Yesterday Gail Hackston and I went to the Film London offices to pitch for Cancer Hair which was shortlisted for the Eastern Edge film fund. There was only a 20% chance we would win. The other teams were all extremely strong and every project was interesting. We weren’t successful! Even so this wasn’t a wasted trip.

The process of pitching is a cross between speed-dating and a job interview. You have 5 minutes to sell the project. It is vital you can hit the key points with ease. Open inviting body language and confidence is vital. You need to know the timing perfectly. But perhaps the single most important thing is passion and the ability to be able to “sell” the project.

I spent most of the day before the pacing up and down the kitchen doing jazz hands practicing –much to the amusement of our kids (“Daddy has gone mad and he’s still talking to himself”). In the end I structured things so I could add in or drop parts out depending on how the time was progressing. This wasn’t an easy process, but I am very glad I did this. It is remarkably easy to either ramble over the allocated time nervously or clam up and forget things nervously. There are aspects I’m sure we could improve – but I don’t think we delivered a truly terrible first-ever pitch. We will be speaking to Eastern Edge to gather feedback next week.

A knock-back is usually more important than a success – you can learn more from this. I believe this is the case, plus if it wasn’t meant to be – best we know now. That what doesn’t kill us…

For me, the process wasn’t really about getting the money (it wasn’t a vast sum in the first place, although it would have sped up the production schedule). It was about further training/experience and the gravitas of being associated with Eastern Edge/Film London. However there are positives about this outcome. We no longer need to feel bound to the conditions which would have been imposed had we won – namely:

  • We no-longer have to rush through and deliver a project within 3 months (but having a specified date does focus the mind)
  • We are no longer tied to a particular location
  • We can significantly reduce costs because of some of the conditions involved.

It also highlighted a few useful things:

  • The script is original and people love it.
  • The title divides people (myself included). Gail and I discussed this in detail afterwards. I have come to the conclusion that for fund-raising “Cancer hair” does what it says on the tin. However in terms of the end product – anything with “Cancer” in is too on the nose and a softer title needs to be considered. Especially considering it is actually a “feel good” film, which the title doesn’t suggest.
  • We should revise the schedule in more detail now we have time.

So all in all, I see this as a thoroughly useful exercise, even if the final outcome wasn’t the intended one.


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