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Get Involved in Genre Filmmaking: How To Pitch At Frontières Film Market

Wednesday, August 14, 2019 | Fantasia International Film Festival

By: Ariel Fisher

On August 1st, Fantasia International Film Festival wrapped its 23rd year as one of the largest genre film festivals in North America. Spanning a gargantuan three weeks at the end of July, it’s like summer camp for the horror community, complete with networking events, panels, special presentations and, perhaps most importantly, Frontières. 

The leading industry initiative for genre filmmakers, the Frontières Co-production Market is one of the best places to promote your upcoming project and lock down whatever your production may be missing, from funding to cast and crew and everything in between. Designed for projects in development and in the early stages of financing, you’ll be selling not just your idea, but also your brand and yourself. 

While this may seem simple, it’s not as cut and dry as standing up in front of an audience and talking about your ideas. There’s a lot to keep in mind in order to pitch your project successfully and have it – and you – taken seriously. To make life easier for filmmakers hoping to attend Frontières in the future, we’ve put together a list of some of the most important things to focus on when prepping your pitch. 

1. Know what you have and what you need
The whole point of these presentations is to ask potential financial backers and industry professionals for resources, so it’s important to outline precisely what you already have and what you still need. Are you just looking for extra funding? Do you have a crew and locations lined up but still need to find your principal cast? Are you looking for producers? Clearly stating what you’re looking for makes it easier for market attendees to identify if yours is the right project to get involved with while allowing you to get precisely what your team needs to bring your project to fruition. 

2. The Devil – and the deals – are in the details 
Specificity will help save time in the long run, allowing producers, distributors, sales agents, and other industry professionals to determine right up front whether yours is the right project for them. Know what percentage of your budget you have, for instance, and what percentage you still need. What positions do you need to be filled within the crew? Where are you hoping to film and what locations have you scouted or locked down at this stage? Put the most important micro details into your slides and give the overview in your presentation.

3. Know Your Material 
With a pitch presentation, the basic rules of public speaking apply. Chief among them is knowing your material inside and out and presenting it in a way that makes it interesting and engaging. This may seem like an obvious note, but it can be trickier than you’d think. For some, having a script that the group can follow works, while for others this is too limiting. No matter how you approach your presentation, whether it’s scripted or not, the risk is having a dull presentation that loses its audience. 

Pat Mills and Alysson Richard’s presentation for The Retreat, for instance, felt spontaneous and engaging. It was also hilarious. The film’s plot was presented simply in one slide as “lesbians in the woods killing Nazis.” The crowd actually started to cheer and applaud. The key is to find the right tone for your brand and to stick to it. Also, don’t be afraid to use humour. If it fits with the film, it can be an integral part of selling it.   

4. Branding and marketing matter 
It may seem frivolous, and yes we know the focus should be on your film and not your brand. But you’re here to sell your project and yourself and no one wants to buy a product they don’t like the look of. As such, good branding matters. This means having a clear brand identity for your film, using mood boards for things like costumes, characters, locations, and even desired actors for different roles. 

Visually compelling presentations are a great way to engage your audience and secure interest in financing and future distribution. Having a clearly defined brand can also help with marketing further down the line. Jacqueline Castel and Jae Matthews’ presentation for My Animal, for example, had an expertly crafted brand identity. From the font choices to background images and colour schemes, no detail was left unattended to. 

5. Rehearse rehearse rehearse!
Even if you’re not sticking to a script, rehearsing your presentation with your entire team is essential. You’re on the clock and you only have about 10 minutes to get through all of your material, from details about budgets and shooting locations to director’s intentions and mood boards. Clearly outline who gets to say what, and time each other. Make sure all of the necessary information is being communicated clearly and concisely, and in the most accessible way possible. 

This means that, for the sake of efficiency and expediency, your presentation should be predominantly or exclusively in the dominant language spoken by the room. If you’re in an English-speaking audience but your filmmaker’s primary language is Spanish, it may be a more efficient option to have them record a video of their part of the presentation – say, director’s intentions, for instance – ahead of time and include subtitles. Unfortunately, time spent translating on the spot cuts your presentation time in half and is effectively time lost from other important information.  

The Frontières Co-production Market is one of the best platforms to help round out your production needs and make your project visible to potential distributors. But making sure you don’t get lost in the shuffle can be difficult if you don’t know how to approach your presentation. So whether you’re a first-timer looking for guidelines to get you started or a seasoned pro who may have some blindspots, these tips should help steer your next pitch presentation in the right direction.  

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