My Pitch on Film Pitches

10:04 07 June in Musings, Rants and Raves

This week I received the following question in my inbox:

“We want to continue to strengthen and expand out relationship with the few investors that have expressed interest in our work over the years in order to arrive at a point where we can involve them in the growth of our company.  We know that this is an ongoing process and it takes time to build said relationships, but in order to be prepared for the moment when we are looking for actual investment, we would like to have an investor deck to show them.  What do you look for in an investor deck or presentation?” 

Pitch decks are something that I’ve very rarely seen written about in the indie film industry so I’d like to share my response with you below. Hope this can shed some light on what really matters in your deck and would love to hear about your thoughts and ideas about what YOU think should be in a pitch deck. Happy reading!

So pitch decks… they’ve all sucked. Ha. Kid you not when I say that I’d rate the average deck about a 1 out of 10. A few have circled into the 3 or 4 out of 10, but that’s still crap. I got a few things to share/show. First off check this out:


I look at what startups pitch because they seem to have a much easier time getting funds than us. There is a slight formula that people like to follow which is this:

Customer Acq
Traction + Milestones

A lot doesn’t translate to the film industry (customer acq, problem) but its easy to change that to things like “Why This Needs To Be Made” instead of “Problem.” A problem example could be “50M people daily lose sales leads because of lack in technology.” That’s no different than saying “50M people daily read the Minnesota Twin’s blog.” Now explain why that’s important.

A DEEP understanding of the business is what startup decks have that film decks don’t. Startups list astronomical numbers of potential users given a specific market segment. They then show their own traction within that segment. In film, we list comps. Most of the time bad ones that aren’t even really comps (i.e. showing a studio film as a comp or some outlier lightning in a bottle example ala Blair Witch). Showing that you have a grasp on the path to revenue (understanding, not necessarily the cash commitments) is what I always look for. This industry sucks, most of us know that. If you tell me it doesn’t then you need to show me why. “Making films is hard (15% success rate) but making Sports Documentaries is easier (65% success rate <–Made up number).” Now THAT is a metric that will grab my attention as an investor.

Also don’t skimp on listing social good that your filmmaking process does. If you tell investors that they help XYZ or get to participate in ABC events then if there are financial shortfalls you can make up for them with your social gain. Be upfront about having a strong legal foundation and reporting system in place and tell the investors you will treat them right.

The final, and most important point I’ll give, is strip out the glamour. Forget everything about the projects themselves. Investors want to support YOU, not your vision. Plus you can paint a better picture with your verbal words than with your written ones (after all, investors HATE reading, so keep things short and simple). Don’t put too much in the deck because then your investor will make a decision on your idea without talking with you. Plant clues and leads that will get the investor to call you up and say “Hey, you mentioned on page 7 that you have 3 projects that you’re working on. What are they?” Now you’ve started a dialogue and you can use the opportunity to address anything that the investor didn’t like about your pitch.

Hope this helps and let me know if you got more questions or I should clarify anything else. Oh and PS, I’m making this a blog post tomorrow.

  • starfire1

    you are an EP, does that mean Executive Producer? if so have you raised funds for any films? if so, what do you use for a pitch deck? you give us no actionable info in the above…

  • Mokerchino

    Thanks for rocking a post on Pitch Decks. Not many people talk about them, you’re right, but they’re invaluable. I’ve seen a few winning film and film slate pitch decks and I’m working on mine right now (hence stumbling upon your blog.)

    Gonna wander around and read what else you have to say. keep it coming!

    • Errol Sadler

      hey Mokerchino,

      Please inbox me. I have a question for you.

      Thank you

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James Belfer - Founder & CEO

James founded Dogfish in 2009 to produce and invest in independent film (in which he made 6 films). He was named by Deadline Hollywood as one of 2012′s 10 Producers to Keep Watching. In 2013 he launched the Dogfish Accelerator program after an inspiring experience working for TechStars in Boulder, Colorado. He’s a Northwestern University graduate and received his MBA from NYU Stern in 2013. He currently is an Adjunct Professor at NYU Tisch School of the Arts where he teaches Strategies For Independent Producing. James aspires to be one of the world’s most renowned hermits. He tends to spend most of his free time in South Williamsburg watching cartoons and googling “best Texas BBQ in NYC.” He also runs a monthly meetup called A Presentation of the Deplorable, Bizarre, and Terrible in which he binge watches 10 films in a row that most of the world has never seen (most of the time for glaringly obvious reasons). As of July 2014 only 3 people have attended.