Megaball$: A pitch, a hit, rounding second base !

Jan. 26th (…the day after)

Our trip to the Sundance Film Festival 2017 was a success.  Our goals were to experience one of the top independent film festivals, to network, attend industry panels and to pitch our film, MegaBall$.

We attended at the urging of our film’s lawyer, Corky Kessler, who has participated in Sundance for 20 years.   We had a good experience attending the Toronto Film Festival with Corky so we agreed to join him at Park City, Utah, for four days. We attended many panels that were timed during Sundance as sponsored by other film organizations, including Film Utah.  Among the panel topics were general discussions on film, several on women in film, and one on film financing – which concluded with a pitch contest.

Panel on Women in Film

Park City’s Main Street is a picturesque downtown area lined with shops and restaurants, overcrowded with film-makers and wannabe filmmakers, gawkers, and some hoping to spot a celebrity or to be discovered.  Sidewalks were as crowded as Manhattan streets, filled with people navigating the piles of snow…snow…snow..SNOW!  It never stopped.  Great for skiers, not so much for filmmakers. (Where is the “sun” in Sundance?)  We were properly attired with boots, hats, scarves, gloves and heavy coats, allowing us to slog through the crowded snowy streets, but our movement was restricted by the altitude and icy ‘thin’ air.

Fortunately, we spent most of our time away from Main Street inside the Park City Film Studios.  The few times we ventured to Main Street we took advantage of the free bus shuttle from our rented condo, which was about a mile up the hill from Main and provided a view of the Deer Valley ski slopes.  We shared our accommodations with kindred spirited filmmaker-roommates.  One married couple, Lorrisa and Craig – we had met Lorrisa up in Toronto – and another lovely woman, Daniela.  Daniela had a full time driver at her disposal and graciously offered us all lifts to events, saving money and time…and the driver, Patrick, is definitely the best in the state.

Almost every evening was spent at a party in one of the condos, filled with friends, clients and contacts of Corky, making for interesting conversation while increasing our collection of business cards.

View behind our condo unit, looking toward Deer Valley Ski Slopes

But the big news….the pitch.

Film Utah has hosted pitch contests during Sundance for six years, offering three prize levels; third($200); second ($500); and first ($1,000; plus $200k of production service assistance – to include legal, public, accounting,etc., only applied if the winning film goes into production this year). Among the judges were an expert in film music licensing, a film financier, owners of a film distribution company, an established film director and teacher, and a representative from Film Utah.

There were to be two rounds of private pitches.  The first would be 3-5 minutes in length.  Then some filmmakers  would be selected for a second pitch of 8-10 mins.  We began our first round presenting each judge with an actual MegaMillions lottery ticket, with a projected jackpot of $177mil, while talking about lottery odds.  This worked well and provided us with a solid start.  Within two minutes the panelists posed questions, took notes and conversation flowed well.  We confidently completed the first round, eager for the second.  Then came an unexpected announcement; the judges decided a second round was unwarranted and announced the winners.

MegaBall$ triumphant; we took second place: $500….but wait, there’s more….the financier and the distributor both requested the screenplay. Score!!

At a later event hosted by the Utah Film Commissioner we were congratulated by many people – word had quickly spread!  Judges later confided that in actuality we had tied for first place.  They discussed at length how to handle the tie, but then felt one small item of our pitch was ever-so-unclear, so they opted to place us second.  We’re convinced that had we done the second round we would have placed first.  In all fairness, the winner not only had a great pitch, he had won the contest three years ago proving his pitching prowess.  The third place winner also had a good project, so we were in good company…and we’ve learned how to improve our pitch for the future.

We’re ecstatic.  Our goal is to make our film.  By having the distributor, Koan, Inc., and the financier request the screenplay, we now have a tremendous opportunity to further our goal…and make the film! What’s next? According to Corky; the Cannes Film Festival, May 11th – 28th. We”ll look into the feasibility of attending Cannes but it may be out of our financial reach. We’re confident that Koan will like the script and guide us forward….possibly joining them at Cannes. Toronto. Sundance. Cannes? Perhaps a trifecta is in store for MegaBall$ ….. Stay tuned!

#Sundance2017   #MegaBalls   #FilmUtah   #Oroloro   #ParkCity


 

Jan 18 (3 days to go) The 2017 Sundance Film Festival starts tomorrow, and we prepare to head out on Saturday morning. We’ve been very busy….attended a pre-Sundance party Saturday here in NYC, and have been reaching out to many filmmakers and friends to see who else will be in Park City the same days. We’ve practiced and tweaked our pitch [for a panel/contest], and started to sort and pack. Fortunately the space we’re staying in has a washer/dryer, so we can pack less and wash if/when needed.

Always a concern is luggage. We have do not have a direct flight and hope luggage gets to Salt Lake City as planned. To be sure, some items – such as MegaBall$ One Sheet, business cards, etc – will be divided between our luggage. The real packing begins tomorrow. If you’re not already following us on social media, please do – we’ll Tweet and post from Park City – and hope to return with good news….and substantial progress towards filming MegaBall$.

#Oroloro #MegaBalls #Mballs

Jan 13 (7 Days to go): We’ve received our updated 1-sheets, and good cigars….mom always said, never go empty handed.No putting the final touches on our two pitches (3-5 mins, and 8-10 mins) and have a practice session for Sunday, the 15th. Those attending (or watching the pitch streamed) will offer some feedback that we can use to refine and improve. Practice makes perfect – and the pitch prize potential is worth the effort.

We’ve sent out a bunch of emails introducing the project to some who we expect to attend.

So, back to work! Much still do, including ground transportation arrangements and more!


 

Jan 5 (16 days to go!) It’s National Screenwriters’ Day. While we know MegaBall$ is a winner, we’re not about to rest  on our laurels. It’s a good to for another read through and see if there are any tweaks to be found. We’re moving closer to Sundance, and working on the ‘script for our pitch event. Making two versions: a 3-5 minute form, and a 10-minute form. We’ll hold two to practice pitches (to make our pitch…pitch perfect!) before we leave – so much planning in the works. One will be on Sunday, January 15th – and will be livestreamed on Facebook.

The two past days since our last post we’ve been crunching numbers and doing our annual account for 2016, organizing all those expenses that go with the development of the project. They really add up! If we could only stir up some significant logo item sales we could have a drip of income to offset the expenditures. But a winning lotto ticket would fix just about everything.


 

Jan. 2 (19 days to go) Today we begin putting down notes for our ‘pitch’. Sure, we have all the information in our head, but it’s a good idea to put them in paper to better organize them, and use them as a guideline for the actual pitch. Pitches have several purposes. To get a studio exec/actor to ask for the script and/or investor documents…to build attention and gain followers on social media…to get an investor/financier to ask for the offering….and, in this specific case, to pitch at the Sundance panel for prizes.

A pitch should have some specific components: The title, genre, a good tag-line, a logo-line, and then brief synopsis of the story. In a longer pitch you delve into the story and provide more details. One should name the lead character, 1-2 secondary characters, the leads goal, the conflict and the resolve. You must make the pitch interesting and engaging to the listener(s), and you should speak clearly, confidently and connect to the listener. Do not editorialize your story (Hey’ it’s the best script ever written….you’ll laugh your asses off!….). If you’re pitching well the listener will make their own conclusions. Hopefully they will ask questions – pay attention to them. Some questions will let you know they have interest in learning more, and others will make it clear they didn’t understand you or ‘get’ the pitch. Try doing a few practice pitches: get some friends together for coffee or drinks, do your pitch and get their feedback.

It’s a good idea to have several pitches always at hand:

  • The elevator pitch.  A short – perhaps 1 min or less – to pitch quickly to get someone to ask for more.
  • A 3 Minute Pitch. Attention spans are short these days thanks to things like Twitter, so one needs to have a grab-em-by-the-throat pitch to get them to ask for more.
  • A 5-min pitch. When given the opportunity, be prepared to talk at length. In some cases the pitch events can be 10 mins. You need to really know your project specifics – you cannot fake it or or give ambiguous answers. When you do, the sharks will smell blood in the water.

We’ve been watching numerous episodes of Shark Tank. While the pitches are not about film, the process is similar. It’s good way to see what works (confidence, details, a good idea well presented), and what doesn’t (being unprepared, unprofessional, not having solid data, or gimmicks that are over the top.). (Shark Tank pitch tips page) We also looked on YouTube for pitch videos, and found many good ones including the Napa Valley Film Festival Pitch events as posted by Tout Suite.

We plan on doing two practice pitches (one 3-5 min, and one 10 minute), one gathering  on Long Island and one in Manhattan, before we leave for Sundance on Jan 21st. We’ve made a list of people to invite – people who are involved in the entertainment industry, potential investors – people we trust to give us honest feedback and ask tough questions. Wish us luck! If we come in first at the Sundance event, we win $1,000 plus a some serious production discounts…and it will be another good ‘feather’ when approach investors.


 

Jan. 1 (20 days to go)…Starting the New Year with our first activity: printing out a copy of the screenplay to be delivered into the hands of our first choice actor for a lead role. We won;t mention the name…yet. The screenplay has been recognized in two competitions – most recently the WorldSeries of Screenwriting named MegaBall$ as one of the top-ten comedies. The script is in to other competitions and we hope we do as well!

We’ll be doing several practice pitch sessions before we leave, possibly live-streaming them for those unable to attend. The feedback will help us improve the content, and the practice will make it perfect!

We’ll be attending well armed, with great looking one-sheets, all our legal documents, and with the knowledge we are grandfathered in to the now-expired federal film tax incentive, known as Sect 181.