On a muggy Thursday, it begins …
The first day of the Frontières market always starts with the pitch sessions. The presentations take place in the big theatre where Fantasia has many of its screenings.
I missed last year’s edition due to bébé, which means that I missed the move to the big theatre as well. It was great to see such a large room filled with so many people eager to hear about the projects.
The first time that Colin and I attended Frontières, the pitch sessions were held in one of the small rooms now used for the speed dating-style meetings that the projects will spend the rest of the market participating in. It didn’t seem small at the time, but it didn’t take long for them to move to the J.A. de Sève theatre, which seats about 160 – more than double the people you can squeeze into the original room. While we were away the market made an even bigger jump, to the big (nearly 400 seat) cinema space, which gives the market a few more years’ worth of room to grow!
Because there were 20 projects to get through, the Frontières team held them to a fairly strict eight minute time limit. It’s amazing how much the level of polish of these presentations has increased over the years. In past years, there were always one or two presentations that seemed unrehearsed. Not any more! People are bringing their A-game.
In the past, I’ve recommended that people attending these kinds of markets bring a proof of concept video to show what the film they are hoping to make will look and sound like. In principle, I still think this is a good idea if it’s done well. The massive buzz created after the Frontières presentation of The Void in 2013 was almost entirely thanks to the killer trailer that those filmmakers made. A good proof of concept can work wonders.
If you don’t have the capacity to shoot original material, it can still be helpful to put together together a “mood reel” out of clips from other films. However, be mindful of whether your source material is in line with what you realistically hope to achieve. Including shots from The Shining in a pitch for a $1-2 million project might not seem realistic to the financiers in your audience.
“Proof of concept” has become a buzz term in recent years, and many filmmakers are doing the smart thing and making a short film that serves as a proof of concept for a feature that they hope to make, but also stands alone as a short. Several of the presentations at this year’s sessions used clips that were from their own thematically-similar shorts. One of those, The Home (which Screen Anarchy also singled out as one of the best pitches of the market), is available on Shudder and is really worth checking out.
But, great proofs of concept aside, there’s something else that can be just as important (if not more so) to showcase your talents in a pitch presentation: the good old fashioned director’s reel. Director reels are hardly a new concept, but now that everyone has jumped on the proof of concept train, they’re starting to feel fresh again.
This is something I also realized when we were evaluating the pitch videos for this year’s edition of Shudder Labs. The ones who made a proof of concept were effective, but the ones who just included a well edited reel of clips from their previous work were also very effective.
It actually shouldn’t have taken so long to realize the power of the filmmaker reel, because I experienced it myself at Frontières a few years ago when I came with Tim Reis and Matt Swinsky. Matt’s reel included extremely impressive work from a lot of slick, high concept music videos for a number of very notable hip hop stars. Everyone we met with was very impressed. One company (which does film packaging and represents talent) still brings him up every time we meet with them.
The pitch sessions were interesting this year because of the variety and diversity of the projects. For me, there were a few stand-outs (I loved Black Bats, The Cleaner, The Home, The Saviours and Zoo – with honourable mentions going to Nameless and The Restoration at Grayson Manor), and a couple that surprised me because I enjoyed them more than I thought I would. I’m not normally a huge fan of straight-up fantasy (of the Excalibur / Ladyhawke type), but The Stolen Child (a medieval fairies & knights type of tale) totally won me over with a great pitch and a great video edited together from a trilogy of shorts the filmmaker had already made about the magical world in which the feature takes place.
After the pitch sessions, we went for lunch (at the always delicious Fantasia/Frontières fave, Kafein) for a healthy salad to counterbalance last night’s rib-fest, and then took it easy. Most of our weekend is packed with meetings, but Thursday was totally clear, so we got to have a little bit of downtime before the opening night BBQ and the inevitable late night at the Irish Embassy (though we kept it to a reasonable two drinks and then went to bed – gotta be sharp for all those meetings).
My priority for this Frontières market is to catch up with friends and colleagues from all over the world, make some new connections with people who are attending and who I think I’d like to one day work with, meet with the projects that I think we might be able to help by introducing them to the right partners, and figure out whether there’s a project here that we might want to get involved with on a deeper level. Let’s see how I do on all those goals by the end of the weekend.