Saturday, May 09, 2009

It's all in the pitch - videojournalism freelancing

There's a scene in Black Hawk Down where a nerdy Ewan Macgregor's character explains to a bewildered superior about how the taste of coffee is all in the grind. He's not wrong!

But it had me thinking at the art of story telling Videojournalism, or otherwise and that it's all in the pitch.

As the number of videojournalists explodes, they'll come a time when just as a features editor may commission a writer, it's likely they'll set out their stall for videojournalists to offer stories.

Channel 4's news film fund already does that, not discriminating against full crews or Videojournalists, in so far as the story is right.

And you don't get to the story, without the pitch.

Last week I had the task of listening and reviewing 24 of our Masters students. A post is not the forum to discuss how they fared, but they will know the emphasis we place on this.

Pitching is an art form, and differs across genres, but the basic principle is the same.

In roughly 10 seconds you're going to tell a story that's going to light your listener's fire. In 10 seconds you're going to paint a vivid picture of what could be. In 10 seconds you're going to create an illusion powerful enough for your listener to buy more time from you.

"Uhum tell me more"

Working at Channel 4 News as this recommendation from the Managing Director in 1999 illustrates gave me the chance to observe a facet of pitching and also often refine and make my own.

In fact such is the art of pitching, that I have considered it a chapter in a forthcoming book for a US publisher which is gradually taking shape.

There are two yardsticks that measure the value of a pitch. What is it? And why should I care?

In other words, if you're planning on going for an interview for a media job, chances are you've listened to your potential employer's output and found something to offer that suits their style.

Furthermore, it's got to be a story, which in all likelihood your listener has either not heard before, or you have a unique way of saying it.

Remember it's a pitch, not an exposition of your ability to hold and dispense of a great deal of facts.

And all great stories involve a person or persons you have or will get access to rather than a big themed issue.

And if you're really up to speed you'll spend endless hours sometimes rehearsing it. TV is all about creative ideas and those that know how to speak in that mimetic fashion of experienced pitchers have a career ahead of them.