The Pitching Process
What This Is About (And How You Can Use It)
This is about finding work (even without the help of agents) and connecting with people you want to work with.
Most of the projects we've gotten have come from mutual connections and word of mouth. That said, I often wanted to take a more active approach to finding more projects to work on.
Our team has developed this pitching process through 6 years of active pitching. During that long process, we've lost out on a lot of really fun projects - but we've also landed some amazing opportunities.
We've even pitched some easier-to-get projects just to consistently test our pitch, work on stuff that allows us to experiment with musical ideas, and help out the community.
The process differs depending on what your goals are, but I've noticed that the same structure works for just about any job - even across different industries (which I've also tested with great results… people just respond well to genuine interest.
For now, I'll focus on who we’ve pitched to the most - indie filmmakers.
By the way, I first posted a summarized variation of this on the Facebook group, Perspective: A Forum for Film, TV, and Media Composers, back on July 23, 2017. Lots of people asked questions on there and made great points about how this process could be improved. You can find the original post here, but you'll have to join the private group to see it.
1. Look for a Project
Depending on what projects you're looking for, you can browse YouTube, Vimeo, Kickstarter (and other crowdfunding sites) for indie films, or sites like Movie Insider/IMDb for long-form films in development.
Here's what I do in each of those:
YOUTUBE - Go into the search bar and type "proof of concept short film." From there, you can sort by upload date + view count. Another good search is "short film filmmaker." If you're looking for a specific genre, you could type "sci-fi" or "drama" before those searches.
VIMEO - Go to their "Staff Picks" or "Categories" sections. Staff Picks will likely have a lot of traffic coming to the filmmakers, so it's going to be a little harder than ones that haven't gotten that award. Searching through categories will bring up different styles of videos. I like exploring their "Narrative" section.
KICKSTARTER - Check out their "Film" section and look for projects that are brand new, or almost funded. Some of these projects won't get funded, but I think the priority should be the project/story itself. Hell, if you like the project enough, shoot them some money. I've made connections that way too. If you're not in a position to take that chance, go for projects that will definitely get funding.
INDIEGOGO - Same as Kickstarter. Check out their "Film"" and peruse!
MOVIE INSIDER* - You can search by production status here. I like going for projects in development and pre-production. Info on the team behind a project likely won’t be listed here, in my experience. Searching for them on IMDb Pro or doing a general Google search might help.
*Both MOVIE INSIDER & IMDB PRO tend to have larger-budget projects, which is the kind of work we haven't tested this process with. We’ve pitched to directors who have movies on those sites, but the response rate isn't as good. Even still, they were positive and receptive when they did respond. The ones that were interested, but declined , were either using 100% licensed songs, or already had a composer. Other times, we aimed too high in scale (production-wise) and got no response.
2. Pick Something That You Connect With
Pick a project you really connect with and do as much research as you can on the story. Figure out what it's about, what it's based on (if there's a book - read it or get the cliff notes on it), who is making it, and who the director, writers, or producers are.
3. Create A Short Custom Demo Based on the Film's Story
If you have access to any of the project’s materials, use them to write a demo of what you think the music should sound like. Demos can be between 2 to 3 minutes long and cover a range of emotions that we might hear in the movie we're pitching for. Rather than length, it's the content that matters, especially if they'll be skipping around... which they likely will.
This action - taking the time to write them a demo - effectively shows your work ethic and investment in their project. Not only are you sending them a demo before they’re expecting it, you’re also putting in more work than they were ever expecting from someone (that's not already on the project).
Most composers will come in asking if they can do some work; you’ll come in, wasting no time, already having a portion of the work done.
More often than not, you’re going to get a positive reaction.
4. Prepare Your Pitch Package
You can use the Outlier Studios site to host your pitch (let me know, so I can help!), or if you prefer to use your website, use that to assemble your pitch.
Here's an example of what your website pitch could look like when it's fully customized to the project:
LINK - https://www.outlierstudios.co/pitch
PASS - pitch
5. Write An Email They Care About
Write an email to the director explaining how much you enjoy the ideas behind the project.
Here's what that might look like...
Template last updated Oct. 22, 2018
SUBJECT LINE: [Name], how can I contribute? [or, “Love [FILM TITLE] – how can I help?”]
Hi [Filmmaker] (or [Company Name] Team),
My name's Daniel and I recently saw/heard/read about your film, [FILM TITLE], on/from [place/person] and really enjoyed the ideas behind it – particularly [key element you enjoyed]. Offering that kind of content to the industry/story/films (etc.) is something I really connect with.
I was so entranced by the world of [FILM TITLE] that I wrote music inspired by the story - you can find that here (along with my vision for the overall sound):
If you’re interested, I’d love to expand on these ideas and talk with you about contributing to the project!
Looking forward to exploring this further, [Filmmaker]!
Daniel Ciurlizza | Film Composer
Outlier Studios | 510.555.1234
6. Following Up
Send that email. But before you do, consider using software like Yesware so you know if (and when) people are opening your emails. It can also remind us when we should follow up with them after we've pitched.
People don't always respond right away - they're either too early in development or they just forget. That follow-up software will help with this.
Follow up after a week. Then maybe 2 weeks after that. I play with timing depending on what kind of project it is. Many projects have longer development/pre-production periods (but fast production/post), so they may not be ready to think about music early on.
7. Nurture the Relationship
You might get the project you pitched for... or you might not.
Ultimately, you've made a connection with someone whose creativity you admire (and you've made a great portfolio piece while you were at it). If you sustain this relationship by being genuine, interested, and generous, good things can happen. It's not unheard of to be recommended by someone that we've never worked with before.
Plus, the more you support our fellow filmmakers, the better the community around us becomes.
How Can This Process Improve?
I can't promise that this is the best process for you. Something like that is based on your personal style. But I think it's a good starting point for building a relationship from scratch.
That said, if anyone has additional thoughts on this, I'd love to know them. Can you think of ways this process could improve? What sort of effective pitching techniques do you like to use? Let us know through our FB group chat, or shoot me an email so we can expand on this and help the entire team.