Pitching is arguably one of the most important parts of the development process. It’s never been easy to get an idea sold, but COVID-19 has added new challenges to the mix. Attention spans are waning, screen fatigue is setting in, and something always seems to go wrong with technology.
Kidscreen reached out to leaders from across the industry for their insights on how to pivot to an online pitching world, what it takes to translate art and ideas from a distance, and how to lock in that deal in lockdown.
Paper Panther Productions founder Carol Freeman, who was behind paint-on-glass film The Bird and the Whale and is currently directing digital cut-out preschool series Sullivan Sails, knows a thing or two about creating projects with a style that stands out. The unique look of these projects helped them gain traction in the market before and during the pandemic, she says.
Paper Panther is now looking to turn The Bird and the Whale into a kids TV series titled Little Whale, as well as gearing up to launch stop-motion puppet feature The Lost Queen (pictured) at Cartoon Movie in 2021. With travel restrictions forcing pitches to take place virtually, Freeman believes art-forward concepts have an edge in the marketplace.
These projects are meant to stand out with very stylized art choices, but breaking down a less common (and often more time-consuming) technique like paint-on-glass and explaining why it’s necessary can be difficult, especially if you only have a 30-minute meeting to work with, Freeman says. But having detailed art and teasers (if possible) will help sell the vision for a series or movie, engage broadcasters and provide a vehicle to dive into key story details.
Pitching virtually often means producers are contending with reduced attention spans, since any little thing could be pulling buyers and potential partners in another direction. So to ensure Paper Panther’s vision still gets across, the studio is prepping a lot of new art for all of its projects (more so than it would have done for in-person pitches) and focusing on developing stories with some key details to hook buyers.
In the case of The Lost Queen, the key creatives behind the coming-of-age series are all women who are drawing on their lived experiences, and that resonates through the script, she says. But the art is what has really engaged broadcasters and sold the story, says Freeman.
In person, she could have spent time diving into characters and story. But now she’s pivoted her approach to just teasing the plot, before showing off the art and letting that speak volumes for her.
Looking ahead to future pitches, Freeman is making sure Paper Panther focuses on creating new art and tightening up stories so the plots are succinctly summarized and there’s always fresh art. Those are the two most important elements when it comes to selling people on shows that don’t have a traditional look, she says.
“Maybe 50% of pitching was about being able to schmooze with people before the pandemic, but in a virtual space, that’s out,” says Freeman. “Now the focus is on having a lot of examples of the project to show we’re not crazy and that we can pull off the style we’re talking about.”
For more insights on nailing the digital pitch, Kidscreen Summit Virtual (February 8 to March 5, 2021) is hosting a Pitch Doctoring workshop session and a master class on Perfecting Your Virtual Pitch. Business Passes for the upcoming event are available here.