches can help ground your ideas and keep them less abstract. “In this world we’re all creating in, we’re not asked to pitch a lot because a lot of this web work comes from something we make in our own minds and in our own communities, so it’s useful to come up with the most concise version of a story and find out how to make it seem interesting and appealing in a short amount of time,” said Goldman.
Jungermann added that it’s often helpful to open up a pitch meeting with more casual, personal information, rather than immediately beginning with series-related information. “Pitching is not normal for anyone. It gives you a chance to warm up and talk about yourself,” she said.
Pitching a web series means watching your budget.
After all three of the pitches, panelists asked several questions regarding budget. They pointed out that it’s difficult to produce large budgets for web series and part of pitching web content is ensuring financiers that you’re thinking within the boundaries of reasonable measure. Goldman asserted that creating a web series means working with what you have, “When you think whether something is a web idea or a TV idea, unless you have the right resources at your fingertips, that’s a challenge to producing something independently. People are going to be pitching within their means. I think that’s a strength and a challenge of web work in general.”
Always include the structure of your series.
Several of the panelists repeated that one of the easiest ways to make a pitch concrete is to discuss the finer points of a web series’ structure. Goldman listed the most common questions that come up regarding pitches, including “What does this show look like? How long does the show go on? Is there an end point in sight?”
“I think 10-15 seconds about the structure help ground it. I know it feels like you just want to get out the story because story is so important, but it would really help us visualize how a season would work. I want to know what happens in season 2, season 7,” said Kleiner. “I find that planting that sentence, even at the end, just so we understand there’s somewhere for the story to go, would be important.”
Kleiner went on to say that “if you are pitching to a network or studio specifically, one of the things they’re definitely going to be looking for is ‘Can this last for a long time?’ They have to be able to see that it can go on. Whether it’s to show your work, or show your voice, or just get your work out there, or plant the seed of an idea, I think you should do whatever’s going to service your story best. There’s so many ways that the web allows us to work.”
Jungermann agreed with the sentiment that there is no right or wrong way to structure a show, adding, “There are no rules here. It’s important to make your own rules and know you can do whatever you want within that.”
Comparisons are okay.
At the end of the panel, Kleiner made sure to point out that comparing your work to similar, existing series in order to give a clearer image to your audience is a positive thing. “I think something that we didn’t hear a lot, but is okay, is comparisons,” said Kleiner. “If there’s a comparison that immediately resonates and you can understand, it’s totally okay to do. Don’t feel like you have to have an original idea, everything is a build off of something else. I think there’s a fear of that that shouldn’t be.”
Personal connection is invaluable.
One topic on which all the panelists agreed was that showing someone your personal connection to an idea is incredibly important. “Something I always look for is ‘why are you the perfect person to pitch this idea?’ What is your personal connection to this pitch?” said Poole. Jungermann echoed this sentiment. “There’s so much stuff out there right now, I want to know what moved you about a specific story, what’s important for you about telling the story,” she said. “You want to make work, you want to continue to make work, and you want to practice and put your work into the world. I think it’s important to remember that’s how web series started. What’s important is that you’re passionate and you’re working with a group of people that you really love.”