๐ŸŽฌ Getting Work & Selling Ideas

Finding a Client

Before you make something for someone or with their money, you need to find them and get the job. Here are some basic, but less obvious, tips for getting good clients:

  • Provide value for free on jobs you want to work on. Who would say ‘no’ to that?
  • Get overflow work from larger production houses or ad agencies.
  • “White label” as a freelancer for a bigger company. You might not get credit, but they’ll give you consistent work.
  • Networking is where the majority of your clients will come from. Let your work and your reputation get you re-hired. Don’t fear the labor pool. Establish an attitude of collaboration and make friendships. The professional world is less competitive than you think. Online and in-person networking are both important. The ability to get work of social media is not to be underestimated. Have a business card and website ready. Both are imperative in today’s world.
  • Make friends in film school. Seriously. You will work with them again.

The world of media production is a huge one and there are many potential “clients” who will require the services you provide. There’s always someone getting married or wanting to sell a home. Do your best in every project you put your name to and it shouldn’t take long for people to be seeking you out. In all of this, determine how much you want to be your own entrepreneur and how much you like someone else to bear the burden of responsibility at the end of the day. If you like to go home at 5:00 work for someone else. Like all things in life, there’s not much of a secret to it; lots of work brings lots of reward.

๐ŸŽฌ The PNA (Program Needs Analysis)

A PNA is the first thing we’ll talk about. It’s sort of a first step verification that the thing you’re wanting to make is worth making. This is more typical in a commercial-type setting. It is NOT a content document like a treatment, but it helps establish the reason for the program (something too many companies insufficiently consider):

  • Who is the client? This is important to establish: know who your client is and who has approval on decisions. Creative projects by committee can be painful.
  • What is the problem you’re solving?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Where is your program being shown? Distribution is key.

In the process of creating something visual, you’ll often have to communicate your idea to other people. The visuals, lighting, mood, color palette; the soundscape, editing style, and the overarching message and feeling you intend to convey. There are various tools to help get your message heard, seen, funded and made. We start with the simplest.

๐ŸŽฌ What’s a logline?

One sentence that tells the uninformed listener what your project is all about. It’s the distillation of your entire narrative idea and it’s main arc into one, very descriptive, sentence.

  • Include the main protagonist and antagonist and their motivation (doesn’t have to be a person). The key to good drama is someone wanting something they can’t or don’t have.
  • Keep it short.
  • Make it interesting (character adjectives can add a lot)
  • Make it comprehensible to your demographic
  • Make it count (again, every word is important; remember you’re selling an idea)
  • Make someone want to fund this idea. Keep your logline interesting and focused.

๐ŸŽฌ What’s an elevator pitch?

The idea here is that you need to know your story well enough to convince someone, in a short space of time, that they should care about it as well. If you stumble across a generous billionaire movie producer on the elevator, how do you pitch your story in the two minutes before he gets off?

  1. Be passionate and confident. They need to see you care about this idea.
  2. Like the logline, make sure the uninformed understand your topic sufficiently.
  3. Watch your audience and leave room for their questions.

Tips for an Elevator Pitch

๐ŸŽฌ Treatments & Proposals

โ€œTreatmentโ€ and โ€œproposalโ€ are loosely-defined terms which you’ll hear many people use interchangeably. As a generalization, a “proposal” might include more details on the scope of the project, its financing, execution, and the environment it serves, while a treatment is usually a more visual document with a focus on conveying creative intent related to the actual content of what’s being produced. For our purposes, we’ll associate the term “proposals” with the documentary world and the term “treatments” with the commercial one. The most important lesson is to customize your treatment and/or proposal to the specific needs of your audience (often whoever is providing you funding). For this assignment, we’ll merge the principles discussed below as you create your group “proposal”.

The world of commercial program development will employ many of you. The process varies depending on your location and the scale of your project, but these ideas will give you a good foundation of the process. If you’re working in-house as a media specialist for a company, they’re likely the one’s coming to you with the ideas. In this section we’ll look at options you have for pitching your take on a creative project to an actively-searching ad agency or client.

A film treatment is sort of an expanded pitch, communicating visual and story features of the narrative and focusing on a cliff-notes version of the highlights.

A film treatment (or treatment) sits between scene cards (index cards), which are often used to first outline the structure of a film, and the first draft of a screenplay for a motion picture, television program, or radio play. It’s something like a condensed script. You tell your story in screen order, in present tense, with all the main plot points. Do so in a way that really shows the reader/viewer what is happening. I advocate making a treatment with some sort of visual element as well, though it’s not always essential. In the commercial world, a treatment is a detailed sort of outline that takes the viewer through the entire idea for the commercial, communicating both visual style and thematic content along the way. Communicating the specifics of who is involved in your story, what their narrative arc may be, and the style with which we’ll experience this journey can all be touchstones of a well-produced treatment.

The ad agency will solicit bids from directors. The directors give the agency a written and visual presentation which convey’s their creative vision. That presentation is called a “Treatment”.  Another useful term is that this is the “Minimum Viable Film”. This is the most affordable, quick and useful way to create your story and convince others of your vision before a script is even written.

It’s a visual and thematic idea of how the program will appear. Written before the script. This is the first talking point on what the actual content of the media will be once you’ve done your PNA. It gets everyone s on the same page (important in the collaborative world of film). It also gives investors confidence in the project. Find out the form of treatment preferred by whomever your submitting it to. You’re trying to convey the story and your approach. Write in present tense like a fictional script, tell us what’s happening and what is being shown as it pertains to our understanding of the story’s structure.

“In the ad world, a treatment is used to woo the creatives, account people, and agency producersโ€”convincing the entire gang that the potential director (or production company) is the right person for the job. A treatment is practically used the same way in the Hollywood studio system.”-NFS

“A treatment is a well-designed mood board.”


Examples of Treatments



 ๐ŸŽฌ Creating A Proposal

We’ll take many of these treatment-related ideas and use them to craft our own project proposal. Here are some pointers:

  • Craft your idea before you look at anything visual. Make sure they’re your ideas and create a text outline first. Now find visuals that support and convey your idea.
  • All of this said, there’s no one industry-standard format for treatments and proposals. Follow the Canvas guidelines.
  • Make it your take. The agency will buy you because of the creative vision you lend. You can be bold. They’ll buy your passion.
  • Adobe InDesign works well because you can create a customizable template which you can reuse. InDesign is similar to Adobe Illustrator, but it’s primarily a page layout tool so it’s designed to work on multi-page documents (like a treatment). Google Images and Pinterest are great places for inspiration. Designspiration is useful. Blender is a free program with a steeper learning curve, but if you’re familiar with it you can create animatic-like storyboards at an early stage. Google Docs is a great, free place to start if all of this is new to you.

Superbowl Ad Tips

Copyright & Fair Use

“Fair Use” is the component of U.S. copyright law that allows you to use another copyrighted work without permission. There are many good sources of information on the internet, but here are a few big things to remember:

  • There is no clearly delineated point at which you can know your use qualifies as “fair”. It’s really more about analyzing how much risk you want to take and weighing that against reward. It’s ultimately a court’s decision on whether or not your use a fair one.
  • Factual information is not copyrightable.
  • A court generally determines fair use based on four key factors: How much of the copyrighted material was used; the purpose/character of the work (e.g. commercial vs. educational); the nature of the copyrighted work (fictional vs. factual); the effect of the use of the copyrighted work on the marketplace (does your use take money from the original creator).
  • “Errors and Omissions” insurance (E&O) exists for filmmakers looking for protection against potential litigation. Be aware, however, that like any insurance company, they will have lawyers who will first vet your case and the probability of your content triggering a lawsuit. You’re essentially paying for legal consultation, plus insurance, still with no guarantee that a lawsuit won’t arise. Even if you’re not ultimately personally responsible for paying those fees, the process is a major impediment to distribution.

In the case of content posted to YouTube, it’s worth remembering that you pay nothing to post on a public platform, but Google bears an enormous litigation risk as the distributor. Given the scale on which YouTubeยฎ operates, don’t expect them to care about you or listen to your argument that your content complies with fair use should you receive three copyright strikes and have your channel shut down.

Here are a couple great resources on fair use: