Pitching for funds for docus needs meticulous training & methodology

MUMBAI: Getting finance for making documentary films is not only a matter of having the right contacts, but also the way a prospective filmmaker pitches or presents the subject matter to commissioning editors.

This kind of presentation – or pitching – needs a lot of training and it may not be easy for a newcomer to be able to do this at his first attempt.

This was the general consensus at a discussion in the Open Forum on ‘Pitching: Getting finance for global projects’ organised by the Indian Documentary Producers Association as part of the ongoing MIFF.

Lucia Rikaki, who is from Greece and linked to two film festivals, referred to various organisations in the Netherlands, Germany and France who are prepared to fund good projects provided the presentations are suitable.

Rikaki, who had been a member of the jury at the Short Film Center at the last International Film Festival of India in Goa in 2009, said most commissioning editors would also need a short development budget before they agree to the main budget. Similarly, they want presentations of the concept in different formats and narrow down in a way it attracts the attention of the commissioning editors.

She also stressed that filmmakers needed to be emancipated and empowered about the various sources of funding.

Beena Paul, who is connected to the Kerala International Film Festival, said pitching helped to articulate one’s ideas in an appealing manner. A documentary filmmaker should be able to hone down to the exact idea, and make a presentation and not present a script.

She also felt that it was wrong to see the producer merely as the financier and he should have a good rapport with the director and should also be responsible for the presentation for pitching. Thus, the producers also have to be trained in the art of pitching. Answering a question, she said it was said that most Indian documentaries were so low-grade.

Nilotpal Basu who is linked to the Docedge initiative which helps train people for pitching so that they are able to present their projects said 42 projects had been funded in recent months, thanks to the initiative taken by him and others in Kolkata. Docedge already had the database of 300 filmmakers.

He said it was unfortunate that there was no production base besides the Public Service Broadcasting Trust for documentaries, and said it was important for local organisations to be involved.

But he stressed that Docedge was an institution and not a festival. It was also necessary to understand that commissioning editors never came with cheques in hand and the initial negotiations began at the pitching sessions.

Gargi Sen who is herself making as well as distributing documentaries by others said it was important to professionalize the commissioning system, making it more transparent, and help connect potential filmmakers.

Several filmmakers in the audience complained that there was need for greater transparency and also greater interaction among the filmmakers. Some said some filmmakers were merely undercutting others.

Ramesh Tekwani, General Secretary of the IDPA, said it was regrettable that the short filmmakers could not get together. He said that the IDPA could help in pitching if more filmmakers got together.

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