June 11, 2014
As part of our special Documentary Video Pitch series, here's a video submission from Africa-based documentary filmmaker Cosmo Zengeya. As one of our first five submissions, we offered a complimentary critique and a free copy of our Documentary Fundraising Guide .
"Hi, my name is Cosmo. I'm a documentary filmmaker from Africa, Zimbabwe in the Southern region of the continent. I want to do a documentary film on the Masai. The Masai originally inhabited the Serengeti. But two governments, the Kenya government and the Tanzanian Government, sort of like came up with projects to try and move them from that place where they lived their natural way of life.. herding cattle, living the traditional way. So now most of themselves have found themselves in the city, they've found themselves globalized. The main challenge is trying to adapt from that old way of life to the new way of life. And the documentary is called Masai of the Times."
Thank you for submitting your documentary pitch.
Here are my first impressions.
I like that you introduce yourself and give a quick overview. This will change depending on the person and situation you're in, so you did a good job for this assignment. Most of the time, you will be face to face and can launch immediately into what the documentary is about.
One small suggestion: At the beginning of your pitch you say “I want to do a documentary..” It's better to stay in the present tense and tell people “I AM making a documentary..” Saying you are in process of taking action is much more powerful than saying you WANT to do something.
The pitch starts to go off course in the middle section where you mention the “two governments”. It is taking too long to get at the core emotional point of your film. There are no "hooks", nothing that sounds intriguing, new or different.
Your audience needs information that they can immediately recognize and relate to. If you had said something like "these ancient tribal warriors are under attack by their own people, their own governments", now that's starting to sound interesting.
The end of your pitch is where I finally started to "get" what your documentary is about. You talk about how the Masai "have found themselves in the city... globalized. The main challenge is trying to adapt from that old way of life to the new way of life."
The keywords you are using include "globalized", "old way or life", "new way of life". You are getting close with these words, but they still feel a bit generic and cliche. Try to hone in on a different set of words and phrases that might be more powerful and compelling. Words like panic, assassination and experiment are good examples of "hook" words that have been used in other film pitches.
Here are some things/questions to think about as you refine your pitch.
Below is the basic formula by Anne R. Allen for coming up with a good log line & film pitch. Fill in the blanks with your own story. You don't have to use this phrasing exactly, just use it as a guide.
“When _________ happens to ________, he/she must _________ or face ___________.”
The idea with the above sentence, is that you're trying to hone in on the "conflict" of your story. Where is the "challenge", the "rub", the "crisis" for the Masai?
Here is a rough sketch for a pitch to get you started:
"I'm making a documentary about the Masai people.. do you know the Masai?" They are the famous African warriors who live in the Serengeti. They are under attack by their government to abandon their ancient lifestyles and traditions. The Masai as we know them are disappearing in front of our eyes... and that's what I'm documenting... this epic battle and massive shift in culture."
What do you think Cosmo. Does this make sense?
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Cosmo received a complimentary copy of the Documentary Fundraising Guide which includes an entire content-packed chapter on how to craft a dynamic elevator pitch for your documentary. The highly-rated guide provides a step-by-step process for raising money for your documentary.