First group project – Crowd pitching

Within the Freshers’ week we had to work on a group project called “The Greatest Story Ever Told”. Basically, we were split into random groups, each of us had to contribute to the group budget with 1 pound and that was all that was available for the preparation of our pitch. We were supposed to present the idea in 3 to 10 minutes and try to convince the crowd this would be a good investment.

I must admit that I wasn’t feeling comfortable with the assignment. Although it was just a social excersise, I expected that we (our group) take the task more seriously. Probably it was also my fault that I didn’t try hard enough to find a way to socialize with the other members of the team, but since I was the only one who was not British, I actually had some difficulties and didn’t understand everything the guys were saying. This is a pretty good example of how communication problems within the team can affect the quality of the work.

Friday – day for Crowd pitching

The main criteria for evaluating each group’s pitch were:

  • Confidence
  • Presentation
  • Passion
  • Engagement
  • Length
  • Clarity
  • Originality

Pitch β„– 1. Annabelle

This was a sad story revolving around a girl and a doll.

The feedback they received from the crowd was:

  • Positive:
    • confidence – they were brave enough to go first
    • length – the pitch wasn’t neither too long nor too short
  • Negative:
    • it was hard to hear what they were saying
    • every one of them was reading from a sheet of paper, they didn’t have contact with the audience
    • they gave out candy to the audience which is not necessary a bad thing, but in this situation it caused confusion, additional noise was generated and everyone lost focus.
    • while answering questions from the audience, they didn’t show convincingly enough that they actually believe in themselves and in their idea

Pitch β„– 2. Warran Smith

This was a story about a computer hacker, with a main message: “Look after your internet secutiry”. They played a short trailer they had made for the film, which also featured a word derived from the name of the main character: Warranted. I particularly liked this thing, because it showed it has a chance to develop independently within the mass culture and everyday slang.

The feedback they received from the crowd was:

  • Positive:
    • their presentation was more interactive
    • they were confident about their idea
    • clarity
    • they spent their time with focus on the pitch itself
  • Negative:
    • you shouldn’t stand in front of the screen while playing a trailer πŸ™‚

Pitch β„– 3. The Exchange Student

This was our pitch.

It was a spoof featuring Lady Gaga, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Harry Potter. The story was: Lady Gaga has enslaved Hogwards and turned it into a sweatshop factory where students make her CDs, costumes and merchandise. Harry Potter is her sex slave and Arnie is an exchange student from Austria. Arnie and Harry join forces to fight Gaga, and in the end they free Hogwards from the slavery.

Half of the income generated would go to charities dealing with Chinese sweatshops, we had ideas about merchandise such as Arnie’s Double Brutal line of beer etc.

The feedback we received from the crowd was:

  • Positive:
    • it was interactive
  • Negative:
    • the characters got lost in their roles, and their whole presentation was distracting; there were reactions that it was childish
    • we didn’t say enough about the film

Pitch β„– 4. Horror film

This was a story about students coming to a new city to study, they are living in halls, sharing the space with a dark spirit. One by one, a couple of housemates are found in a puddle of blood, killed by the evil spirit. The team had made a poster draft, they acted out a scene of the film, and had a pretty good idea of how they would market and distribute it.

When people from the audience started asking questions, they became a little appologetic, as if they didn’t believe in their idea.

Pitch β„– 5. A film about time shifting pills

In the year 2024, in a futuristic city, the people have invented a pill that can take you back in time. The chief scientist in the project is corrupt, so the pills are end up on the black market. People start to abuse it, going to the past and future, convicting crime, killing, etc. When the pill’s effect fades, the present has to deal with the problems caused.

The group had a very clear idea how the film setting would look like, they even knew some of the actors that would suit the film – for example, Hugh Jackman, Sigourney River. Their idea for the promotion of the film was to use a similar technique as in “The War of the Worlds” – radio announcements as if this is really happening, etc.

The idea of the film was obviously inspired by the concept of the body’s internal clock and jet lags, as well as some popular films like ‘The Butterfly Effect’, ‘The Matrix’, ‘Avatar’, ‘Inception’.

The feedback they received was:

  • Positive:
    • they were very confident and had a clear idea about the film
    • they were passionate about their idea and it was really engaging
    • it was an original idea
  • Negative:
    • the pitch was a bit too long

Pitch β„– 6. City Boy

This was a film about a guy who is sick of the ordinary life, he wants to feel more alive, so he starts a double life – a normal guy by day and a drug dealer by night. There are of course prostitutes, guns, dangerous situations, and it’s basically about how far someone would go to experience life. The group had the idea to expand the film into a comic book series.

The feedback they received was:

  • they weren’t very confident
  • the idea was not clear enough
  • the idea, and even the music they were using, resembled “A Requiem for a Dream” too much, so it wasn’t very original.

Pitch β„– 7. Colin

Colin is an average guy, working in a fast food restaurant. One night some criminals come into the restaurant and he sells the sandwich of his life. The main idea of the film is that Colin, enforced by the situations, accidently becomes a hero. The funny moment is that he is skinny, useless-looking, your average “dork”, but he becomes the hero of the day.

The group had prepared T-shirts I [love] Colin

Pitch β„– 8. The Spuds

This was an idea for a college film. 4 guys meet at Freshers’ Week, and each of them is a completely different character. They interacted with the audience, but the presentation was overal simple. There was no real ending whatsoever.

Pitch β„– 9. Blitzkrieg Dawn

This last presentation started after a lot of technical problems.

The film itself is about Coventry and Germans from World War II, who come back as ghostly figures for a vengeance. They played a trailer with very good sound effects, and explained that the film is designed to be shown in big cinemas with good surround sound – a large part of the film’s effect was in the sound, cathedral, air sirens etc. They wanted to promote the film with “Propaganda” posters and billboards throughout the city, posters of fake missing people, in order to create interest and controversy in the public.

The feedback they received was:

  • the story is very strongly connected with Coventry, too locally based and specific – so maybe that could be a problem when trying to distribute the film in other locations.

The verdict

An interesting thing happened at the end: the tutors asked each group to send a member for the last vote – and all of them happened to be guys. The conclusion: This is a male dominated industry, and this is where it all starts from – even in our first week there was a clear sign of it.

Our pitch (“The Exchange Student”) didn’t get enough points, as a matter of fact it got none. But the bigger surprise for me was that the college film got a rather big share.

At the end, half of the films got enough points to cover their budget, so in a real life situation they were the ones that would have been made. The big winner, the pitch with the highest score, was β„– 5.

What I learned:

  • Crowd pitching is not about getting to the top, but about sharing – so instead of making one film with a big budget, crowd pitching allows more smaller films to be made.
  • If you have communication problems within your team, forget about quality work.
  • Your idea doesn’t have to be a masterpiece to be made.
  • Even for a task that seems unserious, you need good preparation and confidence.
  • Comedy is hard. Very hard.
  • Even if your pitch is not unique, if you have an original approach, you can succeed.
  • If you can’t sell your idea and put it into action, it’s a dead idea.
  • Target your audience: if you need to please first year students, a better way to do that is to make a college film than a shallow spoof with retired characters.
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