Writing proposals to NOT play the waiting game

Most people think that filmakers spend long hours filming followed by long hours at the editing bay followed by long hours at swank film festivals, yelling “have your people call my people.” The truth is that most spend long periods of time looking for funding, and I´m no different. I´ve sold short docs to TV networks that took me three days to film and a week to edit, but between pitching and contracts and rewrites, took 6 months to get done. Right now I am working with my production company, San Telmo Productions, on preparing various film proposals for documentaries. Each proprosal involves:
1) Initial research. Is this idea possible to film? Will people talk to us? Is there a compelling story to tell?
2) In depth research. Who will the main character(s) be? How long will we need to film it? How will we tell the story? Why is it important to tell? How much money will we need? Perhaps a short teaser is necesarry to look for money.
3) Writing the proposal. Often they are about 20 pages long with all the bells and whistles, including budget (and you have to include the real price, not an estimate). And often times, translate it into various languages.
4) Then you wait.
5) Finally, you get to film!
A lot of people die waiting. It´s not uncommon for years to pass between “we´re interested” and the green light, or the red light. So what we are doing right now is developing a serries of documentary ideas that are moving stories and commercially viable so that if one idea doesn´t work, we´re ready with at least three more.
This is also the hardest part for me. Deadlines can be months off and quite frankly, I´d rather be filming! This is where having a team can be crucial, so that you don´t feel isolated.


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