Streaming pitches

We live in the age of streaming. If that was true before, the current circumstances have only amplified it. The OTT world has never been more significant, both for audiences and creators. At a time when every filmmaker, production house, writer and actor in the industry seems to be hard at work on a web series or seven, we asked creators and development execs from different platforms what makes an effective pitch and how to stand out from the crowd:

Sudip Sharma, creator, Paatal Lok on Amazon Prime Video

Be very sure that you want to do that show. Shows are not dates, they’re long-term relationships. They take a long time to make. It took me four years to get the first season of Paatal Lok out. Even if you’re lucky, it will still take you two years to write and produce. Be very sure that the idea is going to hold your interest for that long. Platforms in India prefer multi-season ideas over miniseries, so keep that in mind.

If you’re a new writer and don’t have any credits yet, having a pilot episode written will help more than just having a pitch or Bible. Platforms want to know if you can actually write. And even if this pilot doesn’t get made, if it’s well written, it can become a calling card to get other gigs.

Executive at a streaming platform, who did not want to be identified

Writers sometimes send us a script and ask us to decide whether this should be a series or a film. That shows a lack of clarity. When we finally decide to greenlight something, it’s as much for the material as it is for the vision of the writer or director. So when you’re sending us a pitch but aren’t sure of the format, that is a turn-off.

It’s very important to pitch yourself, especially when you’re quite new and don’t have a body of work. Don’t tell us what you’ve done in school or college or with your friends. Give us one solid short film you’ve made, which has done well or received recognition.

In our inbox, we have a hundred pitches with photos of Ayushmann Khurrana or Rajkummar Rao. We understand that this is your dream project and you want your dream cast for it, but it’s also necessary to be aware if those stars are doing OTT at the moment. If you include a slide of your proposed cast, with an awareness of who’s working on OTT, then we know you have really done your homework. We should get that you know the market and aren’t just in a fairyland of wanting to make a film.

Also Read: The Best Performances On Streaming In June 2020

Sumrit Shahi, creator, Never Kiss Your Best Friend on ZEE5

It helps to study the type of content the platform has been putting out. Every platform has a brand and you need to identify which one caters to your type of storytelling.

It’s very important to have a strong and clear log line that conveys the plot and conflict. It should end with a cliffhanger to generate curiosity among the listeners. In my experience, the concept has to be narrated more often than it is read, and that is where your narration skills come in. A visual aid always helps. A simple PPT with character references, images supporting your vision and the world you’re trying to create will help keep them engaged.

Whatever happens, don’t let your confidence slip, even if they don’t show any emotion throughout your narration. They’re paid to keep a poker face. You may be asked which actors you see playing your characters, so it helps to have a reference in mind.

Gaurav Shukla, creator, Asur on Voot

Always work on the longevity of your content and how it can continue season after season. That will increase your chances manifold. Write a cracking pilot. This will help the platform understand the world, the tone, the characters better and give them a glimpse into your skill as a screenwriter.

If one OTT platform gives you feedback after rejecting you, work on it before pitching your show to another platform. If you don’t, the second platform will invariably also point out the same drawbacks.

Don’t take yourself too seriously. Make the environment light and calm your nerves before you start. Don’t stress, your life does not depend on it. Ninety-nine pitches out of hundred don’t land. It’s okay to get rejected. Keep knocking on doors till they open.

Karan Anshuman, co-creator, Inside Edge and Mirzapur on Amazon Prime Video

A lot of people become obsessed with doing the pitch rather than strengthening the concept. I understand that a lot of people can’t afford to work for free for too long on some ideas, so just have an idea about what the world is, what the setting is, the character arcs, the season’s story and of course, the pilot. If you have all this down on paper, it will help the person you’re pitching to get further clarity on what it is that you are trying to pitch.

It will be easier if you have source material, but it’s always better to push original content.

Also Read: ‘My Inbox Is Full Of Cricket Gossip And Scandals’ – Inside Edge Creator Karan Anshuman

Executive at a streaming platform, who did not want to be identified

Have material written on the idea. Sometimes we get the log line and the synopsis and we ask for further material, only to find that the writer has absolutely nothing else. They get a brilliant idea and want to pitch it fast. Don’t just send us the synopsis, have a script ready for when we ask for it.

Be open to collaboration. A lot of fairly new writers, who don’t have a body of work, shut down if we suggest bringing another writer onboard. We understand that this script might be your baby, but it’s important to understand that your pitch needs more material to execute it. We’re not trying to compromise your vision.

Be open to receiving notes. Trust us. We only want what is best for the film.

Also Read: 33 Movies And Shows To Watch Out For In July 2020

Sudhanshu Saria, showrunner, untitled Amazon Prime Video series

Know why you want to tell the story. A lot of the time, people go in with an idea because they think that’s what the executives are looking for. Really know what your idea is, how many episodes it will have and if they’ll be an hour long or half-an-hour long. Know whether it’s a limited series of six two eight episodes or if it’s a multi-season show. You need to know the tone, whether it’s drama or comedy.

Another factor here is how unusual or how experimental your idea is. If it’s based on an international property or established IP or if it’s an idea that they already really want, I think they’ll probably require a lesser degree of pre-development before they invest in it. But if you’re doing something that’s very experimental or personal or unusual, it’s a tougher sell so writing a pilot and doing more work beforehand to help them understand will be required.

As told to Suchin Mehrotra and Gayle Sequeira

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