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.
For Sullivan Sails producer Jonathan Clarke, 2020 has been a blur of digital pitches and meetings.
From MIPTV, CMC, Cartoon Forum and MIFA, Clarke has been busy at virtual events selling the 26 x seven-minute preschool series about a young boy who dreams up new places to explore with a talking fox.
There was interest early on, but it wasn’t until he leaned into the show’s far-flung exotic destination and free-spirited traveling adventures—a timely element right now, given all the closed borders and travel restrictions—that the show really began resonating with broadcasters, he says. Identifying how Sullivan Sails fit into the new gaps the pandemic has opened up was a big part of how he was able to break through.
“This is a series of exploration and meeting different cultures, which already has a built-in appeal,” says Clarke. “But when you can’t travel at all, then this element of escapism comes in and can feed kids’ need to go somewhere else.”
He has since secured a deal with Ireland’s RTÉjr, and with some positive response from international broadcasters, is already looking at doing a second season with 52 episodes. The first season is set to debut in fall 2021.
While a 20-minute pitch provides ample time to go over the details of a project in real life, online Clarke found that he had to limit the presentation to just eight minutes. He pitched RTÉjr before COVID-19 changed the course of history, but it was when he updated his presentation with more color (better to attract eyeballs on a small screen) and made the pitch more succinct that the series clicked for the pubcaster.
Looking ahead, Clarke recommends taking advantage of a Zoom call whenever possible. A pre-recorded presentation may languish on a broadcaster’s desk, and the real-time feedback is immensely valuable for producers looking to refine their decks.
And it’s worth perfecting that pitching process now, Clarke says, as he suspects the virtual pitch is likely to stick around after the live markets return. Amid all the negative news and a frustrating year, virtual presentations have created an upside that producers, particularly smaller ones, can’t ignore—global reach. Broadcasters have grown accustomed to the virtual process, and connecting online can open doors that weren’t available at in-person events.
“Being super-concise is effective because visuals are more important than ever,” says Clarke. “With all of us working digitally, the project has to come across well on screen to get noticed.”
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.