“This is what makes us different.” – Pia Pressure – A great new way to fund your filmmaking project
There's a certain degree of romance about coming up with an idea for a film or TV show and scribbling what you hope are brilliant scenes on the back of some beermats with your mates. There's even a certain degree of romance (at least for those that have never done it) in burning the midnight oil whilst you hone your screenplay. There's zero romance in seeking funding. That's graft.
Not too long ago funding routes for independent filmmakers were limited and highly competitive. Whilst still competitive there are now many more funding options available. One of these new options is Pia Pressure. The brainchild of award-winning filmmaker Pia Getty, Pia Pressure is a television and production company that has been set up to support emerging talent make exciting and original films and shows. They have a particular interest in supporting female filmmakers and projects that highlight issues from under represented backgrounds. The company has introduced the Pia Pressure Awards which offers the opportunity to secure funding and mentorship for your film or show. If you're successful you will receive up to £25,000 and will become a life peer within Pia Pressure's highly supportive network. Pia Pressure encourages past award-winners to support future winners. "We hope to create a self-sustaining network of up and coming filmmakers who provide each other with vital support," says founder, Pia Getty. "This is what makes us different."
If you're wondering if your project could fit their criteria then it's worth noting aside from particularly wanting to help those who don't normally get a voice Pia Pressure are looking for projects that have the potential for growth. "We're looking for projects that ideally can be upscaled into a full scale series, a feature film or projects of a comparable size," says Pia. "We are giving applicants a chance to prove that they have the talent and ideas worthy of entrusting them with major projects. This said every application will be considered on a case by case basis." In basic terms this means if you vision maxes out at a web series you need to start aiming higher. Equally if you haven't done your maths and haven't the foggiest idea how you could actually profit from what has essentially been your passion project for years you also need to do your homework. You'll need to show profitability, a clear business plan, a comprehensive marketing strategy, a ready audience (who you've probably already tapped for crowdfunding) and obviously that you've got the savvy and creativity to pull this off.
"And they need to have a good team too," adds Pia. "Successful applicants will be self-starting teams who can show they have the talent to deliver. Their are so many talented creatives out there, but talent alone will not translate into a successful project. Experience, team work, organisation, self-reliance and determination are as much a part of success." I asked Pia if being a teamplayer is what is going to make Pia Pressure's network thrive. "Absolutely, this is very important to us," agreed Pia. "If you don’t feel you can contribute and mentor the next generation of talent, don’t apply!"
In short you've got to know your stuff and also be up for sharing your stuff. Or as Nicola Lees (author of "Greenlit" and "Give Me The Money And I'll Shoot") brilliantly puts it: Whether you are working in a super-indie or as a one-man band, if you have ideas to pitch, the principles are the same: know yourself, know the market and mostly importantly, know your channel executive." Nicola has an extensive history of getting shows commissioned and mentoring people to do the same so I asked her what advice she has on creating a successful project.
"By knowing yourself I mean funding bodies and commissioning editors like to feel that you (or your company) have a proven track record in successfully delivering a project like the the one you're pitching. If you don't, partner with someone who has who can reassure the decision maker that they are in safe hands. By knowing the market I mean it's no good pitching a reality TV series to a channel that specialises in high-brow arts programmes; likewise certain genres come in and out of fashion. For example lots of TV commissioners are looking for 'box set' documentary series right now after the success of Netflix's Making A Murderer. Likewise the trend for 'occureality' shows featuring 'men with beards' doing macho jobs, such as Deadliest Catch is now on the wane after a long run in the US." This echoed Pia's points about having a workable plan for your project.
Nicola went on to talk about getting to know your channel executives/programme funders/commissioners/outlets, which for many a fledging filmmaker is the daunting bit as they have little idea of how to break into the system.
"People like to fund people they know so it's important to build a relationship with someone before you ever have to approach them for money. Also it helps to know what they've commissioned in the past, and a smart analysis will reveal the kind of tone/subject/presenter/approach that appeals to them. And in the case of programme funders it's crucial to know what their funding criteria is; some will only fund a certain part of the production budget e.g. development or post-production; others will only fund projects from a certain kind of person (women, or people who live/work in a certain geographical area); others focus on funding creative documentaries or documentaries that aim to bring about some kind of societal change."
Somewhat sensing apprehension Nicola added, "The best way to achieve all of the above is to actively invest time in keeping up with industry trends by reading the trade press TV Mole is good for factual TV and documentary news); attending festivals (particularly those aimed at filmmakers that have a market attached such as Sheffield Doc/Fest or IDFA) and watching lots of films. Twitter and similar platforms are also great for building relationships with people whom you might never have met in normal circumstances. You can also use it to 'follow along' to what's being discussed on panels at all the major film/TV conferences for information on all the latest commissioning trends e.g. MIPDoc and Realscreen Summit."
I wondered what makes a good pitch stand out for Nicola.
"Many people get too close to their subject and therefore find it difficult to pitch succinctly. They end up pitching their research or the importance of the cause they want to highlight. Commissioners want to be able to visualise what they would see on screen and how events play out."
So they want the story in short?
"Yes, a good written pitch will contain:
1. A one or two sentence summary as an opener that contains the Who, Where, What, Why and How? and this should make them want to read on.
2. Then put some meat on the bones and introduce them to the characters, their world, their needs and the obstacles in their way.
3. Then you can explain about the mechanics of the production.
4. Finally remember that all the way through your writing style should match the tone of your project, and ideally that of the funder".
Thankfully Pia Pressure aren't commissioners and they will help guide you through processes such as these if you're fortunate enough to become part of their network.
"We are looking for projects that might have otherwise slipped through the net of more traditional production companies which have more formal screening methods and take fewer risks on new talent" says Pia.
This is indeed needed and welcomed. Renee Faia and Iggi Ogard are an all-woman filmmaking team who have recently crowdfunded and shot their debut narrative short film, Beautiful Dead Things. As they both have a proven track record, but just need help breaking through they are exactly the sort of people Pia Pressure are targeting.
"Pia Pressure is a great idea," Iggi enthused. "Things like this are needed in the industry. We will definitely be looking into applying for an award."
Interested filmmakers can find out more about applying for Pia Pressure's Awards here.
Nicola Lees' books can be found at all good outlets. Nicola is also contactable at Sara Putt.
Written by Jayne Thorpe